Ahead of the staging of the sixth Irish International Open in Seapoint this weekend, Communications & Press Officer Jason O’Connor looks at the previous five stagings of the event as well previewing this weekend’s event.
THE Irish International Pitch & Putt Open was inaugurated nearly a decade ago in September 2009 at the Royal Meath Pitch & Putt Club in Clonee, Co Meath. It came about after many years of desire amongst the Pitch & Putt Community not only in Ireland but also on the continent for such an event to be held in a country considered a ‘hotbed’ for the sport. Ireland has been a leading proponent of the game beyond the Irish Sea since the game started to become organised at both European and International level currently in possession of both the European and World Cup titles.
The European Pitch & Putt Association (EPPA) was formed in the year 2000 with FIPPA (Federation of International Pitch & Putt Associations) formed in 2006. Entries from the event have come from numerous countries across the continent such as Great Britain, Holland and Catalonia with even an entry from Australia in a previous staging! The event is generally held over 54 holes with the first 36 holes on Saturday followed by a closing 18 holes on Sunday. The first staging saw dual Mens and Ladies events with Deerpark’s Damien Fleming the inaugural winner of the Mens event as Chrissie Byrne of Kildare won the Ladies event.
Chrissie won the second Ladies event barely seven months later in RGSC, Dublin in April 2010 as the Mens event came down to a playoff between Frank Dineen of St Annes in Cork and Stephen Murray of Old County, Dublin which Dineen went on to win. Indeed despite the short history of the event both Fleming and Dineen are multiple winners of the Mens competition. Fleming won the 2011 staging on his home course in Killarney as Dineen was in contention once more before fellow Corkman Paudie O’Sullivan would finish second. Offaly’s Tracey McGrath won the Ladies event that year in Killarney as the event had a three year hiatus before its next staging in May 2014 at Glenville in Tallaght.
Despite heavy rain affecting play, the tournament was finished over the regulation 54 holes with Meath’s Eamon Gibney the winner from future European and World Strokeplay Champion Liam O’Donovan of Limerick. Eamon would go on two years later to captain an Irish Pitch & Putt team to a World Cup success in Andorra. Marian Courtney followed her sister Chrissie in winning the Ladies event in Glenville that year as the switch to a biennial staging of the Irish Open has followed since. The second staging of the event in Munster occurred in Rocklodge in Cork in September 2016 with Fleming and Dineen in contention once more before Dineen won his second title by a single stroke. Breda White of Tipperary Hills became the first Munster winner of the Ladies prize as Pacelli Darcy of Limerick won the second of two seniors titles the same day, the first having come in Glenville in 2014.
This year’s staging in Seapoint will be the sixth in total as the introduction of an U-16 section adds a new dimension to the event and really makes it a game for ages with the different categories in play.
162 players will head to Termonfeckin for the sixth staging of the Irish International Open as Seapoint becomes the first north-east venue to play host to the event. Over 33 international players mainly from Iberian countries along with the Netherlands comprise the International field. The Seapoint club itself has in excess of 30 entries with further entries from Louth clubs Cement, Channonrock, Collon and McBride.
There are just under 20 women entered with seven of the entries coming from the host club in Noeleen Bedford, Christina Carroll, Marty Coyle, Marlo Everitt, Bridie Hanratty, Concepta Maddick and Ann Ward. The entry of current Irish Ladies Matchplay and Strokeplay holder Ger Ward of Portmarnock is likely to garner interest as will that of a former National Strokeplay winner in her Dublin club-mate Sheelagh Elmes. Ward was victorious here in the National Ladies Matchplay Final two years ago as she bids for another major success on Seapoint turf. Leading the international challenge for the Ladies event will be Holland native Esther De Schiffart along with Catalonia’s Abby Nachshon as Munster Senior Strokeplay winner Mary Murray of Rocklodge in Cork is also entered for the event.
The first ever Juvenile event has nine entries headed by National Strokeplay and Matchplay winner Evan Carry of Castletown, (captain of the Irish U-16 team that will play Catalonia in an International Challenge the Tuesday following the event). St Annes’ Glenn Towler is a former National U-16 Matchplay winner as Seapoint are represented by brothers Luke and Eoin Murphy with Luke also a part of the Irish side that will face Catalonia alongside other entries in another St Annes player Cian Murphy as well as Deerpark’s Cillian Courtney. Catalonian Juvenile Alex Alibinana Torne competed in the recent European Championships in Urduna back in June and was a part of the Catalan adult side that reached the Final before losing out to the Irish in the decider.
In the Mens event the only three players to ever win the event are all entered in Deerpark’s Damien Fleming, St Annes’ Frank Dineen and Castletown’s Eamon Gibney. Dineen is the current holder having won in his native Cork at Rocklodge in 2016 but Fleming enters as the Irish Senior Strokeplay Champion having won in Glenville in Dublin last month. Multiple Irish Matchplay and Strokeplay winner Ray Murphy of St Annes awaits his first Irish Open title as another former multiple winner of both those events in John Walsh of Collins is also entered. Some other recent national winners are also amongst the field in Larkspur Park’s Michael Kirby (Intermediate Mens), Athgarvan’s Frank Ryan (0-55’s Senior Mens) and Riverdale’s Sean Minogue (0-55’s Intermediate Mens) as the local challenge is also likely to be strong.
Club native Pat Greene has won three National 0-55’s Senior titles and his local knowledge could well be a big factor in his favour as Mark Millar of Cement joins the aforementioned Murphy and Walsh as a former Irish Senior Strokeplay and Matchplay winner, the Strokeplay success coming as recently as 12 months ago at the Hillview course in Clonmel. Ian Donnelly is a former Leinster Champion as George Beardsley from the McBride club is also likely to contend over the weekend. Another member of the McBride club in Sean Goggin is a former National Matchplay Finalist as Padraic Sarsfield should feature as well in the course of the event.
A former European Strokeplay winner in Bellewstown’s Ian Farrelly is also entered in the event as is another former national winner in Ryston’s Sean Harkins with William Buckley Jnr of Erry (Irish Strokeplay, 2003) and Seanie Bellew of Castletown others to have won national honours in their time playing Pitch & Putt, the latter having won a National U-16 Matchplay title last year. A good mix of youth and experience across the respective fields for this year’s staging with plenty to get excited about.
Whether it comes down to local knowledge or international experience in determining the winner will be interesting to see but there are plenty of possible contenders along the Termonfeckin links when the action gets underway.
Best Wishes to Seapoint with the hosting of this weekend's event.
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