Michael Hoey will begin a new golfing life this week on the course where the dream began just six months ago.

Last November the recently crowned Portuguese Open winner grabbed a tour lifeline when he snatched his card at the dreaded Qualifying School.

Now he’s back at PGA Golf de Catalunya near Girona for the Spanish Open with a healthy bank balance and renewed determination to continue on the path that led him to his maiden tour victory.

Feeling good about himself, Hoey said: “To be in the biggest tournaments with the best players is what you practice for.

“I have been playing great the last few months, and there are a lot of positives to come from my game.  If I can keep this mentality going, it's definitely the way forward.”

Dubliner Peter Lawrie is defending the title he won in a play-off in Seville last year and enjoying the first year of a two-year exemption he secured with that maiden victory.

But Hoey has all of this season to go before his one-year exemption comes into effect.

With worries about his card now banished until November 2010, the good-humoured Ulster man plans to enjoy every minute of his new-found status.

Repeating the positive mental attitude that gave him his first win is his primary goal.

But he is putting himself under no pressure to go straight out and grab win number two and says he's prepared to play the golf he knows he can play and let the results look after themselves.

He certainly deserves his place in the sun after a roller-coaster, six-year journey in the professional ranks .

Despite three Challenge Tour wins between 2005 and 2008, he lost his confidence and his European Tour card and racked up an overdraft of euro 20,000.

Thanks to his win in Portugal, he’s got more than euro 200,000 in the bank now and while he misses the strange buzz of living from hand to mouth each week, he’s not looking back.

A Walker Cup winner with Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald and Nick Dougherty in US soil in 2001, his next target is to join those players at the top of the game.

Reflecting on the bad old days, he said: “I knew talent-wise I should be up there, but it wasn't working. I needed to work on my short game and become more consistent with my long game but it took me a while to figure it out.

"There was a time when I worried that I might never fulfil my potential, but now the future’s looking a lot rosier than it was."

The results started coming last November, when he was tied for fourth with Paul McGInley in the King Hassan Trophy in Morocco.

The following week he earned his card and now he’s got a clean slate and a season of top class events ahead.

Hoey joins Lawrie, McGinley, Damien McGrane, Gary Murphy and Jonny Caldwell in a field that also features two-time Major winner John Daly.

The “Wild Thing” has had his stomach shrunk by surgery and is said to be close to bankruptcy after gambling, divorce and drink problems.

The Spanish Open is the start a four-tournament run that will see him Daly tee it up on invites in the Italian Open in Turin, the Irish Open in Baltray and then the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Like Hoey, he’s starting all over again.