Noel Shannon - Seniors champion and music maestro
Noel Shannon has lived in the Netherlands since 1993 but there is no mistaking his roots. “I still have my Irish Passport and have no intentions of parting with it.” Reinforcing the Irish connection, Noel (like some of his Dutch colleagues) is also a member of the Lough Owel course near Mullingar.
Noel only started playing Pitch and Putt seven years ago and in August celebrated his most significant achievement yet. “To win the over 55's at Koudum was one of my goals for 2016. I'm very happy to have achieved this success.”
Noel was honoured to share the podium at Koudum with two of the aristocrats of Dutch Pitch and Putt. “Rolf (Kwant) and Esther (de Schiffart) are great players. Rolf is one of the coolest characters under pressure I've ever seen. Esther has continued to improve over the last year. Top lady in Holland for many years, she has been competing against the best of the gents’ players this year by opting for the gents’ category during internal tournaments in the Netherlands. This has obviously paid off. Esther did defeat Rolf in the final of the Matchplay tournament on Friday.”
The opening day of the FIPPA Open generated mixed feelings for Noel. “My first nine holes on Saturday didn't go well. My pitches were fine, but it took me a little time to acclimatise myself with the speed of the greens combined with some of the pin positions. I played the next 27 holes in three under par leaving me five shots ahead of the rest of the field in the senior category going into the final round. My pitching was very accurate and when I took a little more time over the putts that went much better also.”
Pitch and Putt Koudum wins the Noel Shannon seal of approval. “The course was in excellent condition. The greens were like carpet, everything about the course was very well maintained. Facilities were second to none and the hospitality was 100%. Also the atmosphere amongst the players on and off the course was very pleasant. Even the area in Friesland where the course is situated is very beautiful. I thoroughly enjoyed playing this challenging course. Looking forward to next year.”
Matters got pretty tight on Sunday. “Going into the last round with a five shot lead, ahead of Jos Mentink and reigning Dutch champion Ele Sneider, I was telling myself that a round of about par would definitely clinch this tournament for me,” recalls Noel, who plays most of his Pitch and Putt at Lemele. The field was tightly packed. Clearly, Noel thinks deeply about the sport. “One shot behind Jos and Ele were Aart Timmerman and Douwe de Bruin. My goal going into the last round was to play under par.”
Matters did not go entirely to plan. “However, my nerves got the better of me and I was four over after nine holes. I was telling myself (as I'm not used to being so far out in front) just calm down and just play. The rest will come. On the second nine I was a little unlucky with several lip - outs ... even my marker remarked as to how often I lipped out in the final round. Luckily in spite of a poor final round, I held on to win by one shot. Aart had a great last round and was pulling me in all the time to within one shot.”
Noel Shannon concerts have become a feature of big Pitch and Putt events in the Netherlands. “Luckily the style of music my wife Lynn and I perform, which of course involves a lot of Irish music, appeals to the players and visitors and we really enjoy to perform.” Music plays a big part in Noel’s life. “As regards the music, I performed when I still lived in Ireland and have been making my living as a musician since 1994.”
Noel Shannon won’t be resting on his laurels. “I have another couple of goals in the Netherlands for this year. I 've been playing the seniors (55+) category now for 3 years and have yet to play the final at the (Dutch) National Championships. I have qualified each year but have not made the cut for the final. This year, it has to be a goal to play those final two rounds."
Noel has definitely been bitten by the international open bug. “I'm very keen to play some opens abroad when my agenda allows. I don't have the opportunity in 2016, perhaps in 2017. I'd love to make the trip to the Irish Open next year. Who knows?” The clubs and the guitar will undoubtedly go too!