Pitch and Putt World Cup

A look ahead to the World Cup of Pitch & Putt

The World Cup of Pitch & Putt will grace Irish soil this weekend in what will be one of the highlights of the Irish Pitch & Putt calendar for 2012. The competition itself from personal experience is one I treasured and I am sure all that will visit Royal Meath over the weekend will see some of the world’s top exponents of our great game.

The history of this event shows two Wins for Catalonia and one for Ireland, the latter being the holders after their fantastic triumph at Papendal, Holland 4 years ago. Rolf Kwant & Patrick Luning will make their fourth appearance this weekend, which is true testament to their capabilities and the consistency they have shown over their careers in Holland. The Catalans are a team who have tasted success twice in this competition winning the inaugural event at Sardinia and then beating the Andorrans on home soil back in 2006. History though can be fickle, this weekend sees the Irish boys out to retain their title and I certainly will not be going against the tide of people who think they will triumph come Sunday afternoon.

The Royal Meath course is relatively short in terms of “The Compromise Rules” that is set out by FIPPA in terms of the lengths of holes permitted. They have lengthened the course but they are restricted because of the general size of the course. Under the stewardship of Billy Lynch, this course will be immaculately prepared. The greens will be fast, the fairways will be professionally manicured and the course will be a true test. I am sure some of the foreign players would have liked a course with longer shots but this is not to be and they will have to re-develop their games into what Irish Pitch & Putt have been accustomed for the past 50 years. This is simply the biggest competition to be staged in Ireland and one I believe the host club along with the Organising Committee will ensure will be a massive success.

We will take a brief look at the teams now and try to give a synopsis of each team and some of the stars within the teams

Ireland – Arguably the best team to have represented the Emerald Isle in many years. Captain JR Crangle has excelled to new levels in the past 4 years but he has also enjoyed some International success and this experience should stand to the master this weekend. Ray Murphy has seen his season get into full flight in recent weeks, his experience of Papendal is sure to be crucial here this weekend and his name is worth a few holes against inexperienced opponents. John Walsh, fresh off his Dutch Open has ensured his game is in magnificent shape and he ably followed this up with an 85 at the Lavanagh Scratch Cup at Rocklodge just last weekend. As I say Ireland are in top shape at present and I can’t see any team getting near them in the Strokeplay format.

Holland – It would be fair to say that this Dutch team need a small bit of luck to do well this weekend. I remember playing them in the final in 2008 and luck deserted them but I feel the tide could turn this weekend. Rolf Kwant is a player I have admired for many years, I had the pleasure of many a tussle with him and he is battle hardened at this stage. His preparation will be amazing and if he can transfer this to the course, I expect him to give it a right rattle. Patrick Luning is a fine, fine player. He has really excelled in Strokeplay formats in recent years, he won the 2008 qualifier and his game is well suited to the Royal Meath course. Marcel Ahius is a player I know little about but let tell you this much, if he made the Dutch team he can play as they have some great players over there. Making his debut will bring its own pressures for Marcel but he will have very good people around him and I have no doubt he could be key for the Dutch this weekend.

Catalonia – The Catalans are the best putters I have witnessed in my Pitch & Putt career. I found this out to my expense in my doubles game at the European Championships in 2007 when Marc Lloret was simply breathtaking. Lloret is back in town this weekend, a player I have a massive respect for, he is key for the Catalans this weekend. Fernando Cano has tasted victory in this championship and he is the current World Strokeplay Champion. Cano is like a matador when he plays and he has unreal ability to grind down an opponent but he will need to be at his very best this weekend. Antonio Penalva Sanchez is another player I know little about but like the Dutch, if you make the Catalan team you can’t be bad and I expect a lot of support for them this weekend and the louder the support is for them, the more their players excel.

Australia – I give these three boys a right chance of doing well, mainly because they are all able play the game and I think this course will suit them. James Rogerson is a great player and one I think will revel in the atmosphere the weekend. The bigger the name the better for the outspoken Aussie and I think he will live up to the expectations this weekend. Brendan Underwood played against Ireland from 1993-1996 and already has had International experience on the Royal Meath course. He obviously has vast experience and this will be crucial for the Aussies this weekend. Tom Rickitt, I am unfamiliar with but Australian Pitch & Putt is very much like the Irish style and I see these lads doing well this weekend.

Great Britain – The Deebles are the mainstay of this team and I remember getting the fright of our lives against them in the Semi Final back in 2008. They have a serious chance of doing really well if they all perform. Steve & John are extremely capable players and although I haven’t seen Ron Cope playing before I know he will certainly do all he can to ensure his team are there or thereabouts over the weekend

Galicia – I am full of optimism for this trio to be fair. A relatively new territory on the scene but one I think will give a very good account of themselves. The pitching could prove tricky but I imagine if they get on the greens, their putting should be inspirational. I think they will break into the top eight but then they will have it all to do.

Norway – This team has the capabilities of performing to a high level in my view. They have players who have International experience and you cannot underestimate how valuable this can be. Their players have all excelled in recent Norwegian competitions and I fancy them to break into the top eight this weekend.

Andorra – I think they could be the final team to make up the eight placings and if this is the case, I expect Ireland to be on red alert for their match. The Andorrans are the only team to have beaten Ireland at the World Cup back in 2006 but I expect the Irish lads to avenge this defeat if they meet this weekend.

Switzerland – Great to see this team continuing to compete and they are all excellent players in their own right. They will give a great account of themselves but I cannot see them breaking into the top eight this weekend. The fact that the course is shorter in comparison to their courses could prove to be the obstacle but I could be wrong.

Chile – We had the pleasure of playing them in our opening round in 2008 but unfortunately, none of that team is travelling this weekend. I think this team will struggle this weekend but I hope I am wrong.

Germany – Victorious in their home country but I see them struggling this weekend to compete with the best as the step up in class might be too much for them. All three will give it their all and their tradition shows that they will be no pushover.

When I was asked to do the preview, it got me thinking of just who I think will be in the mix come late Saturday evening at the Semi Final stages so I will just give a forecast of the teams I expect to be the main eight fighting it out for the main title.

The Strokeplay on Friday will undoubtedly see Ireland continue to be seeded Number 1 and this is a trend I expect will continue into the weekend.

I expect the singles to show up some very good scores, teams have great players at their disposal but Royal Meath will show its teeth and if you get on the wrong side of the greens here, you could be in for a long day.
Seeds from the Strokeplay, I predict will be:
1 – Ireland
2 – Holland
3 – Catalonia
4 – Australia
5 – Great Britain
6 – Galicia
7 – Norway
8 – Andorra

This would suggest that Ireland will play Andorra on the Friday evening and Saturday morning and I only see the Ireland coming out with the win here, as Ireland will avenge the defeat of 2006.

Holland would then play Norway and while this could be a close game, I expect the Dutch to pull through.

Catalonia will set up a local derby with Galicia and what a battle this could well prove to be. I would expect the experience of the Catalans to prevail if this game was to ensue and the battle on the sidelines along with the one on the course is sure to be very entertaining.

Australia & Great Britain will lock horns in yet another sporting arena and one might suggest the British might succeed but I have a sneaky suspicion the Aussies could do it.

The Semi Finalists would then see Ireland v Australia and Holland v Catalonia. The Irish I honestly feel have far too much firepower if they all play to at least 85% potential they will be more than comfortable in any game they play.

Holland v Catalonia will be a massive challenge for both teams. Holland beat Catalonia at this very stage in 2008 and I expect to see one huge game here. This game is so close to call in fairness but I think Luning and Kwant’s experience in Royal Meath could have a huge bearing on this match.

Therefore, I believe Ireland and Holland will reach the final If Holland finish in second or third spot in the qualifying procedure. If this is the case, I still believe Ireland will successfully defend their title but it will be a great match. The Irish doubles pairing will have a huge bearing on their chances throughout the championship; it is one element of the competition that I think we struggle with. I cannot see any of them beaten in singles but the doubles does give the other countries a slim chance.

This weekend will be a true spectacle and I certainly hope that we see a very strong footfall on the Royal Meath course over the 3 days. Playing for Ireland is massive for any sportsman and the lads deserve to see a lot of support for them over the weekend. I have the utmost respect for all of the teams participating but this will be Ireland’s year. They are massive favourites but that tag that will sit perfectly with the three lads; they live with this nearly every time they play.

I would like to wish the Irish team the very best of luck this weekend but also to our visiting friends many of whom are very good friends of mine. I hope to get to meet some of them over the weekend but one thing is for sure the clear winner this weekend will be the sport of Pitch & Putt. We finally get to see our sport played on the World Stage in the country that has lead the way for so long and in my opinion, will continue to do so this weekend.