Chrissie Byrne - Double Delight on the banks of the Tambre
Chrissie Byrne was already World Ladies Strokeplay champion when she journeyed to the 2013 renewal in Galicia. A comfortable winner of the 2009 championship at La Grande Motte, Chrissie came out on the right side of a titanic duel in the Spanish sun with Dutch luminary Esther de Schiffart to win a second sucessive World title. Employed in one of Ireland's leading private hospitals, Chrissie has been yearning for a return to the Pitch and Putt course during Ireland's recent response to the global pandemic. She is anxious to add to her impressive haul of eight Irish individual titles. Although Chrissie has been runner-up in the last six straight championships, five years have now elapsed since she last lifted the Irish Strokeplay or Matchplay.
We were delighted to get the 2020 insights of one of Pitch and Putt's all-time leading lady players.
fippa.org (Q.) How much of an honour was it to retain the World Ladies Strokeplay championship at Tambre in 2013? It was very hot that weekend. How did you cope with the heat?
Chrissie Byrne (A.) To win any championship is always an honour, be it a club, county or national title. To win and retain a world championship is something very special. I probably appreciate it more now looking back on it given the Covid 19 crisis, having spent so long not being allowed to play. Every sportsperson dreams of winning their top honour in their sport and pitch and putt is no different – that win in Tambre was and still remains a very special feat to me. I remember the heat very well. It touched 41ºC that weekend and was almost unbearable. I have never experienced heat like it. It was difficult to grip the club because your hands were sweating. And with some of the difficult tee shots there was no room for any error in the swing because if you were off target you were very much in trouble. It took a lot of concentration and endurance to play that weekend. It was a proud moment to play in the second last fourball with John-John (Walsh, who ultimately prevailed overall) and Frank Dineen. I was very honoured to finish 9th overall and win the ladies title. It was a great weekend, a win that I will never forget.
Q. Esther de Schiffart played very well in that championship. Was there ever a point where you felt she was going to win?
A. I have come to realise over the years that you have never won anything until that last putt drops on the 18th and this weekend was no different. Esther is a fantastic player, especially on the international circuit. Her 9 under par 45 was marvellous shooting in very difficult conditions in the third round. I was under no illusion that, if she could do it once, she could do it again in the final round. I tried to play one hole at a time, not to make any silly mistakes and stay focused on my own game. Thankfully for me, it worked out and I won by a very small margin of one shot, shooting a 53 final round.
Q. How have you dealt with “cabin fever” during the recent lockdown? Have you missed Pitch and Putt?
A. I had the ability to work from home for the lockdown so that kept me busy during the weekdays. However, I have played Pitch and Putt my entire life and it has become a lifestyle more than a hobby so I definitely missed not playing at the weekends. The season had just started and like every year I was looking forward to the run up to the major championships, until the plug was pulled on the game. We were lucky that we got to play the first scratch cup of the year in St. Patrick’s and now, after having the break, I do look forward to playing competitively again, whenever that will be. I look forward to it but I am in no rush for it to happen either – people's health and safety are what’s important at this time.
Q. International travel will be a challenge for some time. Do you think you will play in overseas events again?
A. The World Strokeplay in Tambre was the last event I played in overseas. I do love the international challenges playing for Ireland, and my hope and dream is to do so again, in Ireland or overseas. If the opportunity arises to play in an International Open overseas over the coming years, I will definitely consider it as it’s not something I have ruled out entirely. It’s a matter of juggling the domestic calendar and personal commitments that hasn’t allowed it over the past few years. I do hope to try make the next World Strokeplay, if possible, as it would be an amazing achievement to compete for a third title.
Q. You’ve been very consistent in recent Irish championships without achieving ultimate victory. What do you think you need to do differently to add to your impressive haul of national titles?
A. Despite the disappointment of falling short over the last number of occasions, I am extremely proud of being consistent in these majors, as it’s all on the day and I am playing against the best lady players in the country. In recent years, due to work commitments, it has become more difficult to put the level of time into practice as I did ten years ago but hopefully it is something I can make more time for again in the coming years. The drive and will to win are still there, so with some perseverance and patience I hope that I will get over the line once again in these championships.