Royal Meath for four days last week was the centre of the International Pitch and Putt world as Ireland defended the World Cup on home territory.
The course was set up in superb condition by Billy Lynch and his team. In addition here over the weekend was evidence of the old Irish “Meitheal” as three green keepers from the Munster area came to lend a hand and take the pressure off the home club.
As ever when visiting Royal Meath there was a friendly welcome and in addition a special unit had been set up where most of the administrative work could be done away from the hustle and bustle of the clubhouse.
The Irish team, captain John Crangle, Ray Murphy and John Walsh along with manager Helen McMorrow were raging favourites at 1/8 and the general consensus was that the team would retain the Cup. However, as everyone knows, sometimes the bookies can get things wrong.
10.00am Friday and proceedings got underway. A shotgun start ensured that there should be no inordinate delays but it was still four hours and twenty minutes later before the last of the competitors finished. Ireland were slow to get off the mark and after nine holes were only -6, with five of the best scores for 18 holes to count. Eventually, Ireland finished with an impressive score of 238 or 32 under par, Catalonia finished 16 shots behind on 254, with Australia close behind on 355. This Strokeplay event deciding the seeding for the Matchplay section and Irelands performance gave them the no. 1 spot.
In the quarter finals Ireland played Switzerland and having won the initial foursomes and singles they added the three singles to complete a 5-nil whitewash and the first step in the defence of their title.
Holland was the opposition in the semi finals and they proved to be as difficult to beat as early predictions had suggested. After the first session the match was halved as Ireland won the foursomes but lost the singles, the next section of singles matches saw Ireland garner two valuable points and emerge victorious by a 3-2 margin.
The final saw an Ireland Australia clash and having seen some of the excellent Australian pitching the general consensus was that the match would be tight. Ireland won the two matches in the first section but both matches went to the 18th, in the foursomes Australia were bunkered off the tee but a tremendous blast from the sand by James Rogersen saw his ball just miss the hole by inches before settling just over a foot from the hole. A delicately stroked putt from Ray Murphy saw him convert John Crangle’s fine pitch and when John Walsh won his singles mach 2 up on the 18th Ireland had a comfortable lead. In the singles anchor man Ray Murphy won his match by a 7&6 margin to give Ireland victory, John Crangle followed up with a 2&1 win while John Walsh triumphed again on the 18th to give Ireland a 5-nil winning margin.
Ireland are champions again for a further four years and in fairness all three players demonstrated beyond any doubt both their ability and character in this victory. They were more than ably managed by Helen McMorrow who made sure that “her boys” got every assistance before and during the event. So another famous victory for Ireland and a triumph for the hosts Royal Meath.
From a social point of view the meal arrangements and hotel were excellent, the clubhouse facilities provided limitless tea, coffee and water but the highlight of the social side was undoubtedly the Irish night in the Grasshopper. Here was evidence like no other that ours is a social sport as people danced and sang the night through. Nights like this are as much what Pitch & Putt is like as anything else and long may people continue to promote them.
There were eleven entrants in this event and all had a wonderful weekend, Norway produced a major shock in defeating Catalonia, overall the standard of play throughout was very high with Ueli Lamm (Switzerland) recording three holes in one. Australia also can hold their head high as with three matches going to the 18th just a break in their favour could well have brought a different result. There is no doubt that the international standard has risen greatly from the early days and that Ireland will need to be at the top of their game in four years time to retain their World Cup title.
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