Templepatrick teenager makes golf history by clinching East of Ireland crown
Seventeen-year-old Reece Black became the youngest winner in the 77-year history of the East of Ireland Amateur Open when he fired a sensational six-under-par 66 to win by three strokes at County Louth.
The Hilton Templepatrick teenager produced an imperious ball-striking display as he came from six strokes behind overnight leader Colin Woodroofe to win on five under par from Grange's Robbie Pierse, who shot a fine 69.
Reece was thrilled to get the biggest win of his career and, while the former Leinster U13 champion is still a graphic design student at Belfast Metropolitan College, he'd love to go on and play for Ireland and carve out a career in golf.
"It's probably the best feeling I have ever had," said Reece, after becoming the first teenager to claim the title since 19-year-old Raymie Burns successfully defended it in 1993.
"I'm so happy. I was thinking if I shot four or five under I'd have a chance. But I ended up making more birdies and the leaders fell behind, so I kept going neck-and-neck with Robbie. Then I birdied the 11th and 13th and it started to go my way."
It wasn't just Black's ball-striking that was impressive; his putting was superb, with the only blemish on his card coming at the 16th, where he three-putted from just off the green.
Pierse birdied the third, fourth and fifth and then had a tap-in eagle at the sixth to move into the lead on four under par as the final three-ball of Woodroofe, defending champion Paul O'Hanlon and Portmarnock's Geoff Lenehan dropped 10 shots between them from the seventh to the ninth and turned in level par.
Pierse bogeyed the ninth and 10th to be level with Black on two under par with eight to play.
He then birdied the 11th from 30 feet, while Black made a six-footer for birdie.
Black holed a three-footer to go five under for the round with five to play and take the outright lead on four under. He then spun a 58-degree wedge from 70 yards back to two feet at the 14th to go two ahead and made a clutch seven-foot par putt at the 15th.
Both bogeyed the 16th before the key moment at the 17th, where Black's three-iron was stopped from flying into deep trouble when it hit a spectator.
Black putted down above the hole from the semi-rough and holed his seven-footer for par to remain two in front.
He then got his seventh birdie of the day on the 18th and claimed a three-shot victory.
Overnight leader Woodroofe shot 78 to tie for third. Defending champion O'Hanlon ended up tied 11th on three over after a 78, while Lenehan signed for a 74 to share sixth.