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Former Alfred Dunhill Links champion Michael Hoey is retiring from playing to take up a refereeing role with the DP World Tour. The five-time European Tour winner, who beat fellow Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy into second when he claimed the Alfred Dunhill Links in 2011, will start his new role next month after studying the rules while stuck at home during the pandemic.
Hoey worked delivering parcels during the lockdown in 2020 and decided to learn the rules with one eye on the future. He played last year on the Challenge Tour, but has decided now is the time to become a rules official.
He told the BBC website: “It's exciting, a new challenge. After a long time as a pro golfer, which involves the total consumption of your life, you realise you have to do something else. I've just turned 43 and I see so many good young players on the Challenge Tour now, it's hard to make a living. I'll always miss the thrill of competition but I've had two years to think about this and while I enjoyed it last year, you have to make a living out of it too and I'm happy with where I am."
Ballymoney-born Hoey, who also won four titles on the Challenge Tour and finished 39th on the Challenge Tour Order of Merit last year, will start his new role next month in South Africa.
He added: "It's a good opportunity to continue to be involved in golf, applying the rules, setting up golf courses and knowing when and how to speak to the players."
Hoey’s career highlight was undoubtedly that Alfred Dunhill Links title 11 years ago, which netted him a first prize of €588,148. Ranked 271st in the world at the time, Hoey started the final round with a three-shot lead over fellow Ulsterman McIlroy, only to see Rory card four birdies and an eagle in the front nine to hit the front.
Rather than wilt under the pressure, Hoey hit back-to-back birdies at eight and nine to draw level. Rory went ahead again with a birdie at the 11th hole but that proved to be his last birdie, and Hoey went on to take the title by two shots.
Hoey’s career change may be a surprise but it’s not as extreme as the one announced by 11-year American pro Travis Hampshire earlier this week. The 41-year-old journeyman, who played mainly on the Web.com Tour (the predecessor to the Korn Ferry Tour) but did make the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach, has taken up a post as Deputy Sheriff at Citrus County Sheriff’s Office in his native Florida.
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Jeff graduated from Leeds University in Business Studies and Media in 1996 and did a post grad in journalism at Sheffield College in 1997. His first jobs were on Slam Dunk (basketball) and Football Monthly magazines, and he's worked for the Sunday Times, Press Association and ESPN. He has faced golfing greats Sam Torrance and Sergio Garcia, but on the poker felt rather than the golf course. Jeff's favourite course played is Sandy Lane in Barbados, which went far better than when he played Matfen Hall in Northumberland, where he crashed the buggy on the way to the 1st tee!
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