Kevin LeBlanc aims to emulate Rory McIlroy

The Island’s Kevin LeBlanc is determined to prove the doubters wrong and become the youngest West of Ireland champion since Rory McIlroy.

Kevin LeBlanc aims to emulate Rory McIlroy

On a day when Co Sligo’s Sean Flanagan clearly emerged as one of the men to beat following his hard-fought, one-hole win over reigning East and South of Ireland champion Stuart Grehan, the 17-year old from the Island beat another top international in Alex Gleeson by holing a 20 footer for birdie on the 18th.

“I was just trying to die it in,” said LeBlanc after his right-to-left birdie putt fell in the side door, making Gleeson’s eight-footer for par irrelevant.

LeBlanc won the Junior Open in 2014 and last year contended for the Irish Amateur Open at Royal Dublin, eventually finishing tied for third. With top caddie Jude O’Reilly on his bag, he is now a serious contender for the title.

After coming back from two down after nine with five wins in a row to beat Hollystown’s Stephen Kinch 3 and 2 in the morning, he had to dig deep to beat Gleeson, who holed a monster putt for birdie at the 14th and then took the 15th in par to share the match.

LeBlanc will face Co Sligo’s Stephen Brady, who pulled off a shock win on day one for the second year running. After beating holder Jack Hume last year, Brady beat North of Ireland champion and Irish international John Ross Galbraith 3 and 2 before defeating Rathmore’s Ben Best 2 and 1.

Defending champion Dermot McElroy from Ballymena, who is trying to become the first player since McIlroy to retain the title, remains the title favourite after comfortable wins over Stephen Healy and Dwayne Mallon.

He will face Kinsale’s Cathal Butler, who surprised Naas’s Conor O’Rourke 2 and 1 in the afternoon.

Co Sligo’s Flanagan remains the big home hope after coming back from two down after nine to beat Fota Island’s Sean Barry on the 18th in the morning. The 20-year old Maynooth University scholarship student then took a big scalp in the afternoon when he beat reigning East and South of Ireland champion Stuart Grehan by one hole.

“It would be amazing — a big goal of mine,” Flanagan said of a potential home triumph after going around in an estimated two under par in a cold, 20mph wind.

Flanagan faces a tough third-round clash with Royal Dublin’s Richard Knightly, with the winner to face Des Morgan or international Colm Campbell in a top half that also features the dangerous Castle man Daniel Holland.

More in this section

Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
Home Delivery
logo-ie

HOME DELIVERY SERVICE

Have the Irish Examiner delivered to your door. No delivery charge. Just pay the cover price.

IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox