AHEAD of this weekend’s European Strokeplay Championships in Orvelte, Holland, Paul O’Brien got the thoughts of the defending champion, Bellewstown’s Ian Farrelly.
Paul O’Brien: As reigning champion, you must be looking forward to defending such a prestigious title?
Ian Farrelly: Yes, it’s hard to believe that it has been four years since we were in Norway for the last one but here we are now and the destination is Holland this time. We only booked the flights a couple of weeks ago and we will fly into Dusseldorf in Germany and travel by car as it is approximately two and a quarter hours to the Orvelte course. I’m certainly looking forward to defending it; I was pretty much in shock at winning the last time. However, this time around the course is much shorter than Imjelt in Norway and more typical of Irish Pitch & Putt.
P: Orvelte looks a tough but fair course, have you played it before?
I: I haven’t played the Orvelte course before but I have seen the overview on the FIPPA website and it looks an interesting course. Last time we played in Holland was in Busloo in 2011 so I have a fair idea of what to expect from a typical Dutch course.
P: The Dutch courses are primarily based on our model, is this something that suits your game at International Level?
I: The Dutch courses are very much similar to Irish courses in length albeit they are more commercially run than the courses here. I suppose the longer courses have been more suitable in the past in terms of wins however you have to be able to adapt to each course and situation.
P: What it mean to you to defend this title with such a strong field?
I: I think it is great that the top two players of all time in Ray (Murphy) and John (Walsh) will make the effort and travel over to this event. It just shows their commitment to the game at home and abroad. Ireland has a strong representation going over and you would expect an Irish winner. The guys from Limerick have been great supporters of the game together with JR and Alan O Hanlon and without these we would have no international game.
P: We have multiple former and current National Champions attending the Event, could this suggest that the International game is gaining momentum within our players?
I think the international game is vital for the future of our sport but with the recent tough economic times the growth of the game has been restricted somewhat. I think that there has been a good friendly rivalry building on the international scene which has encouraged more of the top players to travel to try and compete.
P: In your own view, what can we do to promote International events for all our players?
I: I think that a lot of players in Ireland are not even aware of the International game or fixture list. It may be perceived to be only for the top players but this is far from the truth, there are plenty of Opens to play in for all levels. I think if young players see that there is an opportunity to play on the international stage in the future they might continue to play the game at home and hopefully we won’t lose them to other sports that have the international dimension. I feel that a lot more could be done to promote International events at home by maybe including them in our own fixture book and giving them more promotion in advance.
P: We expect the Irish to feature strongly, outside some of the well-known Dutch players, who in your view could mount a challenge?
Xavi Ponsdomenech and Eric Puig from Catalonia, John Deeble from the UK, Surribas and Espirta Santo from Galicia should feature strongly. Norway always have some good young players while I’m not really familiar with the French and Basque representation. Rolf (Kwant) and Patrick (Luning) of course from Holland will be hoping for a victory on home soil.
P: You have been a leading figure at these events for many years. Give us an insight into the preparation you do for these events?
We usually travel on a Thursday and aim to return on the Sunday evening. Every country I suppose is different as you encounter different weather extremes, different food and cultures. Thursday night is usually when all the socialising is done or most of it anyway! On the continent in the summer heat is probably the biggest challenge when playing and it is vital to drink plenty of water to keep hydrated throughout the rounds, for example The World Strokeplay in Galicia was played in over 40c heat for the weekend!
P: Do you expect an Irish winner?
I think there will be an Irish winner with Rolf been the big danger of stopping this.
P: In your own view, where do you see the International game going?
I: Travel costs have become so affordable nowadays and I think this is vital in the future for further expansion. There are different opinions out there on how best to move the game forward but I think we all need to work together and not against each other and try and gain better access to sponsors, TV and other forms of promotion.
P: Can you see more International events coming to Ireland in the near future and what event would you like to see played in Ireland in the next few years?
I: Obviously there will be more International events to come in Ireland. However I think for the development of the game internationally it is probably best that there are not too many events here at home because I think we have such a crop of skilled players here it would be almost impossible for an overseas player to win an event on the local specialist courses here. Our courses are so short compared to for example Catalonia it is like a different game altogether. An International event on a course with lengthened shots might make it a fairer playing field for all nationalities.
We wish all the 25 Irish entries in this event a safe journey and the very best of luck over the weekend. Over the next two days we will look ahead to the National U-16 Championships in Tipperary Hills this weekend.
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