The Flogas Irish Amateur Open returns to Royal County Down from 17-20 May boasting the highest quality field ever assembled.
Douglas international Peter O’Keeffe will defend Ireland’s premier stroke play championship and he will have to contend with a world class entry featuring 90 overseas players from 11 countries. This year’s starting list has been increased by six places, the maximum allowable, to 138 players due to the quantity and quality of entries received.
O’Keeffe had three shots to spare last year, winning his first major championship at 35 years of age. The Cork native spent five years on the professional circuit before reverting to the amateur game. On the back of his Irish Amateur success O’Keeffe played his way onto the Ireland team, earning his first cap at the Home Internationals.
The defending champion is one of five current Ireland internationals in the field. Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell, champion in 2016, will be close to home at Royal County Down. Alex Gleeson from Castle secured a top 10 finish last year, and was next best of the home challengers behind O’Keeffe. His form so far this season – runner-up at the West of Ireland, he was second again at the European Nations Cup – suggests a big win is getting closer.
Five members of this year’s European Bonallack Trophy team will tee it up at Royal County Down including Tramore’s Robin Dawson, who is the highest ranked Irish player in the field. Norway’s Kristoffer Reitan, tied second alongside Gleeson at the Euro Nations, and Germany’s Marc Hammer also make the trip.
England won the team title at the European Nations and all four members of the side will contest the Irish Amateur. Todd Clements, leading individual at Sotogrande, is the highest ranked player in the field and is joined by Bonallack teammate Matthew Jordan, a winner already this season at the Lytham Trophy and clearly a man who relishes the links having captured the St Andrews Links Trophy in 2017. Jordan was tied fourth at Royal County Down last year.
And with 42 players in the field, England is the most likely destination if the title does go abroad. South Africa is well represented once more with nine players travelling to RCD. Austria (1), Denmark (3), France (6), Netherlands (1), Scotland (12), USA (2) and Wales (3) are the other countries represented.
In terms of the Bridgestone Order of Merit, there are potentially 425 points on offer for the winner and if Rob Brazill from Naas, the current leader, was to pick up this title he would be all but assured of his place on the Ireland team for the Home Internationals in September.
Play commences on Thursday, 17 May with the top 50 and ties progressing to the final round on Sunday, 15 May following a 54-hole cut.
A championship which has witnessed victories by the greatest names in Irish amateur golf since its first staging in 1892, the Flogas Irish Amateur Open is Ireland’s blue riband event. Its roll of honour includes major champions Padraig Harrington and Louis Oosthuizen.