The Island’s Kevin Le Blanc believes he now has the game and the confidence to become the youngster championship winner since Rory McIlroy won the Irish Close nine years ago.
The 16-year old Dubliner tees it up in the first round of the CityNorth Hotel sponsored East of Ireland Amateur Open at County Louth today brimming with confidence thanks to his early season performances on the domestic circuit.
Having reached the last 16 of the West of Ireland Championship at Easter and then challenged for victory in last month’s Irish Amateur Open at Royal Dublin, finishing tied for third behind Gavin Moynihan, the plus three-handicapper has never felt better about his game.
“I really started to doubt myself over the winter when I played a couple of senior events in Spain and Italy,” said LeBlanc, who won the Junior Open last year. “I didn’t play well in Sardinia at all and I wondered if I was ready to play men’s events.
“But I really played well in the West and had a great chance to win the Irish Amateur so I’m feeling very good about the game and I love Baltray.”
It will be LeBlanc’s third appearance in the East, where he finished tied 21st behind Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell last year having missed the cut on his debut as a 14-year old the previous year.
He’s not the only teenager fancied to challenge with Mornington native Thomas Mulligan, a 16-year old former Laytown and Bettystown star now playing out of Baltray, also hoping to make an impact having finished tied 11th in the Irish Amateur Open.
Defending champion Campbell is always dangerous around Baltray, however, and opted not to have a practice round this year after a busy recent spell.
West of Ireland runner-up Eanna Griffin from Waterford and Castle’s Alex Gleeson, who was fourth in last week’s Welsh Amateur Open Strokeplay at Ashburnham, will also be expected to challenge.
Those looking for a star of the future might like to follow 14-year old Mark Power from Kilkenny, a son of three-time former Irish Close champions Eddie Power and Eileen Rose Power (nee McDaid).
CityNorth Hotel East of Ireland Amateur Open, Co Louth
1st tee (10th tee)
0730 (1227) G Bohill (Co. Louth), A Lowry (Esker Hills), D Murphy (Portarlington)
0739 (1236) J Hood (Galgorm Castle), T Coffey (Slieve Russell), C Crowley (Woodbrook)
0748 (1245) C Doran (Banbridge), J Conroy (Bray), R Symington (Lisburn)
0757 (1254) S Ryan (Royal Dublin), S Coulter (Warrenpoint), B Daly (Edmondstown)
0806 (1303) P O’Brien (Co Louth), J McGinn (Laytown & Bettystown), J Pierse (Portmarnock)
0815 (1312) K Egan (Carton House), P McCarthy (Mallow), R Mullarney (Galway)
0824 (1321) G Lappin (Belvoir Park), M Sinclair (Knock), R Knightly (Royal Dublin)
0833 (1330) G O’Flaherty (Cork), J Yates (Naas), M Shanahan (Castlemartyr)
0842 (1339) K Le Blanc (The Island), T O’Connor (Athlone), G Smyth (Clonmel)
0851 (1348) M Reid (Galgorm Castle), S O’Connor (Carton House), J Fox (Portmarnock)
0900 (1357) P Murray (Limerick), P Coughlan (Moate), R Dawson (Faithlegg)
0909 (1406) R Bridges (Stackstown), C Fairweather (Knock), C Campbell (Warrenpoint)
0918 (1415) S Whooley (Muskerry), G Collins (Rosslare), C Rafferty (Dundalk)
1227 (0730) A Carrick (Douglas Park), D Callister (Mount Murray), H Blanco (Fra)
1236 (0739) S Doyle (Athlone), M Power (Kilkenny), C Drumm (Royal Dublin)
1245 (0748) K Murray (Delgany), E O’Keeffe (Corrstown), I Lynch (Rosslare)
1254 (0757) A Fahy (Bray), C O’Connor (Corrstown), J Monaghan (Royal Dublin)
1303 (0806) J Leacy (Dungarvan), J McDonnell (Forrest Little), J Whelan (Newlands)
1312 (0815) L Robinson (Bundoran), O Crooks (Bushfoot), R Pierse (Grange)
1321 (0824) S Kinch (Hollystown), C Dullaghan (Greenore), D Reidy (Co Sligo)
1330 (0833) G O’Mahony (Fota Island), M Kane (Whitehead), Q Carew (Edenderry)
1339 (0842) P Murphy (Rosslare), Paul Reavey (Warrenpoint), D Foy (Laytown & Bettystown)
1348 (0851) S Walsh (Carton House), R O’Reilly (Headfort), S McGlynn (Carton House)
1357 (0900) S O’Hara Co Sligo, S Walsh (Portmarnock), A Kiernan (Forrest Little)
1406 (0909) M Buggy (Castlecomer), R Neville (The Links Portmarnock), T O’Driscoll (Killarney)
1415 (0918) M Nolan (Delgany), M Brett (Portmarnock), R Gribben (Warrenpoint)
10th tee (1st tee)
1227 (0730) D Reddan (Nenagh), G Mungovan (Headfort), K McCarron (North West)
1236 (0739) W Russell (Clandeboye), A Dowling (Hermitage), D Brennan (Shannon)
1245 (0748) S Cullen (Slieve Russell), M Morrissey (Mount Wolseley), M McClean (Balmoral)
1254 (0757) L Hutchinson (Royal Dublin), G Dunne (Co Louth), M Mullen (Rosslare)
1312 (0815) R Connolly (Palmerstown Stud), S Flanagan (Co Sligo), S Carter (Royal Dublin)
1321 (0824) S Healy (Carton House), A Grant (Dundalk), G Lenehan (Portmarnock)
1330 (0833) B Best (Rathmore), R Cannon (Balbriggan), T McLarnon (Massereene)
1339 (0842) S Bryan (Delgany), T Mulligan (Co. Louth), E Arthurs (Forrest Little)
1348 (0851) G McDermott (Carton House), N Gorey (Palmerstown Stud), C Purcell (Portmarnock)
1357 (0900) D Holland (Castle), E McCormack (Galway Bay), JR Galbraith (Whitehead)
1406 (0909) C O’Rourke (Naas), E Griffin (Waterford), I O’Rourke (Royal Dublin)
1415 (0918) E Smith (Ardee), S Grehan (Tullamore), A Gleeson (Castle)
0730 (1227) T Hackett (USA), S Walter (West Linton), S Alsuguren (Fra)
0739 (1236) S Brady (Galway), S Bleakley (Shandon Park), T Collins (Dun Laoghaire)
0748 (1245) J McCarthy (Stackstown), K Lynch (Skibbereen & West Carbery), D O’Neill (Carton House)
0757 (1254) P Connolly (Killeen Castle), R Williamson (Holywood), S McDermott (Co Cavan)
0806 (1303) J Fletcher (Warrenpoint), M Boucher (Carton House), M O’Rourke (Royal Tara)
0815 (1312) T O’Leary (Wexford), C Ryan (Dun Laoghaire), C Coyne (Youghal)
0824 (1321) M MacGrath (Limerick), J Gourley (Shandon Park), L Ashby (Naas)
0833 (1330) N McKinstry (Cairndhu), E Farrell (Ardee), N Goulding (Portmarnock)
0842 (1339) J Greene (Portmarnock), N Beirth (Co Louth), S Watts (Cairndhu)
0851 (1348) G Lawlor (Craddockstown), K McDonagh (Royal Dublin), N Foley (The Island)
0900 (1357) W Hanna (Kilkeel), D Coyle (Portmarnock), E O’Connor (Elm Park)
0909 (1406) S Walsh (Killeen), T Jordan (Dungannon), C Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown)
0918 (1415) G McGrane (Royal Dublin), J Sutherland (Galgorm Castle), J Lyons (Galway).