What is it with these young players? Reece Black takes East of Ireland title

The 17-year-old overcame a six stroke overnight deficit with a final round of 66

Only 17 years of age, but with nerves of steel. What is it with these young players?

Reece Black belied any notion that such youth could prove a burden or a handicap in his pursuit of the East of Ireland Championship, as the teenager produced a final round 66 for a 72-holes total of 283, five-under-par, to leave everyone trailing in his slipstream.

For sure, it was a stunning performance, as Black – a graphic design student at Belfast Metropolitan College, but rarely without a golf club in his hands – overcame a six stroke overnight deficit to move with considerable stealth to claim the title, finishing three shots clear of runner-up Robbie Pierse.

In so doing, he became the youngest ever winner of the championship.


On a wet day, with only the slightest of breezes, Black used his putter like a magic wand. He could do no wrong, although the blade was not alone in fashioning the wind. His ball-striking was pure, only occasionally venturing into any rough off the tee.

Indeed, for a time, it seemed as if a sly, old fox which emerged time and time again from the sand hills to saunter across the greens would be his main concern. But, no, he was immune to any interference, human or animal.

In effect, the title quest turned into a duel between Black and Pierse as those ahead of them at the start of the final round - Colin Woodroofe, the overnight leader, Paul O'Hanlon, the defending champion, and Geoff Lenehan - all encountered problems.

For Woodroofe, a run of bogey-double bogey-bogey from the seventh proved especially costly as he floundered to closing 78.

By the time Black and Pierse stood on the 12th tee, the pair had moved clear. It became a head-to-head battle, effectively. But whilst Pierse’s putter cooled, a series of birdie putts frustratingly failed to fall, Black’s was red hot.

In what was a hugely impressive display, Black – who pulled his own bag simply because he likes to do his own thing – claimed seven birdies and a lone bogey, on the 16th.

Yet, it was a well thought-out up and down for par on the Par 3 17th, at a point where he held a two stroke advantage on Pierse, which really sealed the deal.

There, Black closed the clubface on his three-iron tee-shot, but fortunately for him, it landed in the gallery left of the green which prevented the ball from rolling into the heavy rough.

Still, he opted to use a putter from the rough rather than trusting himself with a chip shot and the ball trundled up and over a mound and down to seven feet. Again, his trustworthy putter sank the par putt.

And Black – who first took up the sport as a nine-year-old, influenced by his father Orville – finished in some style. A good tee shot on the Par 5 18th left him with 232 yards to the flag and he “ripped” a three-iron to the front of the green.

An up and down for his seventh birdie of the round was greeted with appreciative applause from the gallery, before he was embraced by a number of his fellow GUI junior squad members.

The future? "I love to play golf and hopefully I can turn pro and down the line do what the likes of what Paul Dunne and Gary Hurley are doing. But I'm trying to do school too because if it doesn't work out . . . " said Black, letting the unfinished sentence speak for itself.

For now, the plus-two handicapper is facing into some big junior events. The Henry Cooper Junior Masters at Nizels resort in Kent later this month, the Irish Boys' straight after. If picked, the European Boys' Team Championship, too.

For the runner-up Robbie Pierse of Grange, who finished with a 69 for 286, there was at least the satisfaction of beating his brother Jack, and also of getting some world ranking points.

Yet, Pierse paid full credit to his young usurper. “I never saw putting like it,” he said.

East of Ireland Amateur Open, County Louth (Par 72)
Final round -

283 R Black (Hilton Templepatrick) 71 76 70 66;
286 R Pierse (Grange) 72 74 71 69;
289 S Bleakley (Shandon Park) 73 73 72 71, R Moran (Castle) 71 73 75 70, C Woodroofe (Dun Laoghaire) 69 70 72 78;
290 G Lenehan (Portmarnock) 75 71 70 74, J Whelan (Newlands) 72 77 69 72, G Collins (Rosslare) 72 76 71 71, J Murphy (Kinsale) 72 74 71 73, J Pierse (Portmarnock) 69 73 76 72;
291 C Rafferty (Dundalk) 74 72 75 70, P O'Hanlon (Carton House ) 71 73 69 78, D Morgan (Carton House) 70 75 76 70;
292 R Williamson (Holywood) 75 73 74 70, J Sugrue (Mallow) 74 75 69 74, T McLarnon (Massereene) 73 75 75 69, G Lappin (Belvoir Park) 72 78 71 71;
293 K McCarron (North West) 75 70 75 73, L Donnelly (Kilkenny) 72 74 76 71, P Murray (Clontarf) 71 75 74 73, M Power (Kilkenny) 71 74 75 73, G O'Flaherty (Cork) 71 72 75 75;
296 J Greene (Portmarnock) 72 76 74 74, D Holland (Castle) 70 73 78 75;
297 G Fitzmaurice (Balcarrick) 71 75 77 74, C Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown) 70 73 79 75;
298 M Boucher (Carton House) 76 74 73 75, M McKinstry (Cairndhu) 75 74 74 75, J Hickey (Cork) 70 77 74 77, A Lowry (Esker Hills) 69 76 75 78;
299 S Healy (The Royal Dublin) 75 71 76 77, A Hill (Athenry) 74 75 72 78, R Kelly (Tuam) 72 78 73 76, R Brazill (Naas) 72 74 75 78;
300 H Foley (The Royal Dublin) 78 72 72 78, R Dutton (Tandragee) 74 74 75 77, E Farrell (Ardee) 73 75 74 78, P Kerr (Royal Portrush) 72 79 71 78, C Denvir (Elm Park) 71 77 74 78;
301 J McDonnell (Forrest Little) 72 73 77 79;
302 C Raymond (Newlands) 77 73 72 80;
304 M Norton (Belvoir Park) 74 75 74 81, S Sweeney (USA) 74 72 77 81.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times