A couple of decades since my first European Team Championship win - Chris Scannell
Chris Scannell won his first European Team Championship winners' medal with Ireland at Lloret in 2001.
"My memory of it is well faded, to be honest," laughs Chris Scannell when we invited him to share his refections of that success. That's an issue with players like Chris that have achieved so much in the sport. They have such a variety of events to recall!
But the former Irish Strokeplay and Matchplay champion warms to the theme as we discuss the II European Team Championship, the 20th anniversary of which will arrive in May.
"I might have won something for most birdies," says Chris, as we deliberate on how close it was between the 1995 Irish Strokeplay champion and fellow countryman Sean Downes who won the Best Gross award in the 2001 European championship strokeplay qualifying round.
Captain of the winning Irish team at McDonagh two years later, Chris stresses the huge importance of he and fellow Cork man Ray Murphy delivering a foursomes point in the 2001 final against Catalonia. The Catalans won two foursomes but Ray and Chris defeated Ramon Carrera and Gines Fernandez to give holders Ireland, although trailing, a boost for the singles. "It was obviously very important. Otherwise you'd be three-nil down. You wouldn't come back from that. You'd have to win five out of six singles and you wouldn't do that, not in Catalonia."
As it happened, Ireland did win five singles that day but every one was very closely contested. "I won my singles maybe three or four up," says Chris (It was actually by 2&1 against Ramon Carrera). "I played very well. A friends were over with me - Noel Dunlea and Trevor Ahern. I'm getting flashbacks now," smiles Chris. "One hole around the twelfth. A pitch into a saucer. I holed a huge putt on that across the whole slope. All I heard was a big roar! I was (just) hoping to get it down in two!"
Where does the win at Lloret rank amongst all of Chris' achievements in the sport? "I'd have to have that high up. The best one is obviously the individual - like the Matchplay (All Ireland Matchplay 2010) because I was trying for so long to win that. But Lloret is well up there as well as when I captained the team in McDonagh."
In the Pitch and Putt news ever since he played for Cork as a 16-year-old in 1984, Chris tries to keep in touch with the members of that 2001 Ireland team (which also included Sean Downes, Sean Harkins, Ray Murphy, Derry McCarthy, Mark Millar Ray Murphy and reserve Derek Courtmey), albeit that everyday life intervenes and that Sean Downes and Derry McCarthy are no longer on the Pitch and Putt circuit. "Only when you see them around. I talk to them all the time when I see them. I met Miller at Larkspur Park when the Matchplay was up there. I was talking away to him. I'd see him at the All Irelands. You wouldn't see Downes at all. Derry is gone as well. I had to ring Harkins a few years ago when the (Irish) Strokeplay was on in Ryston."
Scannell played a huge amount of Pitch and Putt when the sport reopened in Ireland and he can't wait for the latest restrictions to end. "Last year when the course was open, I was playing well and looking forward to competitions and then they were all cancelled! Now, I haven't hit a ball in months. I'm looking forward to going back. I'm still only 52 - surely there's another few more years left in me!"
Competitive fires still burn fiercely within this giant of our sport. "I was playing very well last year up in Collins. If I went around in less than 10 (under par) it was a bad score. I was doing 15, 16 (under par!) with (new member) Jimmy Sullivan. We were down there every morning, without fail, from 10.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m."
Chris clearly likes the Lloret course. He almost won there with John Walsh in the 2014 International Pairs and again in 2015 with Weeshie Murphy. "To be honest we should have won that, myself and Weeshie," bemoans Chris of the 2015 International Pairs (which he and Weeshie led into the final round). "Weeshie got a bit nervous (on Sunday). He lost a ball on the second hole up the right hand side. He got a shank on third and lost another ball. The boys (eventual winners Oriol Mas and Marçal Moré) were after getting two or three birdies to go ahead at stage! I was "on my own" for first five or six holes! I think I birdied the last two or three to get second. We were only beaten by a shot."
Somewhat downbeat could describe Chris' reply when we canvass his opinion on international Pitch and Putt now, 25 years on from when he journeyed to Australia with the Irish team in 1996. "There's not much happening," replies Chis flatly. "There aren't as many tournaments. It was great before. There were things that one could practise hard for and get on the Irish team get a trip out of it - to Spain or wherever. I've been in Australia. That was great."
Hopefully, when worldwide restrictions lift, serial winner Chris Scannell will be seen back on the international scene.