Preview World Strokeplay Championship
Owned and run by the town council of La Grande Motte, Les Goélands is a beautiful course located between the Mediterranean and the Camargue region of France.
Home of the French Open, le "Challenge International", for the last six years, Les Goélands will play host to many of Pitch and Putt's top players on 24-26 April as FIPPA unveil another Pitch and Putt masterpiece - the inaugural World Strokeplay championship. There's a field of 83 in total, representing an impressive thirteen different countries. Over 20% of the players will travel from Ireland, giving the birthplace of Pitch and Putt an outstanding opportunity to deliver Pitch and Putt's first individual world champion.
Les Goélands Pitch and Putt course.
The greens at La Grande Motte are larger than usual (although the greenkeeper will reduce the size of the putting surfaces this April) but water hazards are often in play and when the wind blows, as it does most of the time, this is by no means an easy course. Previously players were teeing off grass at Les Goélands. Now in a move that may help the Irish cause even more, the club has invested in 18 teeboxes.
Four different Irish players have won on the course in the past. Three of that select group will be in action in the 2009 World Strokeplay. Alan Hanlon, James Carroll and Ian Farrelly (twice a winner at La Grande Motte and holder of the record low aggregate - 20 under par for 54 holes in 2007) are three of the most successful players in international Pitch and Putt. Add to that trio the arguable world number one Ray Murphy, Frank Dineen in his Tullamore pomp, along with Derek Courtney and Paul O'Brien, world cup heroes both, to begin to appreciate the strength in depth enjoyed by the contingent from the mother Pitch and Putt organisation. Not to mention the other national champions in the field, Sean Downes, John Walsh and William Buckley (himself a third place finisher at La Grande Motte in the past).
Who can upset the Irish? Course record holder (with 46 strokes), Jan van Tijhuis of Holland, would have been full of confidence but he is unable to play for personal reasons. His fellow countryman, Rolf Kwant, chased Ian Farrelly all the way to the final green at last year's French Open. The Catalans, Marc Lloret and Fernando Cano, are former World Cup winners and Lloret helped defeat Junior Ryan's team at Lloret de Mar a year ago. Joan Poch won the recent Catalan Open. Dutchman Patrick Luning has impressed in Strokeplay on the world stage before, producing the joint leading qualifying score at Euro 2003 in McDonagh, the low aggregate in the curtain-raiser to Euro 2005 in Overbetuwe and and a field leading 93 last October in the World Cup pre-qualifier at Papendal.
Antonio Trasforini makes a return to the international stage. With his 'A' game, he could contend. He is a former winner on French soil but that was in 2002, before the French Open moved to Les Goélands. Another Catalan, the talented Marçal More, is the 2008 Catalan Open champion. William Hatle (Norway) was runner-up to James Carroll at La Grande Motte in 2006. Britain's Steve and John Deeble and Anthony O'Brien are proven international warriors and have all experienced the Irish game at the top level.
Jean-Claude Richard is probably the best home country hope. And keep an eye on the Australians - James Rogerson and Stewart Genge. Rogerson has won internationally before and shone at the 2008 World Cup. At Papendal too, Genge proved himself to player of some spirit and no little skill.
Three times Irish champion Chrissie Byrne and Tracey McGrath, winner of the French and Catalan Open last year and the recent Open at Lleida, will be among the favourites to take the ladies laurels. In fact, Tracey finished just four shots behind Ian Farrelly at La Grande Motte last year, having led the entire field into the final round. Liz Quinn is the most successful ladies international ladies player of all time (she's won four ladies opens). Herma Kleinlutgenbeld from Holland looks to be the main danger to the Irish ladies although Abby Nachson is highly regarded in Catalonia.
If France's Jean-Claude Richard doesn't finish top senior, Josep Fontdegloria (Catalonia) and Pepe Garcia (Andorra) could be vying for that position.
Marathon rounds will be a characteristic of this prestigious 72 holes event, so the focus will be on stamina and concentration in addition to ability and nerves of steel. By the time the leaders get to the daunting 90 metre (over water) ninth on Sunday afternoon, the championship will be on in earnest.
Just 15 minutes from Montpellier international airport and close to major motorways, the course is easily accessible. Be there for Pitch and Putt's ultimate challenge in an idyllic setting.
FIPPA World Strokeplay First Round Draw and Tee Times