Damian Creevey - Redemption at Ringcommons

Ireland's Damian Creevey was in outstanding form to win the World Pitch and Putt Tour's Ireland Masters against a top-class field. The Lucan, Co. Dublin player gave this delighted reaction to just days after his impressive success at Ringcommons. (Q.) How proud are you to win the Ireland Masters?

Damian Creevey (DC) John, I was absolutely delighted to win this event. You never go into these tournaments thinking you are going to win. You enter to compete with the best and when I heard some of the names that were entering, I jumped at it. Another reason, was because it had an International feel about it especially the two rounds on Friday or Saturday followed up by a final round on the Sunday.  I spend the year playing in as many scratch cups, qualifiers and many other events that are being organised to try and progress to a challenging level in the senior grade.

I have always said to be the best you can be, you have to compete against these elite players. All senior players can play but it's the mentality that makes the difference.

So to win the Ireland Masters blew me away when I looked at some of the lads in attendance, Sean Goggin, Stephen O’Reilly, Stephen Shoer, John Walsh, Damian Fleming, Mark Millar (all Irish champions) and Intercounty players from a lot of counties.

Q. You have a something of a love hate relationship with Ringcommons?

DC:  John, I’ve probably said that but did not really mean it. I have always performed well on that course and managed to win the Ringcommons Scratch Cup this year with back to back 45s. The field of players was not as strong as the field in the Ireland Masters but there were still serious players playing. The All Ireland Strokeplay Finals in Ringcommons in 2022 was and still is a lasting memory. I shot a 43 first round and a very nervy 51 in the second round – total 14 under and missed the final 18 on countback. I was absolutely devastated in the car park that day. No feeling like it as I felt everyone was saying I "bottled it". Not one person did, but that was the way I felt. Mark Millar (three-time Irish individual champion and European Team championship winner) came up to me and tried putting me at ease, saying "it happens to better players and you will be better for it". He wasn’t wrong. Up to that day, I could play as well as the rest but needed to sort out the mental side to try and close games out. It has stood to me in various situations since.

Q. A few words about the your principal competitors in the Masters?

​DC: I will start with the players from the first round (Enric Xavier Estella and Anto Mullen)

Enric Xavier Estella – This is a young lad with all that is needed in his game to be a super player. He has a super temperament and did not get worked up when it was going badly. These lads play totally different courses to ourselves and even hitting the pitch off a tee is hard for them. The distance to the greens are also different to where they play but he was loving every minute of it.

Anto Mullen from Seapoint is another absolute gent - he really gives it his all. He has no fear and always tries to put it up to the legend Sean Goggin – an absolute pleasure to play with.

Jason O’Regan and Denis O’Sullivan, in the second round - these two lads are top players – playing with them was like playing with players from your own club. Each of us wanted to score well but also wanted each other to do well. Jason’s score definitely didn't reflect the way he played - he just got some tricky lies which went against him.

Denis is some competitor, with three rounds of 48, and even before I played with him I knew he was a serious contender as I have a friend in Cork, Paddy Noonan, who played in Lucan and had been telling me Denis was playing super Pitch and Putt – he wasn’t wrong. 

Tadhg Harrington came on the scene approximately two years ago. It has taken players years to get into the position he was in on Sunday and he has done that in two years – Wow. His energy and passion for the game is on another level. As nervous as I was going into the final 18, can you imagine how he felt? This lad has come from nowhere and is in the top three players after 36 holes. Was he going to buckle the way I did a couple of years earlier? Not a chance, even after starting that round with a four. He dug in and shot a 50 - a gentleman to play with and he will only get better.

Ian Dillon is a player who I am very fond of. The way he plays is so simple. He never seems to lose control of his emotions even when he is off the pace. Ian can be ruthless in his play, not nasty or anything like that but when he is on form, he is lethal. That is why he won the Leinster Matchplay in St Patrick's this year. I knew he could put me under pressure with his play but I did not panic and kept playing the course and not the player. 

Both Ian and Tadhg were pure class all the way round, giving me plenty of encouragement and keeping me at ease. 

Q. Tell us about that round of 43.

DC: I was seven under after the first round and struggled a bit with the putting. I left a few out on the course by leaving them short.

In the the second round, my thoughts were to just play one hole at a time and see what I end up with. We started on the second hole. I just seem to get on a run on the back nine and was in a zone. I birdied 12,13,14,16,17 and 18 to go to 10 under. I was standing to the side of the 18th and all that was in my mind was get the first and finish 11 under for the round the same as Sean Goggin did in the last round of the All Ireland (at Ringcommons n 2022). Believe it or not, that is all I was thinking of – Sean Goggin 11 under. He will probably tell me he did 12 but he was just in my head. Walking off the course, who was the first to come up to me – Sean Goggin – pure class for a top man.

Q. What pleased you most about my game over the weekend?

​DC: I was walking on air leaving Ringcommons on 18 under and a five shot lead on Saturday evening. I was absolutely delighted to have pitched so well over those two rounds and to keep getting the putts to get to 90.

I just played the course and didn’t take any risks. I played three rounds and did not have one four.

I thought I might struggle with the two long holes as I play with a 56 degree and struggle on most 70 metre holes. I borrowed a 9 iron and just hit that hoping it would be ok and I got away with it. Those two holes did a little bit of damage to a lot of players.

Q. Did you ever feel victory was in doubt?

DC: I was over the moon leaving Ringcommons Saturday evening but the longer the night went on, the more nervous I was getting. All sorts of things were going on in my head like I could easily falter the way I did a couple of years earlier. We are rarely in this position were you lead after 36 holes and have to wait to play the final round the next day.

At the end of 36 holes, everyone was congratulating me and I hadn’t won – that’s a very strange feeling and easy to believe you have won when you still have 18 holes left.

I woke early on Sunday and just spent the morning trying to relax and focus on the positives from the way I played on Saturday.

I was not going to throw this one away. I played that way on Sunday, cautiously and not taking risks yet trying to be positive with every shot. I did not get into a Matchplay situation, I just tried to shoot a decent score. I left a few putts short but hadn’t risked anything. It was a strange way for me to play but it was up to other players to take the risks.

It's very difficult to chase down a score. I managed to score -5 which meant both Tadhg and Ian had to score -10 and that wasn’t happening for them. The players in front would have had to do 11 under and that was going to be a tall order.

Q. (Wife) Orla is a great supporter and good player in her own right?

DC: I re-entered the game in October 2013 through a friend of mine and an absolute legend David Hayden (RIP). Orla never played Pitch and Putt and was never even on a course.

Her very first visit to a course was to Cunnigar in Waterford were I was playing my first All Ireland in the intermediate grade. (I came back to the game playing off a four handicap, which I had left the game playing off 29 years earlier).

Orla was only coming to Cunnigar for the weekend away. She watched her first game of pitch and putt that Saturday and couldn’t believe the buzz down there.

She has been at everything since and started to play herself about five years ago.She has come on in leaps and bounds and totally enjoys it.

Orla played for the Junior Dublin Inter-county Team in St Bridget's a few years back so she had a Intercounty jersey and medal a long time before I managed to obtain one and keeps reminding me if I give her a bit of stick!

She loves the people in Pitch and Putt, the chat, banter and crac.She feeds everyone except me!

Q. What are your remaining ambitions in Pitch and Putt?

DC: After years of trying, I eventually made it into the Dublin Intercounty team. My main ambition is to try and make that team again. There is nothing I have played in including the Ireland Masters that gave me that feeling I got playing in the Intercounty. Each and every one of that Dublin team were absolute class. They made you feel as if you were part of that team for years. I have no way of even trying to explain that feeling – it wasn’t a natural or a normal feeling playing in that competition. It’s just something I want to experience again.That won’t be easy as there are young players with serious talent and some not so young coming through who will be trying to make that team.

Everybody’s ambition is to win the All Ireland, Leinsters, Munsters, Strokeplay and Matchplays.   

They are not easy to win, no matter who you are. You need a little bit of luck but you also have to be in the form of your life when these come round.

I’ll just keep going supporting the events in my club  and also keep playing the scratch cups as these keep you in championship form and assist you when to comes to qualifiers for the major events.

Q. What are your impressions of the WPPT and International Pitch and Putt?

DC: I thought the event in Ringcommons was great. I loved the format where you played 36 on Saturday and the final 18 on Sunday.. I think they have it right, regrading after each 18.We don’t do that here. We just play 36 and hope to make the play off. The WPPThave put a different spin on it and I think it would be something the PPI should have a look at.

We seem to just get the 36 out of the way at a rush and lets get it over quickly. My experience in the Masters was it was like a Golf event –  which I thought was great.

It definitely brings the mental side of the game to the fore where you really have to keep the nerve and be patient.

I have yet to experience a game (overseas) on the international circuit but since Ringcommons I haven’t stopped chatting to Orla about it. With regards to the tournament in Costa Daurada on 3rd/5th November I originally told them I will not be attending due to having to take too much time off work.But I have a feeling I will be going to it after I have a chat!