In mid-March, although being prevalent a bit of time earlier, the world began to realise the dangers and impact of Covid-19.
The game of pitch & putt along with many other parts of modern life, shut its doors to the incoming pandemic. The loss of life unimaginable and our thoughts to everybody who has lost a loved one in this unprecedented time.
In the past couple of weeks though the darkness here in Ireland has started to show glimmers of light, shops have opened, people are back to work and sporting activities have once again become available albeit in different and safer surroundings.
The fears for our game have been prominent but the reaction from our clubs has been to everybody’s gain. Clubs have prospered, memberships have increased, old members of Pitch & Putt Ireland have returned, the newest of beginners have begun and soon competitions both internally and externally will begin.
Over the next week, we will be bringing you both sides of the influx of members, from the returning of familiar players and the newest prospects to grace the game.
We hope you enjoy our new segments, enjoy the game of pitch & putt and we hope that everyone stays safe, well, respect the new rules of social distancing and keep to guidelines.
The first of our interviews, is with the son of a former All Ireland Matchplay and Inter County winner in the 1980s. Tommy Rusk playing from the famous Royal Meath club in Clonee, was successful individually in Irish Ropes in 1982 beating John O’Leary of Carrigaline. He was also part of the Meath Inter County teams that were runners up 3 times that decade before they tasted success in Glenville in 1987. Now his son Graham, successful as an Under 16 player himself winning an All-Ireland Inter County with Dublin in Old County 2005. He is returning to the game after a period away and Graham has gone straight in with his two feet and brought a few friends with him!
Name: Graham Rusk
Club: Portmarnock Pitch and putt club
Handicap: Provisional 4 (awaiting my fate!)
Golf Clubs: 56 Degree Titleist Vokey Wedge & Scotty Cameron Putter
Why did you take up the sport of pitch & putt?
I started playing Pitch and Putt when I was about 8/9 years old, my Dad Tommy and Granny Maureen were great pitch and putt players out of Royal Meath and bought me clubs at an early age. I continued to play right the way through until I was 19, winning a National Juvenile Inter County along the way but stopped as golf and football took up my time. When the pandemic hit and now at 30 years young my commitments to football are not what they once were, my golf handicap is rapidly on the rise so I decided with the great offering the club had that I would dig up the old rubbery commandos from the back garden, join back and start spinning again like local spin-king Jonathon Gash.
Are you enjoying your experiences of Portmarnock Pitch & Putt Club to date?
I am loving it at the moment, even without the competitions. There is a gang of us who have joined back from the parish, must be close to 50 at this stage. The majority being Ex-Juvenile members and our own group of friends, we have our own interim comp organiser Andy Sheppard who has organized some matchplay competitions with both a Cup and Shield trophy up for grabs. Warren Taylor seems to fancy himself in the Cup after a few early round scalps to take him into the last 8. Dave “The Big Dog” Reddin has his eyes on the Shield, but will need to get past the “Big Nasty” Brian Kane, who has seemed to have found something after playing 70 rounds in one week.
I’ve also got to experience playing with some quality players on a Sunday morning – The likes of Tom Ryan, Jay Larkin, Paul Nolan, Sean Cadogan and Jim McLaughlin to name a few, and the quality of scoring each week has been excellent, for example Jay Larkin winning with a 91 Gross a couple of weeks ago. It has certainly sharpened up my game and I have massively improved since joining back a few months ago.
Have you had any elusive hole in ones yet?
Zero holes in one since I’ve been back but I blame the holder in the cups for that a few have popped out lol – As a juvenile though I had oned every hole, never left the place mind you.
What, if anything, has surprised you about the game of pitch & putt?
The condition of the course has surprised me, the greens are beautiful to putt on, the new pitching bays are excellent and it is a great credit to the Green keeper Darren Wells and the Many Hands group led by Sean Cadogan for the work he putts in to keep the course in the condition it is. Also, there is a great community feel down there at the moment and it is great to see so many familiar faces playing the beautiful game, long may it continue. We all received an excellent starter membership package and welcome from Chairman Poole which included a history of our famous club, incredible to trace through the success over the years, Ger Ward 22 National Titles is beyond belief!
Are you looking to improve your handicap and play in Club, County or National competitions in the future?
100%, As I said above now that I am getting older and not playing as competitively in other sports I will have more time for pitch and putt, once I continue to sharpen my game I will get involved in club teams and hopefully one day I can win an Inter County and a National Individual Title to follow in the footsteps of My Dad in 1982.
Would you recommend the game to your friends and/or family to join a club?
Yes of course, sure I have recommended it to about 100 people at this stage and about 50% have joined so far, and the numbers are still on the rise. My brother Philip has joined and I’m also still working on my Dad to join, although he played out of the handy Royal Meath so not sure he would be able for the links style of Portmarnock, especially after not playing the game for 30 years lol.
A huge thank you to Graham for taking the time in talking to us, brilliant work from the Portmarnock Pitch & Putt Club as they have seen over 100 new members come through the doors this year.
We encourage all clubs to get in touch with any new or returning members about our interviews and we will post them here and our Facebook page.
You can contact John-Ross Crangle at email@example.com if any club or members are interested in these segments