Marina O'Rourke - Our expedition to spread the Pitch and Putt word
The then reigning Irish Strokeplay champions Marina O’Rourke and Ray Murphy visited the Netherlands 20 years ago to assist in the development of Pitch and Putt in that country. With Marina’s kind permission, we’re featuring of an edited version of a diary she kept during that momentous weekend in April 2001.
By Marina O'Rourke
When first invited by the Netherlandse Pitch & Putt Board in December 2000, I was surprised and delighted by the prospect. Unlike other International events, Ray Murphy and I had been invited to Holland to attend the opening of the new course at Kardinge in Groningen and play an 'exhibition' 9 hole match with Holland's leading players Rinus Huberts and Herma Olthuis.
At lunchtime on Thursday 19th April our merry band consisting of Ray & Linda Murphy, Eamon Birchall, Sean Breen, Billy Lynch, my sister Bernie and myself met up in the departure lounge at Dublin airport for the short flight to Amsterdam where we were met by a smiling Patrick Luning. Patrick loaded us into his minibus and we set off for Koekange which is Holland's original course, owned and run by Eric and Pietrix Jorritsma. The course is built on a long narrow strip of land typical of the farmland in the area with a charming clubhouse converted from the original barn. Eric & Pietrix live in the adjoining farmhouse. The clubhouse has a bar and restaurant and they attract a large number of green fees and society outings. The course has shots of similar length to what we are used to, it is surrounded by small dykes and has some drainage problems but has some excellent shots. Pietrix had prepared a meal for us and we relaxed while Ray and Sean (keen Liverpool fans) squirmed through the Liverpool/Barcelona UEFA cup match.
Then it was another hours drive to Groningen for the night. Next day we made our way to Kardinge where we were met by the course owners Bert and Herma Olthuis. This course is sited in the middle of some excellent sporting facilities in Groningen. Kardinge is a lot longer than Koekange with shots of up to 76 metres, the majority of holes were between 55 - 70 metres which combined with a stiff cool breeze meant it was very tricky. Being a new course, the ground needs to mature and the greens will improve, the layout is good. Both courses used Astroturf type mats which included a rubber tee like driving range mats, so we had difficulty teeing up the ball. A large crowd attended the opening with speeches by Eric and Bert as well as the Dutch Minister for Sport and other dignitaries. We were warmly welcomed and presented with bottles of the local liqueur. The local TV crew were also present as we began our game followed by a large crowd. Two excellent birdies by Rinus saw us two down with two to play and feeling nervous, I sank a six footer to birdie the 8th and Ray's tee shot to the ninth was stuck so we finished an honourable draw which pleased everyone.
On Saturday we played another 36 holes in Groningen with the local members, Ray won the gents gross and Linda took the honours in the ladies. We returned to Kardinge that night to play a similar competition on Sunday with the locals there, again Ray was victorious, almost breaking the course record, I managed to win the ladies prize. On Monday we spent a few hours in Amsterdam itself before flying home, we never saw a tulip the whole time!
The game was growing in Holland with a more commercial approach than in Ireland. We were all very appreciative of the kindness shown to us by our hosts and look forward to visiting them in years to come to witness the growth success they deserve.