Cullen rolls back the years in return to East of Ireland
Reece Black will be the youngest defending champion in East of Ireland history when Beaverstown's Gary Cullen returns to the amateur fold at the age of 42 today.
The 1999 Irish Amateur Open champion spent 18 years toiling in the professional ranks, but with back problems putting an end to his tour career, he was reinstated as an amateur in January.
Just five of the Irish panel teed it up 12 months ago but there are 12 in action in 'The d Hotel Drogheda' sponsored 72-hole strokeplay test at County Louth.
The big absentees are Tramore's Irish Amateur Open champion Robin Dawson, Castle's Alex Gleeson and The Island's Paul McBride, who will make his professional debut in US Open sectional qualifying at Walton Heath on Monday.
South Africa has four entrants, headed by 2017 South African Amateur champion Christo Lamprecht and the country's top junior, Jayden Schaper (17).
There are also entries from Iceland, Argentina, Australia and the United States, with Peter O'Keeffe, Rowan Lester, Conor Purcell, Tiarnan McLarnon and Caolan Rafferty leading the home challenge.
The event reverts to its three-day format with the leading 42 and ties after tomorrow's second round qualifying for Monday's final 36 holes.