Tiarnan McLarnon will have to conquer classy line-up to retain Irish title
Tiarnan McLarnon will begin the defence of his Irish Close Championship title today on the Glashedy Links at Ballyliffin GC.
The Massereene GC man, a member of Ireland's recent Home International-winning side, beat Alex Gleeson in last year's final at Tramore GC.
That victory was something of a breakthrough success for the 24-year-old, who has bucked the trend somewhat by managing to hold down a full-time job as a dental technician while fulfilling his Irish International commitments.
In all, six of the team that edged out England to clinch the Home International crown in Nairn are competing at Ballyliffin.
Gleeson, the highest ranked player in the field, is back for another crack at the title alongside Flogas Irish Amateur Open champion Colm Campbell, the 2014 Close champion John Ross Galbraith of Whitehead, St Andrews Links Trophy winner Conor O'Rourke and World Universities champion Robin Dawson.
With so many proven winners in action, there are sure to be some fascinating match play duels when the knockout stages begin on Thursday after two rounds of stroke play qualifying.
McLarnon proved last year that anything can happen in match play after qualifying for the knockout stages as the 64th and last player to make the cut.
Meanwhile, Ulster's Leona Maguire has won the Mark H McCormack Medal for the second consecutive year as the leading women's player in the 2016 World Amateur Golf Rankings.
Cavan woman Maguire will compete for Ireland in the Rio Olympics this week and, speaking from Brazil, she said she was delighted.
"It is a huge honour for me to win the medal again this year," said the 21-year-old.
"This year has been great for me and winning the McCormack Medal makes it even more special. I am so excited to compete and represent my country in the Olympics and earning the medal gives me extra confidence, given how strong amateur golf is right now."