Hoey wins in Italy

By Brian Keogh

Michael Hoey pulled off the ultimate Italian job with a sudden death Challenge Tour victory near Taranto.

The Belfast battler, 28, birdied the 18th to force a play-off with Welshman Liam Bond.

Then he repeated the feat with a 20-footer in sudden death to grab his second professional victory and re-iginite his flagging career.

Victory in the Tessali-Metaponto Open di Puglia e Basilicata netted Hoey a cool €20,800 - his first cheque from seven starts this season.

And after jumping to eighth in the Challenge Tour rankings, the former British Amateur champion hopes he can go on and regain the European Tour card he lost last year .

Hoey beamed: "It feels amazing to have won again. The goal this year is to finish in the top-ten of the Challenge Tour so this is a great win for me.

"I’ll also get into a few European Tour events now because of my new category so it means a lot.

"I have to thank my golf coach, Andrew Nicholson, and my sports psychologist, Mark Elliott. I have worked hard with those guys over the winter and they have been brilliant with me."

One clear starting the day, Hoey thought he had blown his chances of victory after two back nine bogeys in a level par 71.

Hoey said: "I though that I was playing for a top three after dropping shots on the 12th and 14th.

"I had got ahead of myself a little bit and I had thought to myself ‘here we go again’. Then I just stepped back and though that I had to try and finish well.

"I lipped out for birdie at the 16th and 17th and then I asked one of the guys what was leading when I was on the 18th.

"That’s when I realised I had a birdie putt to get into a play-off. It was a tough putt, downhill and very fast, but I read it well and rolled it in for birdie."

Hoey made no mistake on his return to the 302-yard 18th in sudden-death, where he rolled in a 20 footer for the win.

He said: "I read the putt really well, it was one of those putts that you know has a great chance and I managed to hit it well and it broke perfectly into the hole

"My putting was good all week though and that was the key to winning I think."