TRULY AN INTERNATIONAL SPORT
Irishman John Walsh and James Rogerson of Australia were the principals in an exciting finish to the II World Strokeplay championship at Tambre Pitch and Putt club.
Walsh shot a final round 48 to snatch the championship by a couple of shots, while the cosmopolitan nature of the leaderboard was reflected in the fact that the next three places were filled by a Briton, a Catalan and a Galician.
John Walsh's win and Chrissie Byrne's retention of the ladies crown reaffirm that Ireland is after all the Home of the Game, where it has been played for nigh on 100 years and where it is better understood than anywhere else on the planet. However, the multinational mix on the podium and the presence of fourteen different associations from three continents at Tambre demonstrates that Pitch and Putt is building a truly international element; a common denominator that crosses social and cultural borders to bond its devotees together as a universal group in a way that other sports could only ever dream of.
For the host Galician Pitch and Putt Association, it allowed them to showcase the territory. Economic benefits of showcasing could include attracting foreign investment. The tourism generated by the event also boosted the economy.Competitors were afforded the opportunity to pit themselves against the best in the world. Spectators got to see a high level of competition, making it more entertaining and encouraging more participation.
Let'ss begin with eligibility tournaments in territories around the world, where winners from qualifying events book their credentials for Sigueiro. If a qualifier cannot participate, the runner-up or next best ranked must take his/her place.
The opening ceremony at Galicia immersed us all briefly in another culture, seeing and hearing traditional Galicia dance and song. International Pitch and Putt competitions afford learning experiences that cannot be underestimated.
The atmosphere at the World Strokeplay was competitive and friendly and whilst the championship was seriously contested, the newer competitors gained much experience from the international nature of the event as well as making many new friends in the world of Pitch and Putt.
Friendships, sometimes lifelong, develop during these championships. Meeting with opponents and their families during and socially after the competitions allow participants to start interactions that often result in exchange visits and Pitch and Putt development. Competition often results in the reducing of cultural and language barriers that impede interaction with others. If you can play against someone on the course, you can almost always socialize with him/her off the course.
Before, during and after the championship, the sense of adventure and accomplishment existed. For some, this may be the one of the greatest adventure of their lifetimes, and an experience that will be remembered and talked about forever. Trophies and mementos of this experience, when displayed, will result in a long-term recognition.
Playing against different styles of play in different climates can only enhance the individual skill levels of the competitors. Another benefit is the prestige of having competed in a world championship that results on the participant's return to their home territory. Families, friends and other competitors will pay attention to this accomplishment.
World Pitch and Putt events will grow the game worldwide, particularly in places where it's not that big. In order to jump-start interest and support of the sport in newer countries, you need money. The best way to get that is through your government. There's no substitute for Pitch and Putt continuing to hold viable international events and championships. If the sport doesn't unite in this effort, it's wasted a golden opportunity.
(Originally published in "Forat 18"magazine)