BALTRAY, COUNTY LOUTH, IRELAND (June 5, 2017) - Teenager 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 17-year old from Hilton Templepatrick became the first teenager to win the coveted title when he came from six strokes behind overnight leader Colin Woodroofe to win on five-under par 283 from Grange's Robbie Pierse.
"Relentless," said Pierse, who raced out in 33 to head Black by one before shooting 36 to the winner's sensational 32 on the back nine to finish second with a 69.
"It was unbelievable how well Reece played. I was just ahead of him for 12 holes but he birdied 13 and 14 and never looked like missing. From 15 feet and in, it was scary."Black was simply thrilled to get the biggest win of his career and while he is still a graphic design student at Belfast Metropolitan College, he'd love to go on and play for Ireland and make a career in golf.
"It's probably the best feeling I have ever had," the former Leinster Under 13 champion said after quick call to his father, Orville. "I'm so happy.
"I was thinking in my head, if I shoot four or five under, then have a chance if the leaders don't go further ahead.
"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 even out my way.”
It wasn't just Black’s ball-striking that was impressive but his putting, even if the only blemish on his card came at the 16th, where he three-putted from just off the green.
He began by holing a 20 footer at the third, then made a putt from four feet at the fourth before chipping and putting for birdie at the par-five sixth.
Pierse followed birdies at the third, fourth and fifth with 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.
Lenehan got to within two of Black with four to play but dropped four shots coming in and signed for a 74 to share sixth with Newlands' Jake Whelan (72), Rosslare's Gary Collins (71), Kinsale's John Murphy (73) and Portmarnock's Jack Pierse (72) on two-over.
Pierse bogeyed the ninth and 10th to be level with Black on two under par with eight to play.
But while he birdied the 11th from 30 feet, Black made a six-footer for birdie there to remain on terms at three-under par before following a birdie from three feet at the 13th with a tap in after a 70-yard edge to little more than 18 inches at the next.
Now two ahead and made a clutch, seven-foot par putt at the 15th to remain in front and while both players bogeyed the 16th, Black made a clutch seven-footer for par at the 17th after Pierse missed from 10 feet for birdie.
He was fortunate that his three-iron hit a spectator in the left rough and he was able to get a putter on a ball that was heading for deep trouble but his par putt was the stroke of a worthy champion.
The winner then hit a huge drive down the 18th and ripped a 232-yard, three-iron to the front edge before two-putting for his seventh birdie of the day and a three-shot win with a host of his pals, such as Mark Power, roaring him home.
"I played with Mark in a practice round, and I made a lot of putts," Black said. "Then the first day was one of the best ball-striking days I have ever had and today obviously was the best I've ever had. The way I have been hitting the ball, knew what I was going to hit and that helped my confidence."
Overnight leader Woodroofe shot 78 to share third with 17-year old Castle talent Robert Moran (70) and former South of Ireland champion Stuart Bleakley (71), six behind the winner on one-over.
Defending champion O'Hanlon briefly held the lead on five-under when he eagled the third from 35 feet.
But the 32-year old ended up tied 11th on three-over after a 78 with a double bogey at the seventh and bogeys at the eighth and ninth signalling the start of his demise.
Woodroofe three putted from short of the first, then missed another short putt for birdie at the second.
O'Hanlon made a poor six at the third, then missed a chance at the fourth before airmailing the fifth by 30 yards to go back to three under.
He birdied the sixth but missed the seventh right and made double bogey by hitting a fairway wood off the other side of the green before duffing his third.
Woodroofe also bogeyed the fifth and the made a costly six st the eighth when he tugged his approach into the deep rough behind the 12th tee.