Off season? What off season? While many Irish golfers shiver at home and stare longingly out rain-streaked windows at frosty courses, three Irish youngsters are in action in the winter sun in southern Spain.
Junior Open champion Kevin Le Blanc from The Island, Ulster Boys champion Tommy O'Driscoll from Ring of Kerry and Limerick's Mark MacGrath teed it up in a 90-strong field for the Copa Andalucia at the Real Club de Golf Guadalmina near Marbella.
World No 49 Pep Angles, No 20 Mario Galiano and 271st ranked Finn Lauri Ruuska fired four under par 68s to lead by a stroke from Spanish international Victor Pastor with O'Driscoll the best of the Irish in joint 12th after a rollercoaster, level par 72.
Winner of the Ulster Boys last year and a member of the GUI's Development Panel, O'Driscoll started on the back nine and turned in four under 32 thanks to birdies at the 13th and 15th and an eagle three at the 17th.
But he could only come home in 40 as he bogeyed the second and third and followed a birdie at the fourth with a triple bogey eight at the sixth in a 72-hole event where the handicap cut off was 0.4.
Le Blanc's 73 left him tied for 18th as he started with a bogey at the 10th, birdied the 12th and the par-five 16th and 17th to turn in two under but then came back in three over with bogeys at the first, second and sixth.
MacGrath, a Munster Boys Interpro in 2013, had five bogeys in a five over par 77 to share 55th but will be hoping to hit the birdie trail in Friday's second round in a event with a 54-hole cut to the top 45 and ties.
The tournament was ranked "C" in the World Amateur Golf Ranking last year, the same as the West of Ireland Championship.
COPA ANDALUCÍA MASCULINA, Real Club de Golf Guadalmina
68 Pep Angles Ros, Mario Galiano Aguilar, Lauri Ruuska,
69 Victor Pastor Rufian
70 Joel Ramirez Martin, Scott William Fernandez Salmon, Adria Arnaus Antunez
71 Sergio Javier Parriego Cornejo, Adrian Mata Alsdorf, Fco Javier Poladura Lopez, Lucas Vacarisas Torndelacreu
72 Tommy O'Driscoll
73 Kevin Le Blanc
77 Mark MacGrath