Report by Westmeath P.R.O. (Ronan Whelan)
The national inter county championships took place over the weekend in the magnificent Hillview course in Clonmel Co. Tipperary. There was a new format to this year’s championship with play taking place over the Saturday and Sunday. The format for Saturday was a round of foursomes followed by a round of scotch foursomes. The ladies competition started proceedings bright and early at 8.30 but unfortunately Westmeath did not have a team competing this year. The Westmeath gent’s team had a number of challenges in the weeks leading up to the finals and hopes were high for this year’s team.
The first Westmeath pair to start was the duo of Pat Malone and John Browne, with foursomes widely regarded as a very difficult format a score of 51 was very respectable. Alan Hanlon and Rene Bloem was the next pairing out and they also returned a score of 51. The final group was that of Liam and Michael Buckley, both players battled hard and only for a number of putts slipping by they would have bettered their score of 56. This left the team on a score of four under par, only five shots behind first round leaders Meath.
The second round was likely to see scoring improve as it was the format of scotch foursomes. John Browne and Pat Malone signed for an excellent 46 followed by a strong 47 from Rene and Alan and backed up by a 53 from Michael and Liam. After the first days play Westmeath stood on a total of 304 and in a tie for seventh place.
Sundays play begun with the course playing a lot softer following overnight rain and with the wind blowing from a different direction, players felt like a good score could be achieved in the 36 hole singles. First out leading the way was Pat Malone. In the first round Pat started brightly and was a number under par after nine holes but slipped back and finished on 55. In his second round Pat showed why he is regarded as one of the best pitchers in the country when he produced a round of ten under 44 and a total of 99.
Second out was Liam Buckley and he played fantastic pitch and putt in the first round for a 48. In the second round Liam played solidly for a 54 and finished on a score of 102. The Westmeath captain Michael Buckley was third out and led by example with two good gritty rounds of 50 and a total of 100.
All these scores meant the team was moving in the right direction and when John Browne carded a 50 followed by one of the best scores over the weekend of 43 and a total of 93 we started to move up the leader board. Rene Bloem was next out for Westmeath and after playing well on Saturday he continued to work hard with rounds of 56 and 52 for a level par total.
The anchor man on Sunday was always going to be Alan Hanlon and building on his current form had a great first round of 47 but when putts slipped by in the second round he had to settle for a 52 and a total of 99. All this action left Westmeath standing on a total team score of 797 and a good enough score for a sixth place finish and only 11 shots off a medal.
The championship was eventually won by Cork 771, 2nd Tipperary 782 and 3rd Dublin 786. The ladies Championship was won by hosts Tipperary, 2nd Kildare and 3rd Dublin. Westmeath county board and team manager Martin Carter would like to thank all supporters who traveled throughout the year to support the team, all players who took part in the trials, the team for giving their time and commitment during 2013 and we look forward to a strong performance next year in Tullamore.