Warrenpoint's Colm Campbell admits that he must respect Royal County Down if he is to become the first man to successfully defend the Flogas Irish Amateur Open for 20 years and get his Walker Cup campaign up and running.
Bray’s Keith Nolan took a giant step towards Walker Cup selection by winning for the second year running at Fota Island 20 years ago and Campbell admits that he needs to show form quickly if he’s to make the Great Britain and Ireland team that will travel to Los Angeles Country Club in September.
“I probably need to get going now, I’ve had a slow start to the season," said Campbell, who is joined in Newcastle by Irish Walker Cup hopefuls Conor O'Rourke (Naas), Alex Gleeson (Castle) and Robin Dawson (Tramore).
"I feel like my game is better than what I’ve shown so far. Hopefully this week I can turn it around.”
Campbell knows that he must not become over-aggressive on firm and fast Royal County Down that punishes misplaced aggression and rewards conservative approach play and faultless course management.
“I can see why it’s ranked number one in the world," said Campbell, who is one of nine members of the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup panel in the elite, 144-man field.
"It’s a challenge but it’s a fair challenge. If you respect it, you have chances out there. I’m struggling to see anybody shooting under par but again with the field that’s here this week, there’s a huge possibility that the winning score could be under par."
Nine of the world’s Top 100 are in the field and Campbell has been drawn with Scottish world No 8 Connor Syme and 98th ranked American Stewart Hagestad, who was the low amateur in last month’s Masters Tournament.
"What a special piece of property," the American said. "The fact that the golf course is over 120 years old is simply unbelievable. It's an honour and a privilege to be out here representing both the Metropolitan Golf Association and the United States."
Hagestad admitted that he’s determined to make the US Walker Cup team and while the other two Irish members of the 21-strong GB&I square, Stuart Grehan and Paul McBride, are absent due to college commitments, he’s familiar with many of his potential GB&I rivals.
They include British Amateur champion Scott Gregory, who goes off with American Scott Randolph and Dundalk’s Caolan Rafferty, the leading Irishmen and one of just three make the cut in last weekend’s Lytham Trophy.
Scotland's Syme, Craig Howie and Craig Ross and Welshman David Boote are the other Walker Cup hopefuls teeing it up and like rest, their first goal is to make the top 50 and ties who will survive Saturday's 54-hole cut.
Flogas Irish Amateur Open, Royal County Down
- 07:00/11:25 Joshua McMahon (Wallasey), Søren Broholt Lind (Odder Gol), Christopher MacLean (Balmore)
- 07:10/11:35 Craig Ross (Kirkhill), William Russell (Clandeboye), Matthias Schmid (Herzogenaurach)
- 07:20/11:45 Claudio Consul (Duesseldorfer), Daniel Murphy (Portarlington), James Nicholas (Westchester)
- 07:30/11:55 Benjamin Jones (Northamptonshire) Mitchell Waite (Filton), Garrett Rank (Elmira)
- 07:40/12:05 Kyle McClatchie (Serengeti), George Bloor (Cavendish), Hugo Bernard (Laval Sur-le-Lac)
- 07:50/12:15 Callum Farr (Priors Hall), Cameron Raymond (Newlands), Nick Bachen (Marienburger)
- 08:05/12:30 Cameron Long (Burton), Matt Saulez (Durban), Philip Bootsma (Houtrak)
- 08:15/12:40 Conor O’Rourke (Naas), Gian Marco Petrozzi (Trentham), Max Schmitt (Rheinhessen)
- 08:25/12:50 Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint), Connor Syme (Drumoig), Stewart Hagestad (Deepdale)
- 08:35/13:00 Kevin LeBlanc (The Island), Craig Howie (Peebles), Joseph Trinder (Pymble)
- 08:45/13:10 Robin Dawson (Tramore), Matthew Jordan (Royal Liverpool), Liam Johnston (Dumfries and County)
- 08:55/13:20 Mark Power (Kilkenny), Peter O’Keeffe (Douglas), Maximilian Boegel (St. Leon- Rot)
- 09:10/13:35 Alex Gleeson (Castle), Albert Venter (Silverlakes), Charlie Thornton (Fulford);
- 09:20/13:45 Euan McIntosh (Turnhouse), John-Ross Galbraith (Whitehead), Luke Brown (Muriwai)
- 09:30/13:55 Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene), David Boote (Walton Heath), Stephen Coulter (Warrenpoint)
- 09:40/14:05 Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk), Scott Gregory (Corhampton), Trevor Randolph (Arcola)
- 09:50/14:15 Gary Collins (Rosslare), Laird Shepherd (Rye), Bailey Gill (Lindrick)
- 10:00/14:25 Jack Pierse (Portmarnock), Ben Chamberlain (Padeswood and Buckley), Nicholas Poppleton (Wath)
- 10:15/14:40 Colin Fairweather (Knock), Caylum Boon (Oubaai), Tom Gandy (Rowany)
- 10:25/14:50 Gary McDermott (Carton House), Raphael Geissler (St. Leon-Rot), Josh Hilleard (Farrington Park)
- 10:35/15:00 Marcel Zillekens (Niederrheinischer), Mike Howard (The Royal Birkdale), Rasmus Neergaard-Petersen (Furesø)
- 10:45/15:10 Jake Burnage (Saunton), Sean Towndrow (Southport & Ainsdale), Jack Seaman (Wrag Barn Golf & CC);
- 10:55/15:20 Mark Hutson (Muriwai), Jeremy Freiburghaus (Domat/Ems), Brandon Dietzel (Essen-Heidhausen)
- 11:05/15:30 Evan Griffith (Conwy), Gerard Dunne (Co. Louth), Gustav Frimodt (Odense Eventyr)
- 11:25/07:00 Ian O’Rourke (The Royal Dublin), John Murphy (Kinsale), Jake Whelan (Newlands)
- 11:35/07:10 Eugene Smith (Laytown & Bettystown), Thomas O’Connor (Athlone), Ben Best (Rathmore)
- 11:45/07:20 Charlie Strickland (Ham Manor), Constantin Unger (St. Leon-Rot), Eanna Griffin (Waterford)
- 11:55/07:30 Jason Stokes (La Moye), Joseph Long (Lansdown), Thomas Plumb (Sherborne)
- 12:05/07:40 Tyler Cline (The Tuxedo), Harry Goddard (Hanbury Manor), James Glenn (Brancepeth Castle)
- 12:15/07:50 Thomas Mulligan (Laytown & Bettystown), James Fox (Portmarnock), Paul Coughlan (Moate)
- 12:30/08:05 Robert Brazill (Naas), Alasdair McDougall (Elderslie), Jacob Skov Olesen (Naestved)
- 12:40/08:15 Jordan Sundborg (Shanklin & Sandown), Michael Jnr Ryan (New Ross), Thibault Junak (GC Main-Taunus)
- 12:50/08:25 Tom Sloman (Taunton & Pickeridge), Dominic Dougan (Drumpelier), Henry Young-alls (Notts)
- 13:00/08:35 Oliver Percy-Smith (Furesø), Robert Foley (Lausanne), Austin James (Laval Sur-le-Lac)
- 13:10/08:45 Jake Hapgood (Southerndown), Kyle Harman (Southerndown), Michael Reid (Galgorm Castle)
- 13:20/08:55 Robbie Pierse (Grange), Jake Bolton (Ogbourne Downs), Tom Dolan (Heswall)
- 13:35/09:10 James Wilson (Balmore), Jim Carvill (Banbridge), John Brady (Rosslare)
- 13:45/09:20 Matthew Owain Harris (St Mellons), Llew Matthews (Southerndown), Aaron Harper (Bolton OldLinks)
- 13:55/09:30 Andrew McCormack (Castletroy), Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock), Harvey Byers (Walton Heath)
- 14:05/09:40 Jack McDonnell (Forrest Little), Eoin Leonard (Wentworth), Marc Nolan (Delgany)
- 14:15/09:50 Tom Beasley (Hunstanton), Aaron Grant (Dundalk), Cian Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown)
- 14:25/10:00 Darin Goldstein (Noyac), David Foy (Laytown & Bettystown), Gareth Lappin (Belvoir Park)
- 14:40/10:15 Sean Ryan (The Royal Dublin), Marc Norton (Belvoir Park), Cathal Butler (Kinsale)
- 14:50/10:25 James Sugrue (Mallow), Rody Haije (Goyer), Ross Dutton (Tandragee)
- 15:00/10:35 Eddie McCormack (Galway Bay), Stuart Bleakley (Shandon Park), Timo Vahlenkamp (Berliner Stolper Heide)
- 15:10/10:45 Tom Harris (Castletown), Luke Donnelly (Kilkenny), Joe Lyons (Galway)
- 15:20/10:55 Brian Komline (Black Oak), Shaun Carter (The Royal Dublin), William Small (Tandragee)
- 15:30/11:05 Hugh Foley (The Royal Dublin), Robert Moran (Castle), Andrew Hickey (Ballyhaunis).