By Brian Keogh
Holywood star Rory McIlroy has been hailed as the next Sergio Garcia by Walker Cup skipper Colin Dalgleish.
And the Scot believes that when the Americans arrive at Royal County Down in September, the whole world will know all about the Holywood wonderkid.
The first time Dalgleish set eyes on McIlroy, the Ulster ace holed out from 150 yards for an eagle two at Royal Lytham's third hole.
That was just 12 months ago and Dalgleish believes the reigning European Amateur champion matured even more and has the talent and the charisma to lead GB&I to yet another Walker Cup triumph.
As he prepared to watch McIlroy and 12 of his 23-man Walker Cup squad in this week's AIB Irish Amateur Open at Royal Dublin, Dalgleish recalled McIlroy's introductory eagle.
He said: "I knew who he was but that was the very first shot I saw him hit. Amazing. He’s a Sergio Garcia-esque player on the course and he’s exciting to watch.
"I can understand how everybody in Ireland is already talking about him so much and slowly but surely people throughout mainland Britain and further afield will learn of Rory."
McIlroy will be the favourite to win the 72-hole Irish Amateur this week against a top class field that includes last week’s Lytham Trophy winner Lloyd Saltman and US Amateur champion Richie Ramsay.
And while Dalgleish, 46, knows that one player won't win the Walker Cup single-handedly, he admits that an in-form McIlroy could make all the difference.
Dalgleish said: "The most impressive thing about Rory is the flair with which he plays the game, the shots he sees that maybe others don't. They way he plays the game is just very exciting.
"One guy isn't going to win the Walker Cup. But one guy can raise the excitement level and play a big part.”
County Louth’s Simon Ward and Clandeboye’s Johnny Caldwell are also in the 23-man Walker Cup panel and will tee it up today with high hopes of making an impression.
Lurgan’s Gareth Shaw, Ireland’s fourth panellist, is away in college in the US while Dunmurry's Darren Crowe, who was second when Ramsay won the title at Carton House in 2005, has pulled out through injury.
The Championship has attracted a record 84 overseas players from thirteen countries with McIlroy the lowest handicapper in the field off plus 5.1.
The field includes 13 of the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup squad with Scots Ramsay, Saltman, Kelvin McAlpine, Keir McNicholl, Glenn Campbell, Scott McHenry and Paul O’Hara joined by Irish aces McIlroy, Ward and Caldwell.
None of the English Walker Cup players are in Dublin due to a clashing fixture with France, but Welshmen Edwards, Lewellyn Matthews and Zach Gould will tee it up at Royal Dublin.
AIB IRISH AMATEUR OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP, The Royal Dublin Golf Club
07:30 (10:48) Brendan Walton (The Island), Wayne McCully (Donaghadee), Rory McNamara (Headfort)
07:39 (10:57) Tommy McGowan (Strandhill), Dara Lernihan (UCD/ Castle), Luke Lennox (Moyola Park)
07:48 (11:06) Paul Cutler (Portstewart), Nicky Grant (Knock), Edward Saxel (England)
07:57 (11:15) Richard Kilpatrick (Banbridge), John Morris (Rosslare), Laurence Allen (England)
08:06 (11:33) Robert McCarthy (Island), Romain Zwahlen (France), James Smedley (England)
08:15 (11:42) Gerard Lawlor (Citywest), Mark Gaynor (USA), Christopher Mivis (Belgium)
08:24 (11:51) Norbert Krichner (Austria), Ben Westgate (Wales), Niall Kearney (Royal Dublin)
08:33 (12:00) Juhana Pernaa (Finland), Connor Doran (Banbridge), Thomas Ortner (Austria)
08:51 (12:09) Joe Lyons (Galway), Wolfgang Rieder (Austria), Zack Saltman (Scotland)
09:00 (12:18) Kevin McAlpine (Scotland), Ben Evans (England), Todd Halpen (Canada)
09:09 (12:27) Keir McNicholl (Scotland), Bryan Norton (USA), Alex McCloy (Ballymena)
09:18 (12:36) Joe Vickery (Wales), Kevin Hammer (USA), Prinavin Nelson (South Africa)
09:27 (12:54) Robert McKnight (Scotland), Andrew Ross (Canada), Chris Geraghty (England)
09:36 (13:03) Rory McIlroy (Holywood), Lloyd Saltman (Scotland), Branden Grace (South Africa)
09:45 (13:12) Richard Ramsay (Scotland), Eoghan O’Connell (The Fox Club), Nigel Edwards (Wales)
09:54 (13:21) Simon Ward (Co. Louth), Lewellyn Matthews (Wales), Alan Fadel (USA)
10:12 (13:30) Glenn Campbell (Scotland), Edward Richardson (England), Nikke Tyry (Finland)
10:21 (13:39) Bryan Fotheringham (Scotland), Nuno Henriques (Portugal), Philip McLean (Scotland)
10:30 (13:48) Jonathan Caldwell (Clandeboye), Rhys Enoch (Wales), Pedro Figueiredo (Portugal)
10:39 (13:57) Antonio Rosado (Portugal), Jim Carvill (Warrenpoint), Simon Doherty (Malone)
10:48 (07:30) Tuomas Sistonen (Finland), Andrew Hogan (UCD/ Newlands), Greg Carew (Edenderry)
10:57 (07:39) Scott O’Brien (USA), Richard Maunder (England), Eddie McAnoy (Knock)
11:06 (07:48) Adam Runcie (Wales), Stuart Archibald (England), Ryan Boal (Scrabo)
11:15 (07:57) Sebastian Kindsted (Finland), Marcus Armitage (England), Charles Levitte (France)
11:33 (08:06) Jonas Haglund (Finland), John McGinn (Laytown & Bettystown), Arthur Gabella Wennes (Sweden)
11:42 (08:15) Robert Cannon (Laytown & Bettystown), Rory Leonard (Banbridge), James Dale (England)
11:51 (08:24) Emmanuel Mercadier (France), Ryan Thomas (Wales), Ross Kellett (Scotland)
12:00 (08:33) Jacques Guillet (France), Miro Veijalainen (Finland), Eoin O'Sullivan (Island)
12:09 (08:51) Michael Sinclair (Knock), Zach Gould (Wales), Paul O’Hara (Scotland)
12:18 (09:00) Guillaume Cambis (France), Shaun McAllister (Scotland), Paul O'Hanlon (The Curragh)
12:27 (09:09) Kenny La Sager (France), Mark Thistleton (England), Joonas Granberg (Finland)
12:36 (09:18) Michael Barbarosa (USA), Xavier Pomcelet (France), Mark O’Sullivan (Stow Acres)
12:54 (09:27) Romain Bechu (France), Scott Henry (Scotland), Shane Lowry (UCD/Esker Hills)
13:03 (09:36) Pat Murray (Limerick), Steven McEwan (Scotland), Jukka Pekka Savolampi (Finland)
13:12 (09:45) Mikael Salminen (Finland), Peter O’Keeffe (Douglas), Ben Kosmin (France)
13:21 (09:54) Rudy Thuillier (France), Michael McCoy (USA), Callum Macaulay (Scotland)
13:30 (10:12) Richard Merchant (Wales), Stephen Grant (Birr), Marek Novy (Czech Republic)
13:39 (10:21) Chris Cousins (Wales), Bryn Rocke (South Africa), Cedric Scotto (France)
13:48 (10:30) Ben Jones (England), Gavin O’Neill (Jersey), Des Morgan (Mullingar)
13.57 (10.39) Nicolas Catesson (France), Tom Wyatt (USA), Jason Shufflebotham (Wales).