Last time we had some eighty players, only 71 of whom completed the rain shortened event. This time, a full field of 108 players, representing 13 Pitch and Putt associations, will venture to the Tambre course in Galicia and play the full projected 72 holes. The II World Strokeplay championship promises to have the deepest Pitch and Putt field ever assembled.
Three of the top 4 at La Grande Motte will play in Galicia. Holder Fernando Cano (Catalonia) will defend his title. Cano has immense pedigree. A World Cup and European team championship winner, Cano won the Catalan ranking in 2009. Ireland’s John Walsh, who finished third in France in 2009, returns. John placed third in the 2011 European Strokeplay championship and he has already won in Galicia, at Pazo da Touza in 2012.
4th in Montpelier at the I World Strokeplay championship, Marc Lloret enjoys a phenomenal depth of experience of top class international Pitch and Putt, including two World Cup wins.
There are many other crack Catalans in the line-up. Enric Sanz won the 2012 Andorra Open and has been Catalan Open runner-up in the past. Paco Salido is a former three time champion of the prestigious Catalan Ranking and a veteran of a European team championship win with Catalonia in 2010. Daniel Gimenez won the 2011 Andorra Open. Jordi Serra was prominent in the international pairs event held in Galicia in 2011.
Four time European team champion Liam O’Donovan (Ireland) won on Spanish soil already this season, in the 2013 Catalan Open at Teyco l’Ampolla. O’Donovan was second to Walsh at the 2012 Galician Open.
Ian Farrelly of Ireland is the reigning European Strokeplay champion and must be considered a prime contender here. Other Irish players to watch will be John Ross Crangle (who finished second to Farrelly at Imjelt), prolific international Open winner Alan Hanlon and two-time Irish Open champion Frank Dineen, who was eleventh at La Grande Motte and fifth in Norway two years ago in the European Strokeplay.
Chrissie Byrne defends the ladies title she took in 2009. The Irish lady will face strong challenges from the likes of Abby Nachson (Catalonia), who has won two Catalan Opens and eight time Catalan champion Pilar Montero. Strongest ladies contender of all may be the Dutch ace Herma Kleinlugtenbeld, who boasts all those international open wins including Galicia 2012. Esther de Schiffart is another Dutch player who can’t be discounted. Gabriela Chavarria was prominent at the 2012 Andorra Open.
What of the locals? Jorge Rodriguez Sarmiento was an impressive third behind Walsh at the Galician Open. Enrique Rama holds the Tambre course record with a 46. Will that mark be lowered come July 6/7?
The course length probably favours the Irish and the Dutch. Rolf Kwant has been a permanent fixture at all of the international championships since 1999. He is a former winner of the Dutch Open – in 2010. He was also 4th at Imjelt in the 2011 European Strokeplay championship.
Jim Ahern is the current Dutch Senior Open champion. The genial Corkman has played Pitch and Putt at a high level for over four decades. His principal opposition may come from Norwegian Open victor Frank Johnson and Briton Steve Deeble, who was seventh overall at La Grande Motte 4 years ago.
How wonderful see some Australian and Chilean names on the list. The mercurial James Rogerson from Australia, winner of five international opens and a World Cup runner-up at Royal Meath last August is a genuine protagonist. Chile’s Pablo Caviedes represented his country in the IV World Cup at Royal Meath last year. Marie Hutchison played for Australia at Papendal in the III World Cup. Young Jack Kalis was third in last year’s Australian Open.
This event will be unusual in Pitch and Putt circles. A player will twice sleep on the lead, on Friday night and on Saturday night. With such a huge array of talent on display, there will be many dramatic twists before the winners are declared come Sunday.