LeBlanc sets the tone with Junior Open win

Kevin LeBlanc at West Lancs following his Junior Open win

The Island's Kevin LeBlanc got Open week off to the perfect start when he become just the second Irish winner of the Junior Open.

The 15-year old Dubliner — winner of back to back Irish Under 15 titles — carded a two over 74 at West Lancashire just 10 miles as the crow files from Hoylake, to edge out Italy's Teodoro Soldati and Belgium's Diane Bailleaux by a shot on five over par.

A plus two handicapper from Donabate who learned the game at Balcarrick before moving to The Island, LeBlanc follows in the footsteps of inaugural winner Sergio Garcia (1994) and Limerick's Cian McNamara, who became the first Irish player to capture the trophy in 2002.

"This means an awful lot," LeBlanc said. "I came straight here from the European Boys in Norway and wanted to win it. I got there in the end.

"I couldn’t be any happier at the moment. Great week, well run tournament and a great one for me personally to win.

"It's definitely my biggest achievement so far.

"I hit a lot of good shots in difficult conditions and sometimes didn’t get the rewards. I had a few lip outs here and there too, but we got there in the end.

"Being from The Island you figure out pretty quickly what you need to do in these conditions as the course is very similar."

Tied for third, a stroke behind Soldati and Baillieux heading into the final round, LeBlanc battled wind and rain to come out on top.

After a birdie at the par-five second, he bogeyed the short third and the fourth to turn in one over before making two bogeys and a birdie on a gruelling back nine stretch.

"I made a good save on 11, and hit a good shot into 12 but missed the birdie putt and I was pretty annoyed," he said.

"Then at the 13th I hit a really good tee shot but went into the rough and made bogey.

"I birdied the 14th to get it back so one-over for the back nine was good shooting in these conditions, especially when the rain came on heavy.

"I didn’t look at the scoreboards. I saw at the turn I was around tied for the lead and just said to myself, ‘Right get the head down on the back nine and see what happens.’

"My gameplan is simple – for any competition – hit as many greens and fairways as possible. If I hole the putts I have a good chance of winning."

LeBlanc's father Hugh was on hand all week but the new champion can't wait to get home after a fortnight away.

"I'm going straight home tomorrow rather than going to Hoylake because haven’t seen my mum and sister for two weeks having been on the road," he said.

"My Dad Hugh has been with me all week, he has been a great support. Great ball-spotting!"

Killarney's Valerie Clancy finished tied for 76th in a field of 126 players from 75 countries.

Apart from 1994 winner past particants, Francesco Molinari, Nicolas Colsaerts, Camilo Villegas, Paula Creamer, Patrick Reed, who won at Heswall in 2006, the last time The Open was staged at Royal Liverpool, and Jordan Spieth, who was runner-up at Hesketh in 2008.