21 Years ago - First EPPA Constitution agreed and initial EPPA Board elected
At a meeting in Dublin in October 1999 (following initial discussions at the inaugural European Championship at Chelmsford, UK in June 1999), attended by representatives from Pitch and Putt Union of Ireland, British Pitch and Putt Union, Associacio Catalana de Pitch and Putt (Catalonia), Association Francaise des Golfs "Pitch and Putt" (France), Nederlandse Pitch and Putt Bond (The Netherlands) and Federazione Italiana de Pitch and Putt (Italy), it was agreed to form a European Pitch and Putt Association.
At a February 2000 meeting in Barcelona's San Moritz Hotel, the same delegates agreed a Constitution to formally launch the European Pitch and Putt Association (EPPA).
The Barcelona meeting also elected the first Board of EPPA. Then and current Pitch and Putt Union of Ireland President, Mervyn Cooney, was elected the first President of EPPA. Jose-Maria de Anzizu of the Associacio Catalana de Pitch and Putt was elected the Vice President (and President Elect) while Italian Carlo Farioli was elected as the other Board Member. EPPA's headquarters were initially to be in Dublin. Then P.P.U.I. P.R.O., John Manning agreed to act as temporary executive secretary.
Here's a diary that John Manning kept of that meeting in Barcelona, held 21 years ago this year.
SPRINGTIME IN CATALONIA
Thursday 17th February
The day starts with us gazing out of the window at the terminal building in Dublin Airport at a man up a ladder gazing into one of the port engines of our Iberian Airlines aircraft! We eventually take off two hours behind schedule and arrive in Barcelona at 5.40 p.m. A black and amber taxicab speeds us into the City Centre and the Saint Moritz Hotel. The remainder of our European friends are already gathered. Mervyn finds himself propelled into chairing a meeting within ten minutes of his arrival. It is a preliminary meeting to set the agenda for Saturday. Jose Antonio de Miquel, President of the Associacio Catalana de Pitch and Putt warmly welcomes the delegates in a combination of French, English, German and Italian. After a meal in the Hotel restaurant and a stroll along Passeig de Gracia to admire the Gaudi architecture, it’s early to bed to prepare for a long day tomorrow.
Friday 18th February
An early breakfast. A minibus is due at 8.30 to take us on a tour of the three courses that are vying to host the 2001 European Championship. The ACPP have shortlisted Lloret Papalus, Franciac and Mas Pages. We will visit them in that order. As we wait outside The Saint Moritz, our host Josep Maria de Anzizu proudly displays the colour centre spread on Pitch and Putt the ACPP has secured in a local sports newspaper. As we head northwards out of the city centre, the Italians (Franco and Antonio) are aghast to find that our route takes us past their hotel from which they had embarked on a fifteen minute walk to rendezvous with the bus! John Hudson joins me to discuss the venue considerations and rating document I had prepared. The term 'venue' has caused consternation with the French. Why not use 'location', they cry! The Dutch (Erik and Pietrix) have been here for a week. They've played all the courses and already have a good idea of their favourite.
Shortly before ten familiar landmarks come into view. We'd stayed in Lloret back in 1997 on the Ireland tour of Catalonia. Mr. Medi Giralt, proprietor, and his wife welcome us to Lloret Papalus. It's a lovely tree-lined course with a variety of uphill and downhill pitches. It would need just a little shortening to conform to EPPA distances. Water comes into play on a number of holes on the back nine. Papalus also scores on the infrastructure. We're just minutes from the coastal resort of Lloret de Mar. There's a hotel on site. The beach is literally a few yards away.
After some welcome refreshments, we're on the road again, inland to Franciac. This is a more open and longer layout. Again we are greeted warmly by the proprietor, who walks the course with us. Josep Maria de Anzizu and Jose Antonio de Miquel diplomatically linger in the clubhouse. As agreed the previous evening, the ACPP exercise the option not to get involved in the selection process. A cameraman from Catalan TV3 arrives to film the course inspection by the EPPA delegates! After a cool start, the sun is shining and the day has warmed up considerably. A cool drink prefaces a shorter trip into the mountains to Mas Pages. Here ACPP Board Member, Oriol Badia and his sister, Anna, greet us. Mas Pages is not just a Pitch and Putt course. It is a holiday centre providing dormitory accommodation, a nature school, educational (pottery and painting) courses and music courses. Mas Pages Pitch and Putt course is spectacular with massively sloping greens, tall trees and deep bunkers. The 4th, hewn out of wooded valley, is truly amazing. Make the green or else. Midway through our course inspection at Mas Pages, we sit down to lunch. The rice starter is delicious and some take 'seconds', not realising there's a main course to come. Later on, Oriol and Anna show us the accommodation facilities and present their case on an overhead projector.
On the way back to Barcelona on the bus, all are agreed that the standard in all three courses was very high. Everyone was taken with the warmth of the welcomes and the excellence of their detailed written presentations.
Back in Barcelona, it's time for an aperitif at the home of ACPP President, Jose Antonio de Miquel. His apartment is close to the exclusive tennis club Real Club de Barcelona and just a stone's throw from the residence of Johann Cruyff. That impresses Erik and Pietrix no end. The multilingual ACPP President (who owns another Pitch and Putt course - Manresa) and his charming wife are perfect hosts. They have been to Ireland many times for fishing.
Later on, the bus driver (he's still on duty!) manoeuvres through the bustling Barcelona traffic to deliver us back to the hotel. It's been a long day. Mervyn and I review the events of the day over a drink in Bar-Bar-Reeba.
Saturday 19th February
Up early again for the historic EPPA Meeting in the Saint Moritz Room. Mervyn opens the proceedings as the agreed Chairman. He is flanked by Josep Maria de Anzizu and Antonio Bassi from Italy. Carlo Farioli sits next to the French. John Hudson and Michel Lestrade (both of whom played in last year's European Championship) are joined by their respective wives, Michelle and Annie. I'm at the far end of the table alongside Erik and Pietrix. I'm trying to follow the cut and thrust of the debate, which takes place in a number of languages. John Hudson is a linguist. His input and interpretation is invaluable.
Each member association sums up their findings from the visits to the three courses on the previous day. The Council votes unanimously in favour of Lloret Papalus. The format for the European Championship is agreed. The date will be in late April/early May. John Hudson accepts the invitation to be President of the Championship Committee.
Carlo would like the next meeting to be in Milan in September. This is tentatively agreed.
After lunch in the Von Till restaurant, suggested by the Dutch, we get stuck into the EPPA Constitution. There is animated and friendly debate and eventually a formula is agreed.
Then after an articulate proposal regarding the Secretariat from Josep-Maria, it's on to the election of officers. Mervyn is unanimously elected first President of EPPA, an accolade he accepts with grace and humility. Josep-Maria de Anzizu is Vice President (and President Elect) while Carlo Farioli will be the other Board Member. I'm proposed as General Secretary. I'm honoured to accept.
Our next job is to prepare a Statement for the Press Reception, which is due at 6.00 p.m. This will be read in English by Mervyn and then translated into Catalan by Josep-Maria. Mervyn speaks very well at the Press Reception as do Josep-Maria, Jean Marie Pou (General Secretary of ACPP), Jose Antonio de Miquel (President ACPP) and Carlos Rosal Bertrand (President of the Catalan Golf Federation). Representatives of the Press and Radio attend. I chat with John Johnson (some of the Irish tourists visited his course Sant Jaume back in '97) and leading Catalan player Antoni Lloret (who is just back from Dublin where he visited I.G.B. and videoed all the holes to show to the Catalan international squad). We will be liaising with John and Antoni regarding arrangements for the July 2000 match.
Later the ACPP host a Dinner at Barcelona's Bice Restaurant. There's a French speaking table, a Catalan speaking table and an Anglo table! We renew acquaintance with Martin Whitelaw and his wife Carmen. Martin is the man who set the ball rolling with the Catalonia v. Ireland match three years ago. Martin speaks with passion about Pitch and Putt and with great enthusiasm about that wonderful week in 1997.
Sunday 20th February.
Another early start. Along with the Dutch, we make our way to the railway station at Placa de Catalunya. It's a hour's journey along the coast to Sant Pol de Mar. An hour's train journey to play Pitch and Putt! Josep Maria meets us at the station and shows us the street where he lived right here in Sant Pol de Mar during the Spanish Civil War. His course, Sant Cebria, is but a few minutes by car. We warm up on the superb practice facility. I play with Michel Lestrade and Josep Maria. The weather is glorious. "C'est comme le printemps (it's like Spring)," observes Josep Maria. I say that it's like a summer's day in Ireland. Mervyn teams up with Erik and John Hudson (the French have travelled by car). Josep shows how it should be done with an even par back nine to tie Erik for best score. Next stop is Josep Maria's house in idyllic surroundings high above Sant Pol de Mar. He and his American wife Terry host a very pleasant lunch. Soon it's time to catch the return train. We take our leave of the French - they're staying for a while longer, with John's daughter in Casteldeffels.
Almost as soon as we reach the hotel we're on our way out again with Erik and Pietrix. We catch the Metro to Les Corts and join the teeming crowds on their way to the Nou Camp Stadium. Barcelona face Real Valladolid. There is a strong Dutch presence in the Barcelona line-up and Erik and Pietrix met Patrick Kluivert in the city centre during their stay. We have a wonderful view of Barca's 4-0 victory and particularly of Rivaldo's stunning second half strikes - one a brilliant overhead kick and the second a thunderous angled volley.
Monday 21st February
Back home from another satisfying Pitch and Putt odyssey.