Strong Irish challenge set for Northern Ireland Open

Michael Hoey, a five-time winner on the European Tour, is the Northern Ireland Open tournament ambassador
Michael Hoey, a five-time winner on the European Tour, is the Northern Ireland Open tournament ambassador

Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup heroes Gary Hurley, Cormac Sharvin and Gavin Moynihan are set to play in next month's Northern Ireland Open at Galgorm Castle.

The trio joined compatriots Paul Dunne and Jack Hume in the GB & Ireland line-up which beat the USA last September.

Since then all bar Naas player Hume have turned professional.

Hurley, Sharvin and Moynihan are playing most of their golf on the Challenge Tour circuit this year.

Recent NUI Maynooth graduate Hurley, 23, has been the most successful of the trio to date on Europe's second-tier circuit.

A share of fourth place at last month's Montecchia Open in Italy has helped him to 33rd spot in the current Challenge Tour rankings.

The top 15 at the season's end will earn automatic promotion to the main European Tour for 2017.

Cormac Sharvin is currently 142nd in the Challenge Tour order of merit
Cormac Sharvin is currently 142nd in the Challenge Tour order of merit

Ardglass clubman Sharvin, 23, has found the Challenge Tour going a little tougher so far but will have high hopes of performing well at the Ballymena venue from 28-31 July.

Sharvin's best finish of the campaign was a share of 37th place at the Swiss Challenge earlier this month.

Moynihan, who learned his golf at the Island Club in north Dublin, performed impressively as he finished 36th at last month's Irish Open while a good early season outing was his 13th spot at the Kenya Open.

Hoey confident of strong Irish challenge

Northern Ireland Open tournament ambassador Michael Hoey is certain that at least one of the Walker Cup trio will feature highly on the leaderboard at next month's event.

"They are among so many good young Irish players who have turned professional in recent years. Their presence is a real boost for the tournament," said the five-time European Tour winner.

Hoey is also optimistic that experienced Irish trio Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane and Simon Thornton will tee up in the Galgorm Castle event.

At the other end of the age scale, Belfast man Hoey is delighted that 13-year-old talent Tom McKibbin has been invited to compete in his first professional tournament.

"I've played with Tom a few times and he's a great lad. You have to remember, he is still only 13 but that said, he is the real deal and can hit the shots."

With the field said to be "coming together well", the tournament has also been boosted by local company Tayto becoming the title sponsor of this year's event.