L'entrevista



John Manning was born in Cork (Ireland) on 1959.
Married to Caitriona, nowadays he lives in Glasnevin, north to Dublin near to Dublin's airport. He works as Insurance Dealer. He likes P&P, Golf (he got a hcp 14), Football, Gaelic sports and Rugby. He enjoys writing (he edited during 17 years the magazine of PPUI and 7 years the PPUI website), the music, the cinema, the theatre and the radio (he talked about P&P for 11 years in the Irish Radio).

Today he's the General Secretary of EPPA and Assistant General Secretary of FIPPA. He's working in the FIPPA's website and helps Renze Hasper in the EPPA's website.

 

Ireland is P&P’s birthplace. For those who don’t know the real story of Pitch&Putt, can you explain the origins of this sport in your country and it’s evolution until today?

Organised Pitch and Putt competition evolved in Co. Cork, Ireland in the 1930s. The sport rapidly spread to the rest of Ireland through the efforts of some visionary pioneers.

Sustained development began in Co. Cork in 1937. The credit is given to Mr W.A. Collins, at the time Manager of the National Bank in Cork. Fountainstown is a small village on the shores of Cork Harbour, about ten miles from the city. It was a popular holiday destination. Fountainstown Sports Club in the 1930's comprised three Tennis Courts, an 18 Hole Putting Green, Croquet Ground, Cricket Net, Children's Playground and Pavilion. The very large number of members constantly using the putting green suggested the possibilities of a Pitch and Putt course to Collins. Within a year, Fountainstown had a nine hole Pitch and Putt course.

The advent of World War II in 1939 meant, inevitably, travel restrictions and rationing. Many cars were off the road, so that travel to golf courses was difficult. With heavy military demands on steel and rubber, golf clubs and golf balls were in short supply during and after the war. In this climate, the short game flourished. Hundreds of people of all ages enjoyed Pitch and Putt at Fountainstown and it quickly spread to Cork city, where courses were built in tennis clubs (Altona), a factory grounds (Millfield), an enthusiast's (P.J. Bell) back garden (Woodvale) and in an Army Barracks Sportsground (Collins).

In the early 1940s, the Irish Tourist Association sent representatives on a tour of inspection of the Cork courses with a view to developing the sport at seaside and other resorts (which they quickly did at Tramore and Killarney). Politicians spoke glowingly of the sport's potential, owing to the small amount of land necessary for a course and that the game was in reach of the average citizen's pocket.

In Cork at the inaugural meeting in December 1944, the Irish Amateur Pitch and Putt Union was founded under the Presidency of W.A. Collins. The union's Headquarters were in Cork. A Constitution was drawn up and rules were drafted with arrangements made to run competitions. Two of the Cups which were presented to the fledgling Union - the Day Cup (for the Pitch and Putt Championship of Ireland) and the Elvery Cup (for the ladies Pitch and Putt Championship of Ireland) are still played for today in the modern-day P.P.U.I. Mens' and Ladies' Championships of Ireland were played in 1946. The founders of the game were looking to the future even if they only had a few clubs at present.

Mr W.A. Collins moved to Dublin and his influence led to courses springing up on the east coast. The first course in Leinster was Ferrard, near Baltray Golf Club in Co. Louth. The game grew rapidly in Leinster and the eastern province moved to set-up their own organisation in 1954 – the National Pitch and Putt Association.

Delegations from the two organisations (south and east) met at the Hillview club in in 1960. The first meeting ended with an agreement to set-up a Joint Sub-Committee of the two organisations to draft a detailed Constitution for a united union, to look at and make recommendations on all areas of difference and to propose the arrangements by which unity could be achieved. The sub-committee's work was finished in June 1960. The first Convention of the Pitch and Putt Union of Ireland was held on Sunday 9 October 1960. It had 42 affiliated clubs - 28 in Leinster and 14 in Munster. The first set of rules were produced in 1968.

Club development came about in a number of ways:

  • Community groups founding a local amenity
  • Factories building a facility within their premises
  • Sports and social sections of companies founding a course
  • Courses set-up on spare ground adjacent to football/rugby/GAA pitches
  • Courses set-up within hospitals as a recreational facility for patients and staff
  • Societies without a course setting-up a club and using an existing commercial course
  • Courses began as a commercial green-fee only outlets and a club was subsequently formed
  • Recreational outlets set-up by urban or county council
  • Courses within army complexes

The Central Office of the P.P.U.I. was set-up during the '60s and operated from a premises in South Frederick Street, Dublin. In 1972, it moved to Suffolk Street for twelve months before switching to Shandon Gardens, Dublin 7. Central Office moved in 1990 (to cater for the constantly increasing number of players and courses) after the P.P.U.I. successfully applied for space in the House of Sport, an office facility for smaller national sporting governing bodies, organised by the Irish Sports Council. Since then, again thanks to the foresight of the Irish Sports Council, the Union's administrative base is in a modern office complex in Park West, Dublin 12.

In 1991, the Union appointed a full-time Development Administrator. At present the PPUI employs 3 full-time staff, who deal with the day-to-day operations of the Union. Major tournaments have been a reality in Ireland for decades. The sport enjoys a huge following with large galleries attending the major events, which are covered on radio and television.

Since Martin Whitelaw built in Solius (Catalonia) the first P&P course, this sport has experienced a spectacular growth (more than 34 courses and more than 15.000 federated players). How do you evaluate the growth of P&P in Catalonia from your country? Which are the key factors for this unprecedented success?

There are a number of key factors. First, Martin Whitelaw the founder, is a man of great vision and drive. His determination to succeed and overcome obstacles paved the way for others.

A social and cultural opportunity was ripe to be capitalised on. Regular Golf was elitist in your country. Catalans wished to play a golf related activity and along came Pitch and Putt, a competitively-priced, well-organised sport within easy reach. Your courses are beautifully designed, situated and maintained. Your owners are entrepreneurial and creative. Your climate is wonderful. This paves the way for year round play. Martin was eventually joined by some erudite enthusiastic pioneers. The FCPP website is consistently and excellently maintained as is your own brilliant site and the other Pitch and Putt related websites. A very logical and fair handicap system was developed from the start. All of your development ideas such as rankings, competition structures, publications and the like are carefully planned and efficiently and inventively executed. The good clubhouse facilities and practice areas mean that Pitch and Putt represents the complete social package, before, after and during play. A fierce Catalan patriotism and pride in your endeavours meant that the international element of the sport has been important in your development.

Your professionally managed secretariat is the icing on the cake.

Ireland and Catalonia mainly, were the promotors for the creation of the EPPA and the FIPPA, the international organisms that look after P&P in Europe and the World respectively. You are part of them representing the Irish Federation. Can you tell us what future projects are planned in a short and long term? Should we be optimistic?

Without doubt, we should be optimistic! Have no fear. This fantastic sport of ours is going global! Short term, we wish to develop the current European Team Championship and World Cup by organising them as efficiently as we can. We then wish to augment these team championships by adding world and European individual events. We wish to continue to encourage Pitch and Putt development by facilitating international Opens and friendly international matches between countries. We’d love to see a seniors programme of international events.

We plan to capitalise on the recently published FIPPA rules by training qualified Pitch and Putt referees in each of our member countries. We are constantly on the alert for new development opportunities. Canada and China are already part of FIPPA. Latvia and USA will shortly join us. Portugal and Pakistan may not be far behind. Fernando Morgado is busy on Latin America development and we hope to form the South America equivalent of EPPA in 2010. We would love to establish Pitch and Putt at the Special Olympics. It wouldn’t take much as we were a demonstration sport at the 2003 World Games but it will necessitate the other countries supporting Ireland.

Australasian/Asian and eventually African development is another key project for us. We want to maximize the opportunities afforded by the FIPPA website and continually advance it. FIPPA would like to deliver a successor to the World Interclub League. We are constantly examining software opportunities, such as Skype and video conferencing for meetings, web cam for tournament coverage, electronic methods of payment for championship entry and cash transfers etc.

A long term objective would be a common handicap system throughout the world of Pitch and Putt. This is not realistic at present but will be in the future. Ultimately, we desire to have a comprehensive Sponsorship & Marketing programme for Pitch and Putt. We plan to seek to affiliate FIPPA to GAISF (when FIPPA has sufficient member associations). Over time we believe there will be a bidding process for tournaments, such will be the interest from prospective host venues. Junior and Women’s championships at world and continental level are also in our contemplation.

On the sport level Ireland has probably the best squad in the world and has had legendary players in it. Could you name some of the best Irish players from all times and their merits?

Ireland has produced many, many fine exponents of the art of Pitch and Putt.

There have probably been none better than Ray Murphy, certainly with regard to accumulation of titles. No-one in history has won more Irish individual championships than the Templebreedy star. Winner of the Irish Matchplay in 1998 and the Strokeplay in 2001, he has now won the last four Matchplay and Strokeplay titles in a row – the so-called “double double”, which no other player ever has come close to achieving. Of course, Murphy has also achieved richly at team events – he has helped Cork to seven Inter-County titles and hold s two European Team championship medals.

The Stackallen legend, Sean Downes, first burst on to the national Pitch and Putt scene as a member of the Meath juvenile team that lost a play-off to Cork in the 1981 National Juvenile Inter-County championship at Parteen. Downes was on the Meath team that finished second to Cork again the following year at Athgarvan before finally finishing on the winning side at Athlone in 1984. By 1987, Sean had graduated to the adult ranks and played on the first Meath team ever to win the Gent's Inter-County championship (that was at Glenville). Two more successful campaigns with Meath followed in 1996 and 1998.

The last decade of the millennium saw Sean Downes stride like a colossus over the world of national individual Pitch and Putt championships. Matchplay titles in 1992 (at Royal Meath) and in 1995 (at Cloghogue) sandwiched back to back Strokeplay successes in 1993 (at Irish Ropes) and in 1994 (at St. Patrick's). A third Strokeplay title at Royal Meath three years ago meant Sean joined Kevin Rogers (and now now Ray Murphy) on top of the all-time Strokeplay Roll of Honour. His 132 total then tied the all-time low aggregate for championship. Sean Downes has won the National Matchplay (1992) and the National Strokeplay (2005) at the same course - no man had done that before. The twelve year span between his first Strokeplay win and most recent success is the longest in history. Sean's seven shot win in 2005 is the highest ever winning margin. Sean now jointly holds the low scoring aggregate for the 36 hole and 54 hole formats of the championship.

Gus Carolan, who started out with Glennane and subsequently moved to Lucan, won the Matchplay championship at Portmarnock in 1968, having been runner-up in the Strokeplay at Ierne in '67. He subsequently took back to back Strokeplay crowns at Mellows in 1974 and at Seapoint in 1975. He was still good enough to beat a select field in the specially staged televised Talbot Challenge Matchplay event at R.G.S.C. in 1983.

Kevin Rogers (Portmarnock) was undoubtedly player of the sixties. He won the National Strokeplay Championships of 1962 (in Rocklodge on his first visit to the course), 1965 (at Hammond Lane) and 1967 (at Ierne). He was also runner-up in the inaugural P.P.U.I. National Matchplay championship in 1961.

The late Joe Fitzgerald from Waterford won the 1977 and 1981 Matchplay championships together with the Strokeplay championship of 1982 in Pfizer. Some observers contend that his 91 around Cloghogue in the 1982 Inter-County championship, without having ever seen the course before, was the greatest round ever played.

David Hayden, then playing out of Old County was undoubtedly player of the eighties with a Strokeplay success at Portmarnock in 1987 and two consecutive Matchplay crowns, at Lucan in 1988 and at Lakeside in 1989.

Sean Harkins now of R.G.S.C., formerly of Shandon, I.G.B., St. Bridget's and Ryston is a three-time winner of the National Matchplay championship (at R.G.S.C. in '86, at Cement in '91 and at Lakewood in '99). In an enduring career, he was also runner-up at Collins in the 1995 National Strokeplay championship.

Many say there were few to touch charismatic Joe Doyle (Carrigaline), winner of three National Matchplay championships between 1969 and 1972.

Michael Forrest (Rocklodge/Carrigaline) probably deserves to be player of the seventies on foot of his unique (until Ray Murphy’s heroics) Matchplay/Strokeplay double in 1976. The mystery is why these were the only two National titles claimed by the Cork maestro. In 1983, he was runner-up in both championships (to fellow Corkmen - John O'Leary in the Matchplay and to Donal Long in the Strokeplay). He also lost the 1987 Matchplay final to Johnny Campbell Senior.

Other wonderful players I have seen include T.J. O'Riordan (Rocklodge), Liam O'Brien (Douglas), the captain of the first Ireland team to play Catalonia, Templebreedy’s Frank O'Donoghue, Anthony Malone (Lucan), Darren Collins (St. Anne’s), the Collins pair John Walsh and Chris Scannell and Derek Courtney (Glenville).

As for ladies, a young Clare Foley from the Woodvale club in Cork city won the Ladies National Matchplay championship at the Plunkett course on The Curragh in 1963. Later that year, she added the National Ladies Strokeplay crown at Rocklodge. By the time (as Mrs Clare Keating) she won her last Matchplay title (at Collinstown) in 1977, she had amassed no fewer than fourteen National titles, a marvellous record that may never be equalled, let alone beaten. The Cork legend bagged eight Matchplay championships and six Strokeplay gold medals as well as losing two Matchplay finals and twice finishing second in the Strokeplay. On three occasions ('63, '64 and '73) Clare brought off the double of Strokeplay and Matchplay in the same year. She won three Strokeplay titles in a row ('63-'65) and three Matchplay titles in a row ('75-'77).

Portmarnock’s Geraldine Ward is the modern superstar of ladies Pitch and Putt. If anyone is to surpass Clare Keating’s achievements, it will be Geraldine Ward. Geraldine completed the feat of three successive Matchplay titles twice (84-'86) and ('92-'94). Geraldine finally equalled Clare Keating's record of eight National Matchplay championships at Stackallen this year. For many years Geraldine lone Strokeplay crown was won at Listowel in 1994 but in recent times, she has added another three Strokeplay championships (2003, 2004 and 2007) for a current overall score of twelve. Geraldine also holds the record for most winning appearances in the Inter-County championship. Her win with Dublin at Glenville in 2004 was her eleventh Inter-County winner's medal. She has also been prominent on the international stage.

Shandon's Teresa McGuigan won eight National titles, four Matchplays and four Strokeplays. She was also runner-up in either Matchplay or Strokeplay on another nine occasions. Five of those second places were to Clare Keating so if the Woodvale virtuoso hadn't been around, Teresa would have many more national titles. In truth though, the rivalry between Clare and Teresa was the highlight of ladies' Pitch and Putt through the sixties and the seventies. They were the two players that all the others looked up to and aspired to emulate. Teresa also won three consecutive Matchplay championships in '65, '66 and '67 as well as making six winning Inter-County appearances for Dublin.

Margaret Hogan (Tullamore) has an astounding record in national championships. She has won three Matchplays together with four Strokeplays. Incredibly, she has also been seven times runner-up in the National Matchplay along with another six second place finishes in the National Strokeplay. She holds another interesting record. She has won national championships in four different decades. What marvellous consistency.

Ann Ginnane's reign at the top of ladies of Pitch and Putt was brief but for a while in the early eighties, prior to her premature retirement, she was the player to beat. Back to back Strokeplay titles at Athlone (in 1980) and at Fermoy (in 1981) were followed by her only Matchplay title (at Catholic Institute in 1982) and another Strokeplay championship at Lakewood in 1983.

Mildred Murray (Shandon) won three National Matchplay championships (in '78, '79 and '81) in addition to a runners-up slot in the Strokeplay championship of 1977. Like Ann Ginnane, the brief glittering dominance of Norma O'Brien was brought to an end by an early withdrawal from the competitive stage. Norma did the Matchplay/Strokeplay double in 1991 and added another strokeplay championship in 1992 at home in Douglas. She also lost to Geraldine Ward in a memorable Matchplay final in 1993.

The sadly missed Peggy Campbell (R.I.P.) was the undisputed queen of Pitch and Putt in the early days of the new millennium. Peggy won the 2001 National Strokeplay and added the Matchplay and Strokeplay a year later, to win three Irish titles in a row. Her performance at Glenville to win the 2001 Strokeplay will never be forgotten. Her 28 under par three round aggregate represents the lowest total in championship history.

Other great lady players are the youthful St. Bridget's stars, Bernadette Coffey, Marian Byrne, and Chrissie Byrne. Marian has won four national adult titles, a Strokeplay and three Matchplays. Bernadette has three adult titles to add to her three girls' strokeplay championships while Chrissie has won three Irish titles, the Strokeplay in 2005 and the Matchplay in 2003 and 2006.

Can you explain what activities are the Irish P&P Union (PPUI) organising? How many clubs are part of it ?

The Pitch & Putt Union of Ireland is the governing body of amateur sport of Pitch & Putt in Ireland and is committed to promoting and developing Pitch & Putt as a competitive and recreational sport for people of all ages. There are approximately 125 affiliated clubs with roughly 12,000 members, in 19 counties. The PPUI hosts championships and competitions at National and Provincial level with each County (or Regional) Board organising championships in their respective areas. The Central Office of the PPUI administers the hundreds of championships and open competitions that are held every week of the season. It maintains the central handicap database and the membership records. The PPUI is constantly seeking ways of enhancing Pitch and Putt. Its defining principles are:

* PPUI embraces all, respecting gender, race, abilities and age
* PPUI believes in fair play and respect for rules
* PPUI supports and implements the Code of Ethics and Good Practice for Children's Sport in Ireland as published by the Sports Council
* PPUI condemns the practice of doping in sport and we support the drug testing and educational initiatives of the Sports Councils
* PPUI is absolutely committed to the strong social aspect to our sport

PPUI’s principal objectives are:

* To have a lean and efficient administrative structure
* To consistently increase income through sponsorship, marketing and other means
* To enhance the profile of our sport through every available medium
* To broaden participation and increase membership
* To raise playing standards through quality coaching and other means
* To continue to take a pivotal role in the international development of our sport
* To constantly seek ways of delivering a better service to members.

Some of the current projects include:

* Coaching Pitch and Putt in schools
* Training prospective Pitch and Putt coaches
* Working with municipal authorities to develop Pitch and Putt
* Promoting Pitch and Putt with affinity groups such as Active Retirement, farming, Special Olympics and ladies organisations
 

If a Catalan player visits Ireland and wants to play at any of the P&P courses what steps would you recommend ? Let’s say that the player lands at the Dublin airport on a Friday afternoon and leaves on Sunday.

It really depends on whether the player arrives on an ad-hoc unannounced trip or whether he or she makes contact with me or the PPUI beforehand. Only by making contact with us first, can we organise access to the top private members clubs around Dublin like R.G.S.C., Shandon, Portmarnock, Glenville, Old County, Ierne, Lucan and Erin’s Isle. Because these courses are so busy, the clubs only allow green fee access to those visitors who arrange times in advance and play with a member.

In Dublin, the ad-hoc traveller can visit Ring Commons in Balbriggan, along with DCBS and CPM, both of which are situated in Clondalkin. All three, particularly DCBS and CPM, are within easy access of the city centre.

There are also some excellent courses in Dublin’s neighbouring counties of Louth, Kildare and Meath. In Louth, Seapoint is a wonderful links course while Cement is a fine layout near the centre of Drogheda. Kildare has some excellent courses – all close to the town of Newbridge - St. Bridget’s (7km away), Ryston (3km), McDonagh (the 2003 European championship course - 3km) and Athgarvan (5km). Meath has Castletown, Navan, Gaeil Colmcille in Kells and the seaside course at Laytown.



Thank you John!

 

I've to confess you a little secret. I wanted to invite to John Manning a long time ago to "The Interview", I think that this irishman is a very respected figure that has made the P&P an international sport. Everybody has talked me about him very well and I can assure that sometimes I've got the chance to run into him and my impression has been always the same: A big man, friend of Catalonia, that has made, makes and will make an important work in P&P in the worldwide. Fortunately our sport has a man like him.

The translation from Catalan to English and vice versa is made of an habitual colaborator for this site and my good friend, l'Adam Segalés.

If you want further information about Ireland and p&P, you can visit these websites: