Michael Hoey will head the field when the Challenge Tour returns to Northern Ireland for the first time in a decade with the €170,000 Northern Ireland Open Challenge at Galgorm Castle.
The event will take place at the Ballymena venue from August 29 – September 1 with four-time European Tour winner Hoey hoping to add to his haul of three victories on the Challenge Tour.
Hoey, whose biggest win came when he held off Rory McIlroy to win the 2011 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews, said: “I am deeply honoured to be the ambassador for the new Challenge Tour event at Galgorm Castle.
“The Challenge Tour was a hugely important part of my early career and has helped me develop into the player I am today. By hosting an event in Northern Ireland, Galgorm Castle Golf Club is contributing to the development of the next generation of Irish golfers and I am delighted to be able to play a part in the tournament.”
It is the first time Galgorm Castle, one of the country’s premier parkland courses set in the spectacular surrounds of an historical estate, will host a Challenge Tour event.
Gary Henry, General Manager of Galgorm Castle, said: “We are expecting big crowds at Galgorm Castle to see some of Europe’s top young players and some of the more established names as well as some top quality home grown talent.
“The excitement is already building ahead of the tournament and, with the support of the people of Northern Ireland, we plan to make this one of the most exhilarating events on the Challenge Tour’s international schedule.”
Alain de Soultrait, Director of the Challenge Tour, said: “We are delighted to bring the Challenge Tour back to Northern Ireland, a country which has experienced such great success on the world golfing stage recently and which produced record crowds at last year’s Irish Open.
“Galgorm Castle provides a superb venue which is fitting of a tournament of this stature and we are sure that in the coming years this will grow to become one of the premier events on the Challenge Tour schedule, creating more and more opportunities for talented young golfers throughout Ireland.
“We must thank everyone at Galgorm Castle for their commitment, enthusiasm and determination in making this tournament happen.”
Hoey claimed a top 15 finish the last time Northern Ireland hosted a Challenge Tour event at Clandeboye n 2003, when Clarke emerged victorious three weeks after his famous victory at the WGC - Bridgestone Invitational, while another Open Champion – the winner at St Andrews in 2010, Louis Oosthuizen - finished tied 12th.