Different strokes


Compiled by PHILIP REID

This is as it should be: Best and purest form of game

For me, the next two weeks will find golf at its purest. Matchplay. Mano-o-mano. Intense and close-up. The world and its mother knows that next week’s Ryder Cup at Medinah – in Chicago – will bring the hottest players in professional golf to loggerheads for the honour and the glory; but, before that, something of a rather more Corinthian nature will be played out in the Chartis Irish Cups and Shields finals at Kinsale Golf Club.

For anyone in any club – in Ulster, Leinster, Connacht or Munster – who has ever bothered to put his name to a sheet in a locker-room looking for prospective team members to contest any of the five competitions (ranging from the elite Barton Shield and Senior Cup affairs, to the Junior Cup, Jimmy Bruen Shield and Pierce Purcell Shield), these national finals represent the end of a long journey.

The quest for a green pennant is – for clubs – an expensive one. For the players involved, the journey which started with an often hesitant signature on a list of potential squad members has taken them through a myriad of qualifying matches, from local and regional to provincial and now to the national stage, which will likely have enabled them to discover inner strength and fortitude. Friendships and bonds will have been formed.

The Irish Cups and Shields is the biggest inter-club event of its kind anywhere. It is the envy of the other “Home Unions” and, each year, it seems to be more coveted by those who play – be it in foursomes or fourballs or singles or whatever team format is required – than ever.

It has also given many former sporting stars, those who lifted the Sam Maguire or the Liam McCarthy Cups or played soccer in the Irish League or the League of Ireland, a second chance to experience team competition in another discipline. For the majority, though, this is their All-Ireland final.

The Irish Cups and Shields are a special part of the Irish golfing calendar. The four-day festival kicks off tomorrow with the semi-finals of the Barton Shield and the Junior Cup and five green pennants will be fought over with as much conviction as will be in evidence at Medinah the following week. It is golf as it should be.

Gone pear shaped: but still a loose impediment

Q A half-eaten pear lies directly in front of a ball in a bunker and there is no pear tree in the vicinity of the bunker. In the circumstances, is the pear an obstruction rather than a loose impediment, in which case the player could remove it without penalty?

A No. A pear is a natural object. When detached from a tree it is a loose impediment. The fact that a pear has been half-eaten and there is no pear tree in the vicinity does not alter the status of the pear. The same applies to a discarded banana skin.

It's a Breeze: Addressing the long and the short of it

The days when many players were content to rely on simple yardages or their own eyes have faded into the dark and distant past with the advent of rangefinder devices and SkyGolf has now launched its SkyCaddie Breeze Rangefinder to the Irish market (with a price range of circa €285).

Breeze is a hands-free device – with a three-inch screen, sunlight-readable display – which gives front, centre and back of green yardages without touching a button or aiming. The new, smaller device offers access to the same ground-verified, industry benchmark course maps available to the company’s top-of-the-range SGXW model.

Features include: auto course (finds and loads a course automatically); auto hole advance (advances to the next hole automatically); and auto distance (yardages update every second without aiming). Golfers can also measure any shot, knowing the exact distance they hit their clubs, while enjoying digital scoring at their choosing and much more.

“The new Breeze addresses the needs of a large segment of golfers who are looking for simplicity and accuracy at a price which makes it easier for,” according to SkyGolf CEO Richard Edmonson.

“(It) is also upgradeable to provide many other game-saving course features and applications that help golfers play even better as their needs and their games grow. This will enable Breeze owners to customise their SkyCaddie to meet their unique needs as golfers without buying a new device or buy features they would not use.”

Bright future: Italy figures show rapid growth in game

A report due to be presented today to the KPMG Golf Business Forum in Tuscany will paint a bright picture for the future of the sport there where the number of golf courses and golfers has doubled in the past two decades. Among the facts highlighted are that the number of courses in Italy has grown 137 per cent in 20 years to 278, whilst the number of club golfers has doubled to 100,000 affiliated players of which 600 are PGA club professionals.

The north of Italy – where the Molinari brothers, Francesco and Edoardo, and Matteo Manassero learned the game – accounted for 71 per cent of courses. The development of courses in Sardinia and Sicily (where five new courses opened last year) indicates golfing tourism is a growing sector in a country that attracts 35 million tourists a year.

Stroke average: McIlroy heads USPGA table

Rory McIlroy heads the USPGA Tour’s stats in stroke average – 68.83 – which is the barometer used by most players when reflecting on the success or otherwise of any given tournament.

The key to McIlroy’s low scoring has been his precision iron play: only Steve Stricker is ahead of him when it comes to hitting the ball closer to the hole.

Stricker’s average proximity to the hole is 31 feet six inches, whilst McIlroy’s is 32 feet three inches.

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