Grab it while you can, Alan. Michael Hoey believes Alan Dunbar should remain amateur to take advantage of a Masters invitation. Photo Jenny Matthews/www.golffile.ieMichael Hoey has urged Amateur champion Alan Dunbar to play the Masters while he has the chance.

The Rathmore ace, 22, became the seventh Irishman to lift the title at Royal Troon last weekend.

And with his rewards including a trip to next month’s Open as well as dream starts at Augusta in April and the US Open in June, Hoey reckons the young Ulsterman would be crazy to turn pro too soon.

Believing Dunbar should grab his Masters chance as an amateur, Hoey said: “Not being negative but you don’t know that you are going to get into the Top-50 in the world as a pro and get into Augusta.

“So he’s guaranteed the Masters if he doesn’t turn pro. I would say he has to wait for that and the US Open. It’s a long career, so he has plenty of time to turn professional.”

Winner of the Amateur in 2001, Hoey waited until after the 2002 Masters before taking the plunge into the paid ranks.

He turned pro later that year but it took him six visits to the Qualifying School to win his European Tour card.

He explained: “Padraig Harrington told me, if it doesn’t go well in tour first year as a pro, don’t get discouraged because it’s meant to be a long journey.

“Obviously it didn’t go well for me and I did get discouraged. But I would probably still tell him the same thing.

“There are so many good players now, there’s fractions separating people. I would say just don’t get discouraged.”

Dunbar is still undecided about what to do if he wins his European Tour card at the Q-School this year.

But Hoey reckons the youngster has the putting game to do well on Augusta’s slick greens if he avoids the pro ranks for another year.

He said: “I played with him a few years ago and he had a lovely putting stroke - much better than mine was at that level.

“He has a good chance of doing well in Augusta with a stroke like that because those greens are obviously pretty tough.”

As it turns out, an enquiry to the European Tour revealed that the Rathmore man has until until May next year to take up his tour card if he is successful at the Q-School in December.