World Cup Winners JR and Eamon give their verdict on WPPT
Given the relatively short window permitted for entries to the World Pitch and Putt Tour event in November, it was understandable that only four Irish players made the trip to Lleida. That quartet included John-Ross Crangle (a World Cup winner in 2012 and 2016) and Eamon Gibney (who played with JR on Ireland's successful side at Xixerella five years ago).
The presence of such high profile performers underscores what appears to be a seismic moment in Pitch and Putt's history.
"The reason I signed-up for the World Pitch and Putt Tour was because I just want to play," says Eamon, who won the Irish Open at Glenville in 2014.
"The season is finished in Ireland. It was an opportunity to play against some of the best players in Europe and see what it was like," comments the Co. Meath native who has been committed to international Pitch and Putt for a number of years, regularly travelling worldwide to the major events.
Speaking at Lleida, Gibney describes the Catalan experience thus, "The courses over here are always fantastic. The weather is always good." Eamon Gibney achieved a third placing in the 2013 Catalan Open at Teyco l'Ampolla. Leading Catalan coach Xavi Ponsdemenech, who was second in that event at Teyco l'Ampolla was another who teed-up in the 2021 World Pitch and Putt Tour Presentation tournament.
"I didn’t need much persuasion (to participate in the WPPT)", laughs Eamon who helped Team Europe (along with his pal from Loughlinstown, JR) to victory over South America in the 2018 Fernando Morgado Trophy in Chile. That was in the same week that the pair filled second and third places respectively in the Chile Open.
"In Ireland we have an amateur sport," says John-Ross Crangle who also linked with Eamon Gibney in Ireland's 2018 European Team Championship success at Urduna. "We have always wanted a professional type of game so to have this is very satisfactory for us."
"I’m playing for 26 years and have never seen anything like this," enthuses Irish No. 8 ranked player JR who recently completed the "Grand Slam" of county/provincial/national Strokeplay/Matchplay championship titles in Ireland (only the third Dublin player ever to do so).
"Wonderful course and beautiful country," says JR Crangle of Lleida and Catalonia, whose affinity with Catalonia dates back to his second place in the 2011 Catalan Open at Mas Pages.
"Our expectation for this is that it will get bigger and bigger – there is no reason why not," is Crangle's ringing endorsement of the emerging World Pitch and Putt Tour.
JR finished as the leading Irishman at Lleida, finishing tied seventh, five strokes behind impressive winner Alex Albinyana. Eamon Gibney also made the final day's play and ended up three further strokes back.
(with thanks to WPPT).