Last week, when I realised that Padraig Harrington was in with a chance of winning his first tournament in quite a while, I plonked myself in the armchair to cheer him on and found myself captivated by a rather lovely Italian called Andrea Pavan. I have to confess that I thought he was French at first because one of the on-course How’s it lying Clives called him Andre – or at least that’s what I heard – but I twigged eventually.So it was Viva Italia once again and another second place for Padraig to add to his impressive collection. I was disappointed that he didn’t win but delighted that Andrea, who looked ecstatic, dazed and amazed all at once, had snatched his maiden European Tour victory in grand style, coming home in 31, five under par, with birdies at the 10th, 12th, 14th, 16th and 17th.
Then they showed the leaderboard and I was so ecstatic, dazed and amazed all at once that I went, “Wow, that’s fantastic,” out loud. That’s what happens when you live on your own, you talk to yourself, some of it profound (?!), a lot of it rubbish. Some sort of slippery slope I suppose. Anyway, what impressed me was the diversity, the way that golf has worked its way in to pretty well every corner of the globe.
Root out your atlas and we’ll work our way down the leaderboard at the D+D REAL Czech Masters at Albatross Golf Resort, Prague. Golf in Prague, for goodness sake and this is how the final standings read, by country: Italy, Ireland, Malaysia, England, Scotland, South Africa, India, Sweden, France, Denmark, USA, Belgium, Thailand, Austria, Spain, Australia, Zimbabwe, Greece, South Korea, Germany. By my reckoning (taking into account ageing eyes, titchy print and the inevitable margin for error of the mathematically challenged), there were 20 countries represented in the top 30 places. Wow. Fantastic. That’s what I call a global tour.
At the golf club the other day I happened to mention that the World Amateur Team Championships were in Ireland over the next two weeks and wasn’t that exciting. Dead silence. No one knew what I was talking about. I’m a fan of the WATCs because Maureen played in the Espirito Santo (the women’s version) at Pinehurst in 1980 and I met Dai (dear reader, I married him) at the Eisenhower Trophy (the men’s comp) that year. It’s a big thing, not least because of the numbers involved. At Carton House, near Maynooth in county Kildare, women from 57 countries are competing and next week there’ll be 71 men’s teams.
For many years Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England combined as GB and I (Great Britain and Ireland) but now they enter as separate entities. Mo’s was a GB and I team that consisted of her, Mary McKenna and Belle Robertson, with Maire O’Donnell from Donegal as captain. McKenna was injured just before the start and Jane Connachan, a very young Scot, was drafted in to replace her. At least now 12 players have a chance to take part instead of three and two years ago, in Mexico, Ireland’s women won the bronze medal, a great effort.They’ll have to go some to match that this year after the USA rocketed into first place after the 2nd round, posting a total of 272, one shot ahead of South Korea (officially the Republic of Korea), the defending champions and two ahead of Japan. Ireland’s team of Olivia Mehaffey, Annabel Wilson and Paula Grant were on 288, sharing 10th place with Mexico. Wilson, an ebullient teenager, had a 74, one over par, on the O’Meara course yesterday but was overshadowed by her playing partners Jennifer Kupcho and Ayean Cho, who had 65 and 64 respectively. Kupcho, from Colorado, is ranked No 1 in the world and the Korean Cho’s 64 was the lowest score of the week. Kupcho’s teammate Kristen Gillman also had a 65 so Lilia Vu, the third American, found her score of 69, four under par, discounted! It’s a tough school.
Looking ahead to 2020, when the Curtis Cup will be held in Conwy, north Wales, not far from where I’m writing this, Elaine Ratcliffe has been named as captain. Hooray. The personable Englishwoman, who’s from Cheshire originally, had a distinguished amateur career before turning professional but was reinstated as an amateur in 2008 and has captained England teams at various levels. She’ll also lead the Vagliano Trophy and Astor Trophy teams next year. And Ireland’s Maria Dunne will captain GB and I in next year’s Junior Vagliano Trophy at Royal St George’s. Hooray again.
Finally, the team of the month award must go to Lahinch, whose women won the All-Ireland Senior Cup for the first time when they tonked Elm Park 4 1/2 – 1/2 in the final at Knock GC in Belfast. It’s a fantastic achievement and I trust the team and their supporters will be celebrating for a while yet.