Anto Kavanagh - Well-deserved victory for wily stalwart

Anto Kavanagh was proud as punch but characteristically modest when we caught up with him in the aftermath of his exciting success in the European Over 55 Strokeplay championship at Dagenham. "Yes, of course I was (proud)," reflected Anto. "I was surprised really. I didn't think I would win it. There were some good locals there. Lucky enough Amador (Rodriguez) wasn't there!"

Anto's longterm travelling companion Ian Farrelly's involvement with Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann (big Irish music festival) clashed with the Dagenham tournament. "He was doing his bit of Irish dancing that week, unfortunately, so he missed itI" laughed Anto. But the 2011 European Strokeplay champion was delighted for his long-time international Pitch and Putt sidekick."He was very pleased," says Anto. 

A daybreak alarm call was a prerequisite for Kavanagh's Saturday 07:54 appointment on the first tee with Steve Deeble and Carla Puig.  "Ten past six in the morning! I couldn't believe it! I wouldn't get up that early for work!"

That early morning round resulted in a fine 51 to leave the Bellewstown, Co. Meath member just behind Barry Morrissey in the race for the senior title. "I was going great in the second round," recalled Anto. "I was three under after nine but I bogeyed 10, 11 and 12 in a row. That set me back a bit but luckily, I 'stuck' the 16th althoughI three putted the last, so 54 then."

Anto Kavanagh has supported international events for many years, dating back to his third place at San Marino in 2005. Clearly he enjoys the international aspect of Pitch and Putt? "I like the longer holes. It suits me. I like to travel and the bit of craic."

Anto felt the course where he commenced his lengthy Pitch and Putt career prepared him for the 2019 London test "It's nice. It's difficult. 10, 11, 12, are tough." was his assessment of the Central Park track.  "It actually suited me. I felt comfortable on the greens because they're like Skryne, where I started all those years ago."

The 15-year member of Skryne, who has also represented Duleek as well as Bellewstown, felt it was a benefit rather than a barrier not to be in the final group (which comprised Dennis Monaghan, Pacelli Darcy and Barry Morrissey) for the senior event on Sunday  in Dagenham. "We'd no scoreboard so it was a great help. They didn't know what score we had. Myself and 'Skinner' (two-time Irish Strokeplay champion Anthony Malone) agreed on the first tee that we wouldn't tell anyone what our scores were," laughed Anto.

"They were kind of watching one another in the end - the last three," assessed Anto. "I had a bit of luck at the right time," he recalled unassumingly. "Dennis bogeyed the first two. Pacelli and Barry had putts (to tie) at the last."

"I got a great start. I birdied 3, 4, 5 and 7," said Anto of that memorable closing 49 which secured his one shot winning margin. A couple of unconventional threes around the turn proved pivotal to Anto's title bid. "I was quite lucky. I got two great pars on 10 and 11. I was short; chipped through the green, out the back and then chipped-in for a three."

No sooner had Anto been crowned European Over 55 Strokeplay kingpin he was off on his travels again, this time, slightly further afield to the Dutch Open. "I enjoyed Holland. It was a nice course - a tricky course. The weather there was very warm - it didn't suit me at all!"

The absence of some familiar faces from the European Championship line-up the previous week was a help in one way! "My usual 'gang' weren't with me. There wasn't as much 'drink' as normal!"  chuckled Anto. Whatever the contributing factors, it was a popular and fitting victory for a loyal supporter of international Pitch and Putt.