As we anticipate the novel interprovincial Pitch and Putt event this Saturday in McDonagh, it’s appropriate to reflect on another Pitch & Putt tournament, held 50 years ago, which brought together Leinster, Munster, Connacht and Ulster. John Manning tells us about this unique event in the following piece.
1973 was the year of in the first made-for-TV Pitch & Putt event – the 9-hole RTE Mixed Foursomes at Ierne. Clare Keating (Woodvale) and Michael Forrest (Highfield) contested the final against Leinster’s Gus Carolan (RGSC) and Mary Snell (Athgarvan), with the Munster couple coming out on top by a one-hole margin.
In the semi-finals, Gus Carolan and Mary Snell defeated Connacht representatives Eamonn Collumb and Joan Kavanagh (both of Mellows) while Michael Forrest and Clare Keating dashed the aspirations of Ulster pairing Brian Savage and Mary Campbell (both Cloghogue).
Recording took place at Ierne on 15th June that year. The matches were broadcast on three successive Thursday night’s on “Action 73” – 26th July 1973 (Carolan/Snell v. Collumb/Kavanagh), 2nd August 1973 (Forrest/Keating v. Savage/Campbell) and 9th August 1973 (the final).
Sandwiched between ‘Ironside’ (US crime drama) (which aired at 8pm) and the news, ‘Tonight at Ten’, “Action 73” was the RTE TV weekly sports show of the era (similar to BBC’s ‘Sportsnight’). The programme was billed as “an experimental colour transmission.” Colour television was only gradually being introduced to Ireland – the “Late Late Show” remained monochrome until 1976!
The Pitch & Putt inserts shared sports billing with highlights of the Munster Hurling Final (26th July), the Dublin Rothmans Formula 5000 Grand Prix (2nd August) and the Dublin Horse Show (9th August).
Michael Forrest recalls, “The trophy was a specially made one-off cup. The top of it was hexagonal with a gold putter head on top of the cover. We had a great long weekend.”
Who were the players?
Clare Keating amassed no fewer than fourteen National individual titles, a marvellous record that stood for many years before finally being overtaken by Geraldine Ward (Portmarnock) in 2013. The Cork legend bagged eight Matchplay championships and six Strokeplay gold medals as well as losing two Matchplay finals and twice finishing second in the Strokeplay.
Michael Forrest was the first man ever to win the National Gents’ Strokeplay and National Gents’ Matchplay Championships in a single year (1976). Five times a National Inter-County winner with Cork, Michael won the Munster Strokeplay championship on three occasions. He captained his country during the 1980’s international series against England.
1971 National Matchplay champion at Arden (Tullamore), Mary Snell reached the National Matchplay semi-finals in four successive years from 1970. Two days after the recording at Ierne, Mary reached the 1973 National Matchplay final at Bagenalstown where she again lost to Clare Keating. Mary won the 1970 Leinster Strokeplay championship in Tullamore.
National Matchplay champion in 1968, Gus Carolan won the successive National Strokeplay championships of 1974 and 1975. A colleague of Forrest’s on the 1980’s international teams, Carolan helped Dublin to six National Inter-County titles between 1968 and 1983. He was Leinster Strokeplay champion in 1981 and again in 1982.
Mary Campbell participated in the most momentous day (24th July 1982) in the annals of Down Ladies Pitch & Putt. Mary joined Bernie O'Rourke, Alice Rice, Marina O’Rourke and Bernie McKeown in a first-ever and to date only Inter-County success for the ladies in red and black. Down carded a team total of 440 (for 36 holes) to win by two from Westmeath.
Brian Savage represented Down with distinction in the Inter-County championships of the 1970’s. Cloghogue club was just three years old when the National Gents Inter-County Championship came north in July 1970. Brian Savage took the individual best nett on 141. Brian was a consistent winner at Opens in Ulster and north Leinster.
Joan Kavanagh defied heavy rain and strong winds to score 183 at McDonagh and win the 1970 National Ladies Intermediate Strokeplay championship by four from Nan McMahon (Royal Meath). Mary Waters (St. Annes) was third, another stroke back.
19th September 1971 saw the Major Extra Team tournament final decided at Portmarnock. Eamonn Collumb joined Christy Egan, Tony O'Boyle and Tom McCarthy in a Mellows team that scored +27 to pip Dublin’s Rockbrook by one stroke. Campions were third. Eamonn Collumb was one of the founder members of Mellows club in the mid-1960s.
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