William Buckley - return to Vallromanes
Given the volume of rounds he's played in a distinguished career and the various courses he's visited it's not surprising that inaugural Catalan Open winner William Buckley doesn't have too many recollections of the 1997 warm-up match betwen Barcelona and Ireland at the 2018 Catalan Open venue. "I played Vallromanes three years ago," says William "and can't believe I didn't remember it from 1997, but we did play a good few courses."
"I have to say I don't remember much of my match - hard to believe it was 21 years ago. If I remember right we both holed long putts on the last but I'm not sure. Like all the Catalan players he (Pep Puighermanal) was very competitive and very sporting."
"I remember the course was fantastic,"recalls William of his 1997 visit to Vallromanes. "It was my first international and all the Irish team were great and everything as always was perfectly organised. It was a great time to be representing Ireland. We had a great victory over a good Catalan team."
He was back in 2015. "Vallromanes, like all the courses I have played in Spain, is excellent. I have played over 20 of them and have not played a bad one yet. We are all looking forward to playing more. We played it three years ago it was in great condition."
With Ireland's elite playing group a close-knit community, Buckley still speaks regularly to all of his colleagues from 1997. "Yeah, I keep in touch with all the lads," confirms William. "As you know, Pitch and Putt are good bunch and I am very fortunate to have made great friends from it, home and abroad."
William and friends are already planning their annual jaunt to north eastern Spain. "We most definitely are travelling this year. We have 11 in our group and they are great lads. A few lads from my own county - Aengus Coughlan, Kieran Claffey, Sean Buckley, Willie Clear. Also with us are Dermot Wogan and Dennis Monaghan, two great friends and great players. I look forward to winning few fivers off them!" laughs the ever competitive 2003 Irish Strokeplay champion.
And could the Co. Offaly native repeat his success of 14 years ago? "Hard to say. I am playing okay but we'll just see what happens. I'm always confident I can do well and am very fortunate to have played well in a few of them (Catalan Opens)."
William Buckley (in 2004) and Liam O'Donovan three years ago are the only Irish winners of the Catalan Open. Why so few from the Emerald Isle? "Tough to say. It's great to be a former champion and be in such good company. I think because it's slightly different game for us and we only get few days to adapt could be a reason but also the standard is so good it is very hard to win."
June 2018 will see another European team championship year. Eleven years have elapsed since William was part of the last Ireland sextet to win the championship at Chia, Sardinia in 2007. The VIII Euros are on William's radar. "I will definitely have a go for the team because there is nothing better than playing for Ireland and I have enjoyed it every time I have. Like I said earlier hard to believe it has been 21 years so maybe there some younger players who could do a better job and if so I will just settle to support the team then. But if not I shall be ready to don the green white and gold again."