European Team Championships
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS - 2003
It was an Indian summers day at McDonagh on the Curragh for the final day's play in the European Team Championship. McDonagh looked splendid as it had done all week, an organisational tribute to the home club and the PPUI, who were hosting the event.
A strong Ireland team won the third European Team Championship but was made to fight every inch of the way by a determined Catalan sextet. The home side led by 2.5 matches to 0.5 after the opening foursomes. 2002 National Strokeplay winner Liam O'Donovan (Bruff) and the reigning National Matchplay champion Darren O'Reilly (CPM) were easy winners over Jordi Saborit and Gines Fernandez in the top foursomes. However, the remaining foursomes went all the way to the final green. The Collins, Cork combination of John Walsh and Chris Scannell just edged home one up against the experienced Jose Ramon Carrera and Josep Pellicer partnership. In the bottom match, Sean Harkins untypically missed some birdie opportunities late on as he and Derek Courtney ended up tied with Paco Salido and James Marshall.
It looked good for the Irish but they were quickly made to sit up and take notice as Liam O'Donovan ran into a birdie barrage from Jordi Saborit. The Catalan No. 1 was six under par when their match finished on the fifteenth green. Irish Matchplay champion Darren O'Reilly ran up a bogey and a double bogey on the back nine and he fell by 3&1 to Catalonia's leading match player, Gines Fernandez. It looked promising for Catalonia with Jose Ramon Carrera dormie one up on Chris Scannell and James Marshall one up with two to play against Sean Harkins. Irish captain Scannell fashioned a marvellous pitch to within inches at the 42 metre 18th to halve his match. Harkins also escaped with a half after birdieing the downhill seventeenth. Elsewhere, there were comfortable victories for international old hands (although both featuring on a European Championship winning side for the first time) John Walsh and Derek Courtney. Walsh beat Josep Pellicer 5&4 while Courtney who produced the leading score in the Strokeplay qualifier on Friday, defeated Catalan skipper Paco Salido.
France surprised favourites Holland in the Third Place play-off. San Marino defeated Great Britain 6-3 for fifth. In the battle of the championship newcomers, Norway was 5-4 victors over San Marino in the play-off for Seventh/Eighth.
Liam ODonovan got off to a good start against Jordi Saborit. He won the second in par and played a superlative chip from long left on the next after being disturbed by a shout of Fore on his teeshot. That left the Limerick man two up but he couldnt match the play of the mercurial Catalan over the remaining thirteen holes. Darren OReilly felt comfortable after an opening nine of two under but the determined Fernandez capitalized on those back nine errors. John Walsh pitched to four feet for an opening birdie and he was never in trouble. Similarly Derek Courtney went ahead early with a lovely softly releasing pitch to gimme distance at the first. He was three up after four and then pitched close at the beautiful 83 metre fifth. James Marshall holed from three feet for birdie at the 48 metre opener and he and Sean Harkins had a rare old battle as did Ramon Carrera and Chris Scannell.
The sun shone. The course looked superb. Lily Slattery kept producing culinary masterpieces. The Competition Committee (helped by the indefatigable Michael Murphy) ran the playing schedule like clockwork. McDonagh supreme Paddy Slattery constantly ensured everything was working well behind the scenes. From the flag raising on Thursday evening to the prize presentation on Sunday afternoon, matters appeared to go to plan. Colum Slatterys innovative new scoreboard system went down a treat. The long anticipated European Team Championship in Ireland had come and gone. Most of the many visitors went home happy. Great credit is due to the McDonagh membership. Everyone of the Slattery family played a major role.
It was very difficult to separate the cards of Patrick Luning and Derek Courtney for leading qualifier in the day one Strokeplay qualifier. They had the same second eighteen. They had exactly the same back nine with birdies on 10, 15 and 17. Eventually, the Irish player, making a return to the international scene after six years (although he was travelling reserve at Papalus in 2001), got the verdict on the back six of the first nine of the second eighteen