The Irish, European and World Strokeplay champion - Liam O'Donovan
For a week in mid July, Liam O'Donovan was the Irish Strokeplay champion, the European Strokeplay champion and the World Strokeplay champion! Mark Millar relieved him of the Irish crown following his devastating display at Hillview on 16 July, but there's no denying the profundity of the Bruff, Co. Limerick player's achievement. "Yes I am very proud to have that list of titles," reflects Liam. "It's special to have all in one go!"
Norwegian Air presented Liam O'Donovan with an additional conundrum ahead of the World Strokeplay championship at Imjelt from 7/9 July. "The loss of my wedges was not too bad." Liam was able to source replicas in Imjelt's equipment store. "But I did miss my putter. I wasn't getting the required speed on my long putts."
Liam's fellow Irishman John Walsh was in typically ebullient form over the first three rounds in Norway. The reigning World Strokeplay champion led by five after 54 holes and was actually seven ahead of Liam O'Donovan. "Going into the final round I thought I would have to do at least 10 under which there was a slim chance of doing," is Liam's assessment. "But after John got the first four (birdies), I was only playing for second."
O'Donovan scored 47 on Sunday but some observers felt he could have gone even lower. "Yes, the final round could have been four better but I also got a 'mad' put up the hill on the 5th so it all evens out in the end."
With John Walsh untypically finding some putting troubles of his own, the Irish pair finished tied on -18 for the championship and faced a play-off over holes 17, 18 and 11. John Walsh immediately took a one stroke advantage with a birdie putt on the 17th. But two outstanding mid length putts on the next two clinched Liam O'Donovan's trio of titles.
"The putts on 11 and 18 were very similar putts, uphill just outside left edge, to be hit firm. Needing the one on 18, I did have to worry about the one back."
Did Liam feel he owed John Walsh one after all his success over the years, sometimes at Liam's/Limerick’s expense? "I'm afraid your never owed it, you have to take it and John has done that over the years especially an inter-county in the 1990s when he birded eight of the last nine (for Cork) to beat us (Limerick)." That was actually in 1997, which shows that Pitch and Putt players have long memories!
What's immediately next for Liam O'Donovan in Pitch and Putt? "Just to keep trying to win and enjoying Pitch and Putt. We will play the doubles in Lleida in October and give everyone a chance to beat the world champs!" That, of course, is a reference to another title that Liam O'Donovan holds - World Pairs champion with Pacelli Darcy.
Yet another Liam O'Donovan record is four European championship titles with Ireland. Does he fancy a quest for a fifth in the Basque Country next year? "Hard to know about European championship. Getting on the team is hard as there is a lot of talent in Ireland to pick from. The course sounds like it's Irish style Pitch and Putt."
A strong sense of having missed out in Galicia four years ago fuelled Liam's victory push at Imjelt. "There was definitely unfinished business from Tambre. My swing was very bad back then and I played very badly on the final round. I changed a lot of my swing after that and it has worked out well."
It certainly has worked out well. Liam O'Donovan will hold the titles of European Strokeplay champion and the World Strokeplay champion for at least two years. He may get a chance to defend his European Strokeplay crown on Irish soil as the PPUI has expressed an interest in hosting the 2019 event.