O'Keeffe is on a mission to retain Irish crown
Douglas' Peter O'Keeffe has no fear of the star-studded field bidding to claim his Flogas Irish Amateur Open crown.
The reigning champion tees it up at Royal County Down trying to become the first player to win back-to-back titles since Bray's Keith Nolan in 1997.
"I am not bothered about this fella has won this or that," O'Keeffe said of the 138-strong field that features 90 overseas players from 11 nations including England's world No 8 Matthew Jordan, who won the Lytham Trophy by nine shots recently.
"That doesn't faze me. I will take them on anyway."
A former tour professional, O'Keeffe (36) showed the value of experience when he cruised to a three-stroke win in harsh conditions last year.
Fresh from his successful defence of the Kerry Scratch Cup at Tralee at the weekend, he said: "It was an ideal warm-up, so I am looking forward to this week.
"The game is nearly where I want it, and while I haven't seen the forecast, I'd like to see a bit of wind."
Tramore's Robin Dawson, Castle's Alex Gleeson and Dundalk's Caolan Rafferty will be keen to impress the GB&I selectors after being named with US-based Rowan Lester in the 20-man St Andrews Trophy squad for July's clash with the Continent of Europe.
Norway's Kristoffer Reitan, Germany's Marc Hammer and England's Todd Clements are also fancied to challenge in Newcastle but former winner Gavin Moynihan is looking to go one step further at the Challenge Tour's Andalucía Costa del Sol Match Play 9 after losing out to England's Aaron Rai in last year's final.
The top 64 after two strokeplay rounds will make the weekend matchplay with Moynihan heading an eight-strong Irish contingent that features former Walker Cup team-mates Cormac Sharvin and Gary Hurley as well as Michael Hoey, Ruaidhri McGee, Jonny Caldwell, Dermot McElroy and John Ross Galbraith.
Moynihan said: "Like I did last year I'll try to qualify for the match play and then anyone can beat anyone, so I'll just try to qualify for that and then you can get a run going."