WITHOUT getting too bogged down in the geopolitical nature of its placement, Parteen can certainly lay claim to a dual mandate between the counties of Limerick and Clare. When it comes to Pitch & Putt however it is firmly in the corner of the Treaty County and it’s about ready to host one of the biggest events any course could host. It feels a natural progression in a sense for the club having hosted the 2010 and 2013 Munster Matchplay Championships to return to hosting a major national event for the first time since 1992 when it hosted the National Gents Strokeplay. A father and son combination are likely to play a big part in proceedings over the weekend as Pat and Kieran Earls will probably be two of the most recognisable figures around the course over the three days of action.
ONE of the most distinguished stalwarts of Limerick Pitch & Putt, Pat combines his role as Chairman of the Limerick Board with being Treasurer of the Parteen club. He acknowledges the significance of the hosting this weekend’s National Matchplay. “It’s great for the club after 22 years to be getting an event like this again and it’s brilliant for the game in the county to be showcased on a stage such as this with our seven qualifiers. From the club point of view this is a follow on from the hosting of the Munster Matchplay in recent times which has gone very well for us on both occasions,” Pat said.
Much hope is being placed on the trio of Kieran Earls, John Cunningham and Anthony Flynn to perform well for the club this weekend although getting the course in shape has been the more immediate concern for the club. “It has not been easy with the weather, particularly the area around the 18th and the far corner of the course where we lost some trees during the storms. We had to wait until the ground hardened enough for machinery to be left on the course to clear stuff away. It does take away from doing some of the other work associated with getting ready for these things but we’re nearly there now only for a few other jobs to be done,” the club treasurer said. Founded in 1969 (making this the club’s 45th anniversary year) Parteen has a membership of around 60 members but the staging of this event has attracted a fair degree of local interest according to Pat. “We’ve had a lot of green fees enquire to us about when its taking place and we’re hoping some of the local schools will come out to watch the event on the weekend itself. We’re trying hard to get a lot of green fees into the membership side of the club but it’s not an easy task,” he said.
Indeed the club are working hard with those in their local area to try and get things ready for this weekend. “We’ve a local catering company (Barry’s) looking after all the food this weekend and we’ve also got flowers sponsored by Woodies for the event. Carpet Depot and the Tailrace Bar (Flashes) are two other sponsors who have supported us in the holding of the event. We offer membership of the club to a lot of sponsors to try and get them to join and it’s had some bit of success. The one good thing about getting outside people in to do these things is that it gives your own members a chance to go out and watch what’s happening and becoming a part of the event as well,” he said.
Finally what are the club’s hopes for the weekend? “We can’t control what the weather will do but we certainly do hope that everyone enjoys their time down here this weekend and that the club’s players perform well in the tournament itself.”
CONSIDERING he’s missed out on qualifying for the National Matchplay over the last two years, you do get the sense Kieran Earls appreciates being involved this time out on his home course. Indeed when you have to beat a great servant of the game in Limerick to get there it makes it all the more valuable. “There was a lot of initial excitement at the start amongst the Limerick players about the National Matchplay but when the Qualifiers came around it kind of reminded us that we still had some work to do if we wanted to get there. I beat Pacelli Darcy on the last night to qualify, to beat him on his home course (Bruff) at the 16th was a fair achievement not only because of how he’s been playing recently but also because he’s a good friend of mine as well,” Kieran said.
Before a ball was struck on that front, Kieran nearly had a major early success after losing out in the playoff at the Catalan Open back in April. He admits to mixed emotions afterwards. “I was disappointed I missed out on winning it but I took a lot from the experience as well. I was maybe fortunate to get into the playoff in one sense with the way the tournament finished up after 54 holes but I still have to keep telling myself that I’m young and these successes will come if I keep up my form,” the Parteen clubman said. He credits his last experience in the National Matchplay as being one that taught him a lot about what he needed to do. “Damien Fleming beat me in the Last 16 in Collinstown in 2011 and seeing him go on to win the whole thing after kind of told me what I needed to be doing to get to that level,” he said.
While he hasn’t practiced feverishly this year, Kieran was a little disappointed not to have done better in Glenville at the recent Irish Open. “In Limerick the year starts in March with the Ryan Cup really, it would only be 36 holes on the course on the Sunday morning otherwise. I was disappointed not to have done better in Glenville having done well in Catalonia but Liam (O’Donovan) and Pacelli did very well there so it was a good weekend for Limerick in that sense,” Kieran said. In terms of the competition itself, Kieran is trying to focus more only on what’s in front of him that what way the draw might pan out. “I don’t know much about Aaron (O Droighneain, his First Round opponent) to be honest but I think its better just to go in and focus on your own game in these situations. It’s easy to get side tracked if you start thinking about how the draw will pan out in your own section and indeed elsewhere.”
Indeed such thoughts are for the neutrals rather than the players to salivate over but if Kieran does hit form on the weekend he could well be a good bet to be the first Limerick man in 12 years (Liam O’Donovan at the National Strokeplay in ESB in 2002 being the last) to claim a National Singles title. Not that Liam himself or any of the other players from the county won’t have their thoughts on taking such an honour!
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