Hoey eyes return after surgery

By Brian Keogh

Michael Hoey has set his sights on a European Tour return thanks to some miracle eye surgery.

The short-sighted Ulsterman revealed that he was so fed up asking caddies where his ball had gone that he opted for laser treatment in January.

Now he's eyeing a return to the European Tour next term after grabbing the second Challenge Tour victory of his career in Italy on Sunday.

Hoey, 28, took the Tessali-Metaponto Open di Puglia e Basilicata when he beat Welshman Liam Bond at the first hole of a sudden-death play-of.

And he revealed: "I got sick of asking caddies where my ball had landed to be honest. It was actually ridiculous when you consider I was playing against the best players in the world last year and I couldn’t see where my ball was finishing.

"I knew about the surgery because my brother had it done, and he was the main reason I went for it because he swore by it.

"A week after having the surgery my eyesight was perfect. Before the surgery it was really bad, but now my vision is probably better than 20/20 and it has made an outrageous difference to me on the golf course.

"I feel I can read greens a lot better as well, especially at times when the light is not so good. Hopefully it will remain that good for the next ten years.”

Hoey pocketed €20,800 for his win and a jump to eighth place on the Challenge Tour Rankings means he is in a fantastic position to regain his European Tour card for 2008.

He is now relishing the remainder of the season as he attempts to overhaul runaway leader Edoardo Molinari of Italy for the No 1 spot.

He added: "The goal for the season is to get into the top ten of the Rankings and winning in Italy is a big step towards that.

"I was getting more and more confident over the last month or so and winning again is great to keep that momentum going."

He's also hoping that he can use some of the prize money to buy himself a second hand car so he can travel from his new home in Leeds to see his coach in Middlesbrough.

He said: "I had to get the train up from Leeds to Middlesbrough every week over the winter to see my coach. It's an hour and half with a change in between.

"With golf clubs hanging out of me, everybody on the train was looking at me like some kind of weirdo.

"My mother is going to give me a loan of her car for now but I am thinking that I might be able to buy a second hand banger with some of my prize money from Italy."

Hoey grabbed his first Challenge Tour win in Austria in 2005 and used that as a stepping stone to grab automatic promotion to European Tour card as one of the top ten money winners.

He failed to keep his card but hopes he will be better equipped to take advantage of a second chance if it comes along.

He said: "I had a lot of maturing to do, but not just golf wise. What you do off the course helps you on it and moving to the Leeds-Bradford area has helped.

"I have had to do a lot of things myself and grind at it. And I have brought the same attitude into my golf.

"I wasn't really wild before, I was just stupid. I wasn't mature and I have got in shape a little more and I am more switched on mentally.

"Other people would organise things for me and I was relying on them too much. It's like life on the course, you have to do it yourself and not rely on other people."