Gareth Shaw part of strong local supporting cast at NI Open

Gareth Shaw

Tournament ambassador Michael Hoey is the big name in action at this week's Northern Ireland Open but a number of other home players will also hope to challenge strongly at Galgorm Castle.

Gareth Shaw, the host club's touring pro, shared fifth place on his European Tour debut at the Irish Open in June.

A week later, Lurgan man Shaw was 13th in the French Open in Paris.

Those performances have helped Shaw to his current 128th spot in the Race to Dubai standings.

Shaw will hope to be given opportunities to continue his chase for a full European Tour card in upcoming events but he is back in his more familiar surroundings of the Challenge circuit this week where his order of merit position is currently 61st.

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Four-time European Tour winner Michael Hoey says that he had no hesitation in agreeing to become event ambassador for this summer's Northern Ireland Open Challenge at Galgorm Castle.

Walker Cup team-mates from 2011 Alan Dunbar and Paul Cutler will both aim to impress on home soil.

Last year's British Amateur Champion Dunbar has attempted to combine main European Tour and Challenge campaigns this year.

Like Shaw, Dunbar performed well at the Irish and French Opens in successive weeks as he achieved two top-35 finishes.

In fact, Dunbar's Race to Dubai position (189th) is higher than his current 2013 Challenge Tour ranking (223rd) but the Rathmore player man will hope to change that this week.

Cutler's only Challenge Tour outing thus far this season was a missed cut in Scotland in June and he will hope to show some form this week ahead of his expected challenge for a European Tour card later in the autumn.

The list of Northern Ireland hopefuls also includes Clandeboye man Jonathan Caldwell who partnered Rory McIlroy in the 2007 Walker Cup at Royal County Down.

A year after his Walker Cup experience, Caldwell secured a European Tour card for the 2009 season but the 29-year-old has struggled in recent seasons.

Other local entries include amateurs Dermot McElroy and Reeve Whitson plus Ballymena native Chris Devlin, who qualified for the US Open five years ago.

As of Monday evening, the tournament entries had not been finalised but the provisional list did include European Tour winners Oliver Wilson, Nick Dougherty and Ross McGowan.

Wilson represented Europe at the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla but his form has deserted him over the last three years and he is currently only 189th in this season's Challenge Tour rankings with earning of little over £1,500.

Dougherty is a three-time winner on the main circuit but has struggled even more in recent seasons.

The Liverpool-born player has earned less than £400 in 10 Challenge Tour events this season and lies 252nd in the rankings.

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