The 45th Walker Cup match, held in September, saw five Irishmen on the GB&I team for the first time ever. Gavin Moynihan had already played in the 2013 match, but the first appearances for Dunne, Hume, Hurley and Sharvin brought the total number of Walker Cup players from Ireland to 42. That number might have been 43. Lionel Munn, Ireland’s first star amateur golfer, very nearly played Walker Cup in 1934. What happened this year with Sam Horsfield’s withdrawal was reminiscent of Munn’s story.
When the last two places on the GB&I team were made public on 30 April 1934 the Irish Times commented that the selection committee had ‘sprung a first-class surprise’. Less than two weeks before the match at St. Andrews the selectors announced that Eric McRuvie of Scotland and Ireland’s Lionel Munn would join the other eight team members already named. McRuvie, the Irish Amateur Open winner in 1931, had played in the 1932 Walker Cup match, but apparently he had not shown recent form. Munn was just about to turn 47 and his selection came out of nowhere.
Nevertheless, The Times of London considered Munn worthy of his place. Referring to his early career before the Great War, it said that he was ‘nowadays an even better golfer than he was then’, adding ‘For sheer devastating accuracy there is not a player in the British Isles who is his master, and he is, moreover, a match winner in excelsis.’
Lionel Munn was born in Clondermot in Derry on 4 May 1887. He first came to the fore as a 21 year old student at Trinity College, Dublin, when he won the 1908 Irish Amateur Close championship at Portmarnock. Making his debut that year in The Amateur Championship at Sandwich he reached the third round and went to the tenth tie hole before being beaten. The following year he became only the second home winner of the Irish Amateur Open, then dominated by the cream of English and Scottish golf. He retained the title in 1910 and was runner-up in the Irish Close.
1911 was a phenomenal year for the then 24 year old. Not only did he win the Irish Amateur Close and Open but he added the South of Ireland title. At the time these were the only three amateur championships in Irish golf. For good measure he was a member of the Dublin University team that retained the Senior Cup that year and a member of the Co. Donegal team that won the inaugural Barton Shield. The Barton Shield was then competed for by foursomes pairs representing counties rather than clubs. Lionel and his brother Ector Munn, playing out of their home club of North-West, made up half of the Donegal team.
Also in 1911 Lionel had his best run in The Amateur Championship to date, reaching the Last 16. He was selected for the amateur team in the Coronation Match which preceded The Open at Sandwich in June 1911. The opposing teams were made up of the best amateurs of the then United Kingdom against their professional counterparts. Munn was the only Irish representative on the amateur team while Michael Moran, his senior by one year, was the only Irishman among the professionals. In The Open itself Moran finished in a tie for 21st place and Munn in a tie for 40th.
After the dizzy heights of 1911, the following year was an anti-climax. His best showing was a semi-final finish in the Irish Amateur Open. In 1913 he played in the first official amateur international for Ireland, against Wales, and won the Irish Close. In 1914 he won his fourth Irish Close before competitive golf came to an abrupt end as the Great War commenced. During the conflict Munn served as an officer in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
It was not till the 1930s that he returned to serious competition. He won the Belgian Amateur in 1931 and 1932. In 1932 he also reached the semi-finals of The Amateur and finished in a tie for 29th in The Open, but there were no significant results the following year. Living in Kent, he did not compete in Ireland and was not selected to represent Ireland. Not surprisingly, therefore, his announcement for the 1934 Walker Cup team raised eyebrows.
Two days before the match was to begin Munn was practising on the Old Course, but apparently his form was not impressive. He left St. Andrews before the announcement was made that ‘owing to disposition’ he had withdrawn. With the agreement of Francis Ouimet, the American captain, his place had been filled by Leonard Crawley. As with Horsfield’s withdrawal 81 years later, no further official explanation was given for Munn’s decision.
Just ten days after the match Munn competed in The Amateur Championship at Prestwick. The Irish Times reported that he was ‘still suffering from the cold which had forced his withdrawal’ and that ‘his voice was husky’ when he spoke to the reporter. He won three matches in the championship to reach the Last 32 and was beaten 3/2 by the eventual winner, Lawson Little, a member of the US team.
Lionel Munn went on to play for Ireland in the 1936 and 1937 Home Internationals, and to reach the final of The Amateur in 1937, again at Sandwich. The 50 year old Irishman was beaten by Robert Sweeny, another American. Munn later retired to Kerry where he died aged 71 on 25 October 1958. Whether the cause back in 1934 was a cold, poor form or an atmosphere of criticism, it was ultimately Munn’s choice to not be among Ireland’s Walker Cup players.
[First published in the Irish Clubhouse, Issue 4, 2015]
The performance of Stephanie Meadow since turning professional bodes well for her future. She and Alison Walshe, the Galway-born American, have made it through to the final day’s play in a number of LPGA ‘majors’. Walshe was the first Irish-born player to do so in the US Women’s Open in 2008, while she and Meadow were the first to do so in the Kraft Nabisco in 2013. Long before their time, in fact before either was born, another Irish golfer broke the ice in the LPGA ‘majors’. She was Gwen Brandom, Ireland’s second woman professional.
Gwen Brandom appeared out of nowhere on the golf scene in the mid-1960s. Then in her mid-twenties, Mrs. Brandom was living in England, where she was a member of Dunstable Downs Golf Club. She had been born in Dublin in 1937, as Gwen Farrell, and had been a badminton junior international. In 1959 she had married Ivan Brandom in England. In 1965 she won the Bedfordshire Ladies’ championship and travelled to Mullingar to compete in the Irish Ladies’ Close. There she won the preliminary stroke competition for the Leitrim Cup and reached the semi-finals of the championship. This performance brought her on to the Irish team for the Home Internationals.
By early 1966 she was one of those in line for the GB&I Curtis Cup team. It appears she was disappointed not to have been selected even as a reserve, but that season she won the Roehampton Gold Cup, then an important event in English ladies’ golf. In the autumn she reached the semi-finals of the Ladies’ British Open Amateur at Ganton, being beaten on the 17th by Vivien Saunders.
In 1967, having been a semi-finalist in the two previous years, Gwen became Irish champion at Castlerock. She led Ireland’s first team to compete in the European Championship and gained GB&I recognition with a place on the Vagliano Trophy team. However, 1968 was not a remarkable year for Gwen Brandom and she never got on a Curtis Cup team. In March 1969 she turned professional, being the second Irish woman to do so. Philomena Garvey had been the pioneer back in 1964 but she was already reinstated as an amateur by the time Brandom took the plunge.
During the summer of 1969 Gwen Brandom played on the LPGA tour, in company with two English players, Vivien Saunders and Liz Collis. This was Gwen’s only time to compete on the North American circuit but it gave her a unique place in Irish golfing history. She was the first Irish player to compete on the LPGA tour and the first to complete all rounds of an LPGA ‘major’. She achieved that in July 1969 at Concord, when she finished tied for 38th place in the LPGA Championship, won by Betsy Rawls. It would be 43 years before Alison Walshe became the second Irish golfer to compete on the last day of that particular ‘major’.
Gwen’s performance in the LPGA Championship earned her $200. Back in Europe there were no professional tournaments for women but she turned to teaching at the Spawell Golf Centre and later opened her own indoor golf school. In 1974 the Colgate European Women’s Open was inaugurated as an LPGA event in Sunningdale. For two years this was the lone professional event of any importance for women this side of the Atlantic. Then, in 1976, the first Women’s British Open was held at Fulford in conjunction with the British Amateur Stroke Play.
The Ladies’ Golf Union had been approached about how much prize money would be needed to make the British Stroke Play an open event. There are different versions of the story, but it has been said that Gwen Brandom and Vivien Saunders offered the stated amount. It would be nice if this were true but, sadly, it is not. When contacted about this article, Vivien Saunders confirmed that Gwen Brandom had no part in that particular piece of golf history. However, Gwen was one of the five professionals who played in that inaugural Women’s British Open in 1976. She missed the cut but her amateur fellow Irish player Mary McKenna was runner-up.
The founding of the Women’s British Open was a stepping stone to the founding of the WPGA Tour (now the LET) in 1979. The Women’s British Open became co-sanctioned with the LPGA in 1994, and in 2001 it was officially designated as a ‘major’ by the LPGA. In 1986 Maureen Madill became the third Irish woman to turn professional and later that year she was joined by Lillian Behan. But by then Gwen Brandom had said goodbye to professional golf. A few years before she had been reinstated as an amateur. She joined Grange Golf Club and played Senior Cup, claiming a few notable scalps in one of her first outings.
Gwen Brandom died aged 68 at Tallaght Hospital on 19 April 2006. As well as being Ireland’s second female professional golfer, Gwen was the first to play in women’s professional tournaments. She built on Philomena Garvey’s example and was among the money winners in the 1969 LPGA Championship.
[First published in the Irish Clubhouse, August-September, 2015]
In recent years the South of Ireland championship has suffered because of the changing nature of amateur golf. It’s important to remember that most tournaments have ups and downs in their fortunes. The Open Championship itself has had peaks and troughs. So the ‘South’ is likely to bounce back in no time. Not only is it the oldest regional championship in Ireland, it is one of the oldest amateur tournaments in the world.
Over the past 120 years the ‘South’ has been competed for on 113 occasions, always at Lahinch. This year’s event, on 22-26 July, will be the 114th staging. In its first two decades it regularly attracted substantial numbers of competitors from England and Scotland. The War of Independence put paid to that level of overseas participation, but the championship soon recovered and went through a long period of greatness. John Burke’s dominance threatened its competitive edge to such an extent that he was encouraged not to take part for a while. Joe Carr was not a regular competitor, yet he won the ‘South’ three times. In more recent decades it was an essential stage on the domestic amateur calendar and the names Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and Graeme McDowell were inscribed on the cup, while Padraig Harrington was twice beaten finalist.
Only a handful of amateur tournaments pre-date the South of Ireland. It was first held on Thursday 19 September 1895, the week after the Irish Open Amateur, and its closeness to that event soon attracted cross-channel competitors. The first staging of the ‘South’ was ‘played for by holes’, with George Browning beating M.W. Gavin in the final by 9/8. Most reference books list the wrong runners-up for that inaugural year and for 1897. On the latter occasion Fred Ballingall of Scotland recorded the first foreign win. It has been said that he was as young as 14 but in fact he was aged 17 years and 185 days. Nonetheless he remains the youngest ever winner.
Fred Ballingall retained the title the following year. In the championship’s history there have been only four other winners under the age of 20. Cian McNamara was the second youngest in 2004 (18 years & 30 days). Mark Campbell was the youngest winner in the twentieth century (aged 19 in 1999). Simon Ward was also 19 on his first win in 2006, while the current holder Stuart Bleakley was 19 when he won last July.
Over the first nineteen years of the ‘South’, preceding the Great War, there were only five Irish wins. The most memorable of those was in 1911, when Lionel Munn beat J.S. Kennedy of Scotland. Its significance was that in 1911 there were only three amateur championships in Ireland – the Irish Amateur Open, the Irish Close and the ‘South’ – and Munn made a clean sweep of all three.
The man whose name is synonymous with the ‘South’ is John Burke, a local who only started playing championship golf in his late 20s. He won on his first attempt in 1928 and went on to take the titles a further ten times, including four in a row (1928-31) and six in a row (1941-46). He wasn’t a one track pony, either, as he won the Irish Amateur Open once, the Irish Close (8 times) and the ‘West’ (6 times) as well as making one Walker Cup appearance.
A combination of reasons brought on the recent decline in the fortunes of the ‘South’. Firstly, apparently pressured by the U.S. collegiate calendar, the Home Internationals were brought into August from their traditional September date. The Interprovincial matches being played just before the ‘South’ and the Irish team being selected in advance of it gave no encouragement to team hopefuls to compete in the oldest regional championship.
Another factor was the advent of the R&A’s World Amateur Golf Ranking [WAGR]. The ‘South’ retained the traditional format of amateur golf, being an entirely match play event up to last year. Tradition is under attack from a system that favours stroke play qualifying and encourages top players to chase points in order to gain team selection and prepare a CV for potential sponsors in the professional game. The WAGR does not award points to an event based on its traditional prestige but instead based on how many high-ranking point-accumulators it attracts. If a venerable match play event has to compete with a points-rich stroke tournament it loses out and the spiral gains momentum each year.
In 2014 ‘South’ was rated in the WAGR way down in category F, meaning that it had minimal points on offer. By comparison, the ‘East’, ‘North’ and ‘West’ were all rated in category D or higher. It should not be thought that recent winners of the South of Ireland were unworthy. Their victories were hard won against fields with in-depth talent. The fact that high profile players stayed away meant only that WAGR points went down but the WAGR is a questionable barometer of excellence.
Thankfully Lahinch is fighting back. This year’s event takes place a few days earlier than normal and it begins with a 36-hole qualifying competition. With less competition on the calendar it may attract more high profile contestants from Ireland and indeed overseas. For the record, the last foreign win was by England’s Geoff Roberts in 1959. The last overseas finalist was Philip Johns of Australia in 1991.
[First published in the Irish Clubhouse, Summer, 2015]
In May 1965 Joe McCartney suffered a stroke at Cliftonville Golf Club in Belfast. He died afterwards at the Royal Victoria Hospital, just a few weeks before his 58th birthday. McCartney had been professional at Cliftonville for many years but before that he had been one of Ireland’s most successful young golfers. Fifty years after his premature death we look back at his career.
Joe McCartney lived all his life in Belfast. He was born on 10 June 1907 in Greencastle, in the north of the city, the eighth child of William John McCartney and his wife Margaret McAdam. His father was a fireman or stoker on a steam ship. The family home was walking distance from Fortwilliam Golf Club and it appears that this is where Joe began work as an assistant, under the guidance of the 1914 Irish Professional champion, Charley Pope.
McCartney first made his mark in 1927, when he was one of the four competitors in the Ulster Championship to qualify for the match-play semi-finals, which was how this tournament was normally structured for decades. He won his first match to reach the final before succumbing to the 1926 Irish champion, Syd Fairweather. At that time the Ulster Championship was confined to members of the Irish Region of the PGA within its Northern Branch, which covered all nine counties of Ulster. Nevertheless, it was an important event in which all members of the branch competed.
In 1929, as professional at Ormeau, Joe McCartney had his first taste of success, winning the Ulster Championship at Royal Belfast, and beating Fairweather in the final. The following year he retained the title at Belvoir Park. Also in 1930 he took the Irish Professional title at the Castle in Dublin. On this occasion he had six shots to spare over the rest of the field. The young champion was hailed by the Irish Times as a ‘discovery’, with the observation that he was ‘a master of every golfing stroke’.
The Irish Championship was held at Portstewart the following year and McCartney successfully defended, but not without a struggle. Finishing on 283, he was in a tie with the veteran Hughie McNeill, a former winner. They had to endure a 36-hole play-off before McCartney won by three shots with a score of 143. By the end of 1931 the twenty-four year old McCartney was a double Irish and a double Ulster champion.
1932 brought new experiences. He won his third Ulster title and finished in third place in the Irish Professional Championship. In the Irish Open at Cork he became the first Irish player to finish in the top-four in the event’s six years of competition. His score of 287 was four shots behind the winner, Alf Padgham of England. During that Irish Open meeting McCartney was one of twelve members on the second ever international team of Irish professionals. The first international had taken place in 1907, three weeks before McCartney’s birth. This second match was against England on 22 August 1932. Six weeks later a third international was played. This was against Scotland at Belvoir Park, and McCartney was again on the team.
International matches were played against Scotland annually up to 1938. There was another match against England in 1933 and a first encounter with Wales in 1937. The first time all four home countries played against one another was at Llandudno in September 1938. Joe McCartney was a member of the Irish team on every occasion throughout the 1930s. The outbreak of the Second World War put paid to any plans of continuing a ‘Home Internationals’ event for professionals.
Back in 1933, McCartney claimed his fourth Ulster championship and repeated his top-four finish in the Irish Open at Malone, again being the leading Irish player. Three years later, as professional at Holywood, he won his third and last Irish Professional championship, aged 29. Also in 1936 he was joint runner-up in the Dunlop Irish Tournament at Royal Belfast. This was for decades one of the most important domestic events for Irish professionals.
By the time Joe McCartney was aged 30 he had three Irish and four Ulster championship wins to his name. Though he continued to compete to a high standard in Irish events up to the 1950s, his career never reached the same level of success as he experienced in his early 20s. 1947 was the Indian summer of his career, when he claimed both the Willie Nolan Memorial Cup and his fifth Ulster title. While Joe McCartney never made his mark outside of Ireland like his contemporary, Paddy Mahon, and the slightly younger Fred Daly and Harry Bradshaw, he was for a time the great new hope in Irish professional golf.
JOE McCARTNEY’s CAREER RECORD
Irish Open (Top-10 finishes)
4th 1932, 1933
Irish Professional Championship
champion 1930, 1931, 1936, runner-up 1937 (tied), 1943, 3rd 1932, 4th 1933, 1935, 1944 (tied)
champion 1929, 1930, 1932, 1933, 1947
Dunlop Irish Tournament
runner-up 1936 (tied)
Willie Nolan Memorial Cup
Ireland v England 1932, 1933, 1938
Ireland v Scotland 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938
Ireland v Wales 1937, 1938
[First published in the Irish Clubhouse, Spring, 2015]
Mark Frost’s 2002 book The Greatest Game Ever Played (later made into a film) is a somewhat fictionalised account of the 1913 US Open at Brookline, where the American amateur Francis Ouimet beat Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in a play-off. Hidden in the background of this drama was a significant first for Irish golf. It was provided by Pat Doyle, a recently arrived Wicklowman. He became the first Irish-born golfer to complete all four rounds in the US Open. He did so in style, finishing in 10th place, seven shots behind Ouimet, Vardon and Ray.
Pat Doyle was the first Irish-born professional to make a mark in American golf but over the next decade and a half others followed. Only in recent years have these pioneers of the professional game in the USA been remembered in their homeland.
Patrick Joseph Doyle was born on 10 March 1889 in Kindlestown Upper, between Greystones and Delgany, Co. Wicklow, to Darby and Mary Doyle. His father was a labourer who died of pneumonia when Pat was eleven months old. Pat grew up in the Delgany area, living with his mother and two older siblings. In 1905 his sister Mary Anne married Edward Darcy from nearby Belview. Some 47 years later her grandson Eamonn Darcy was born. He went on to be one of Ireland’s most successful golfers and a Ryder Cup star.
By the time Pat Doyle had entered his teens Greystones Golf Club was providing casual employment as caddies for many local youngsters. Several of these graduated to pursuing a career in professional golf. Pat was one of them. In 1908 a second club opened in the area. Delgany Golf Club claims Pat Doyle was its first professional. This is quite possible, as he was aged 19 at the time, but two years later he was attached to King’s County & Ormond (now Birr) Golf Club. In 1911 he was attached to the short-lived Finglas GC in Co. Dublin and the following year he was playing out of the Atlantic GC at Kilbrittain, near Bandon, Co. Cork.
His first significant impact as a tournament player was in the Irish Professional Championship at Royal Dublin in June 1910, when he finished 5th. In May 1912 this event was played at Castlerock and Doyle finished runner-up, albeit six strokes adrift of the winner, the then all-powerful Michael Moran. Had Pat Doyle stayed in Ireland he might well have won the Irish Professional Championship several times over or, like Moran, he might have enlisted in the Army and perished in the Great War in Flanders. But Doyle chose to cross the ocean to seek a career on the fast-developing American golf scene.
He arrived in the USA for the first time on 30 April 1913 and went to Massachusetts, where he became professional at the Myopia Hunt Club, north of Boston. He had a few months to settle into his new position before the US Open was held in September. While the focus of attention was on the 20 year old American Ouimet slaying the British giants Vardon and Ray, the 74 recorded by Ouimet in the third round was only the second best of the day. The 24 year old Irishman Pat Doyle produced a 73. This brought him from nowhere to a tie for 8th place. Eventually he claimed 10th position on his own.
He resigned his post with the Myopia Hunt Club about November 1915 and remained ‘unattached’ till the early summer of 1916, when he went to South Shore Field Club on Long Island, New York. Playing for his new club, in June 1916 at Brae Burn he finished in a tie with the Irish-American Mike Brady for the Massachusetts Open. Due to heavy rain, their play-off was delayed till 10 July, when Doyle had a disastrous round and lost by fifteen shots.
Rain featured again in Doyle’s career when it caused the first two rounds of the 1918 Philadelphia Open at Huntingdon Valley to be abandoned. The tournament being reduced to 36 holes, Doyle and Arthur Reid finished in a tie and were declared joint champions. This was the first recorded win by an Irish professional outside Ireland and it was to be Doyle’s only tournament victory. By then he was attached to Deal Golf & Country Club in New Jersey.
In 1919 Pat Doyle finished tied for 18th place in the US Open at Brae Burn. Later that year he and Tom Boyd became the first Irish golfers to qualify for the match play stage of the US PGA championship. Both were beaten in the first round (Last 32). While he featured prominently in tournaments over the following few years and made the cut in the US Open another three times, his playing career slowly petered out.
In 1926 he had his best showing in the US PGA championship. Then attached to Elmsford, north of New York City, he got to the quarter-finals, losing the 36-hole match by 6/5 to Walter Hagen, the holder and eventual winner. Doyle’s last performance of note came in 1928, when he got to the Last 16 of the US PGA. On this occasion his progress was ended on the final hole by Jock Hutchison.
Pat Doyle lived most of his life in the New York area. His wife Catherine was an Irishwoman whom he married in the late 1910s. He died at the age of 82 at Mount Vernon Hospital on 29 March 1971. At the time his 18 year old grandnephew Eamonn Darcy was about to start his first season as a touring professional.
[First published in the Irish Clubhouse, Issue 5, 2014]
The Men’s Home Internationals take place on 13-15 August at Southerndown in England. For over eighty years these annual matches between England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales have been an important fixture on the golfing calendar. They have been played annually since 1932 with the exception of 1939-1946 and 1979. The Home Internationals, once an indispensable stepping stone for amateurs aspiring to Walker Cup places, have lost some status in more recent decades. Nevertheless, they remain central to amateur golf in the home countries.
Ireland’s first outright win in the Home Internationals came in 1950 at Harlech. Before that England and Scotland dominated. Traditionally the team was captained by one of the players, but in 1948 Charles Hezlet was appointed as the first non-playing captain. Hezlet was one of the country’s most renowned amateurs, the first Irishman to reach the final of the Amateur Championship and a three-time Walker Cup player. He was to remain captain until 1953. In his first two years the Irish team finished runners-up, losing out on the title by the narrowest of margins. His third outing proved even more successful.
When the team of 12 was announced in September 1950 its composition did not meet with universal approval. Paddy Leyden gained his first cap when his only achievement to date had been reaching the final of the recent South of Ireland championship. There was more criticism about the inclusion of Jimmy Bruen. Bruen’s brilliance as a golfer was not in dispute. The fact that he had not competed in any important event in Ireland during that year caused the Irish Times correspondent to comment ‘whether it is in the best interests of Irish golf to pick people who do not play in the Irish championships is open to question’. He suggested that uncapped up-and-coming young players such as Norman Drew and John Glover were deserving of being blooded.
The matches began on Wednesday 27 September 1950 with Ireland losing the foursomes 3-2 to Scotland. Then play as abandoned due to torrential rain. The following day Ireland beat Wales 10-5 and Scotland beat England. On the third day Ireland took the first four foursomes against England and lost the last. In the afternoon England won six of the ten singles, but overall victory went to Ireland, 8-7. At the same time Scotland and Wales halved their match. So the championship was decided on the singles encounter with Scotland, postponed to the Saturday. The Irish won four of the ten singles, three were halved and three were lost, with a result of 5½ to 4½ in favour of Ireland. Combined with the foursomes played three days earlier that meant a draw, leaving the Irish as champions.
The star of that first Irish victory was Max McCready of Dunmurry, the 1949 Amateur Champion. He won all his six matches, including the three foursomes in partnership with Bruen. Joe Carr lost only his first foursomes, while the other leading performers were Cecil Beamish and Cecil Ewing. Paddy Leyden was unfortunate in not being played at all. However, he joined Carr and Ewing in Ireland’s second Home Internationals win in 1955 at Birkdale. By then the brief but sparkling amateur career of Norman Drew was long over. In November 1953 he turned professional, following the example of fellow international Michael Ferguson of Dundalk, who made the move earlier that year. They were the first high profile Irish amateurs to become professional, and it was a long time before their career path became the norm.
After the Home Internationals victory in 1955 the third win was a long time coming. It was not till 1983 that another outright championship was achieved, and it was the first on home soil, being won at Portmarnock. By then it was becoming the natural progression for the bright young things to seek a career in professional golf. Philip Walton had just taken the plunge and Ronan Rafferty was already established on tour. Another trend was beginning to effect the composition of the Irish team. Young players were taking up scholarships in American universities, and their availability for Irish teams was being dictated by their college coaches.
The next Irish win was at Lahinch in 1987, followed by back-to-back victories in 1990 and 1991. Four winning teams in the space of nine years was a record never repeated by Ireland again. It provided the opportunity for Garth McGimpsey and Liam MacNamara to establish themselves as the only Irish players to have been on four winning Home Internationals teams. Mark Gannon was the only other to have played on three. Though many young Irish players were moving to the professional game by that era, most of those on the winning teams were career-amateurs. In a few cases younger players, like Eoghan O’Connell, who represented Ireland in the European Team Championship during the summer were under the thumb of American college coaches by September, when the Home Internationals were played. That became more prevalent in the late 1990s. For example, in 1998 Michael Hoey, then Irish Amateur Open champion, was unavailable for the Irish team as he had just started in Clemson College. Of course, each of the four home countries suffered by the dictates of the American college system.
Ireland had two more wins in the twenty-first century – 2003 and 2008. In marked contrast to the norm in the previous decades, not one player was on both these winning teams. The composition of Irish teams changed phenomenally between our earliest winners in 1950 and our most recent in 2008. In 1950 Joe Carr was the youngest member at 28; in 2008 Eoin Arthurs was the oldest at 25. In 1950 the average age of members was something like 35; in 2008 it was more like 21½. In 1950 they were all amateurs for life; all but one of the eleven in 2008 subsequently turned professional.
For decades the Home Internationals were held in September. The last time this happened was when Ireland won at Muirfield in 2008. Following that the matches were push back into August, presumably to address the American college schedule interference. However, this caused other problems with the congested golfing calendar over summer months. The matches now clash with the US Amateur championship. This fact was highlighted spectacularly last year, when the GB&I Walker Cup team was announced after the international matches. Seven of the ten places on the team went to English and Welsh players who chose to compete in the US Amateur rather than representing their country.
Once an essential stepping stone to GB&I teams for career-amateurs, now of secondary importance in the eyes of GB&I selectors, the Home Internationals are symptomatic of how amateur golf has changed from a goal in itself to a training ground for the professional game. Nevertheless, those who compete for Ireland in these internationals can be proud of donning the uniform and continuing a long and distinguished tradition.
[First published in the Irish Clubhouse, Issue 4, 2014]
When the golf craze really got going in Ireland in the last years of the nineteenth century it took root in Belfast, Dublin and pockets of activity mainly in coastal areas. Clubs that could afford to engage professionals had to entice them over from Scotland. Locals got employment as green-keepers or caddies. In those days it was just a short step from green-keeper or caddy to professional, and club-making professionals took on local apprentices, so that slowly a new breed of native professionals emerged. One small area of north-east Wicklow was to produce more than its share of golf pros through the years.
At the end of the nineteenth century Co. Wicklow had three golf clubs, Greystones (founded in 1895), Bray and Woodenbridge, both dating from 1897. Of course, Bray was the site of one of the earliest recorded golfing greens outside Scotland, back in the 1760s, but by the 1890s golf was being re-introduced as a new activity. The three early clubs were joined by Wicklow in 1904 and Delgany in 1908. Greystones and Delgany are a stone’s throw from one another, yet they set many caddies on the road to professional golf. But the story of north-east Wicklow’s professionals began in Bray.
Bray initially engaged a Scottish professional but he did not stay long. By 1898 twenty-one year old Richard Larkin had replaced him. Though Larkin was born in Meath, he grew up in Dollymount, Co. Dublin. When he was twelve, Dublin Golf Club moved from the Phoenix Park to the Bull Island close to Richard’s home. Two years later it became Royal Dublin, but in later years its links became familiarly known as Dollymount. The arrival of the club brought employment as caddies for the boys of Dollymount. Richard Larkin was one of many youngsters from the area who went on to careers in golf.
Larkin’s presence in Bray had a long-term influence. In 1898 he married Ellen Martin from Greystones. Ellen’s younger brother Eddie came to live with them in Bray and work at club-making with Richard. This began a long association with golf for the Martin family. In about 1902 another Dublin golfer, James Barrett, came to Greystones as caddy master and later professional. About four years later, when he moved on to Hermitage, he was replaced at Greystones by a local man, Tom Walker, who was a club-maker of some note. In 1907 Barrett returned to Greystones to celebrate his marriage to Ellen Larkin’s sister Mary Martin. Later that year he played on Ireland’s first professional team, in a match against Scotland. Shortly afterwards he moved to Carrickmines, where he remained pro until his death in 1950. His son Jimmy Barrett succeeded him in the post.
Presumably it was under Barrett at Greystones that another of the Martin brothers, James, learned his craft. In 1907, aged 20, James Martin was appointed the first professional at the new Milltown Golf Club in Dublin. The pinnacle of James Martin’s career came in 1922, when he won the Irish Professional Championship by a margin of five strokes at Portrush.
The Martin family’s association with golf continued for many decades. Eddie Martin, the youngster who was making clubs under the guidance of his brother-in-law at the beginning of the twentieth century, eventually became professional at Greystones. Eddie’s son Jimmy was born in Killincarrig, Greystones, in 1924 and he followed in his father’s footsteps. He followed also in his uncle’s footsteps in becoming Irish Professional champion in 1969. As a touring professional Jimmy Martin became the most successful member of the Martin family, winning four British Tour events, and playing for GB&I in the 1965 Ryder Cup team.
Jimmy Martin was related to another golfing family through his mother, Christina Darcy. The most prominent of the Darcys of Bellevue, Delgany, was Jimmy’s much younger second cousin, Eamonn. One of Ireland’s most successful touring professionals, Eamonn Darcy had eight tournament wins and four Ryder Cup appearances. Extraordinarily, Eamonn was related also to another important figure in Irish professional golf. His granduncle was Pat Doyle who was runner-up in the 1912 Irish Professional Championship. Doyle was born in 1889 in Kindlestown, between Greystones and Delgany. He is claimed by Delgany Golf Club as its first professional, which is possible as he was 19 when it opened. He emigrated to the USA in 1913 and that year finished tenth in the US Open. He remained in America, one of the first generation of Irish golfers to carve out a career in that country.
During James Barrett’s time at Greystones one of his protégés was a young caddy from Delgany named Ned Bradshaw. Ned was to become professional at Delgany, with his sons Harry, Eddie and Jimmy following him into the sport. Of course, the most illustrious of the clan was Harry Bradshaw, born in Killincarrig in 1913. Harry made three Ryder Cup appearances, won the Canada Cup with Christy O’Connor, and almost won The Open in 1949.
Bill Kinsella, born in Greystones in 1906, began another family of golf pros. In 1930 he became professional at Skerries in north Co. Dublin, where his grandson Bobby is currently the third generation of the Kinsellas to occupy that position. Bill’s sons Jimmy, Billy and David all were professionals, with Jimmy being a successful touring pro in the 60s and 70s.
Twice Irish Professional champion, Christy Greene, was another native of this extraordinarily fertile golfing haven. Born in Kindlestown in 1926, he began caddying at Greystones at an early age and learned the game alongside Jimmy Martin.
Greystones / Delgany has proved a rare breeding ground for professional golfers. The Martins, the Bradshaws, Tom Walker, Pat Doyle, Bill Kinsella, Christy Greene and Eamonn Darcy have left a lasting mark on the golfing landscape.
[First published in the Irish Clubhouse, June, 2014]
This year marks half a century since a female Irish golfer first turned professional. That individual was Philomena Garvey, arguably the greatest woman player Ireland has ever produced. Fifty years on, Paul Gorry looks at this remarkable player’s career, and at the development of a role for women Irish professionals in her wake.
The highlights of Philomena Garvey’s amateur achievements speak volumes about her calibre – British Ladies’ champion 1957, runner-up four times and semi-finalist on two further occasions; US Ladies’ quarter-finalist in 1950; selected for seven Curtis Cup teams and played in six, including two victorious sides. In addition, she played on seven Vagliano Trophy teams and represented GB&I twice against Canada. Domestically she was in a league of her own, winning the Irish Close an unparalleled fifteen times.
Phil Garvey was a native of Baltray, close to Co. Louth Golf Club. When she was growing up the star of Irish ladies’ golf was a local girl, Clarrie Tiernan (later Reddan). Phil first came to prominence in 1944, when she reached the final of the Leinster Championship at Hermitage as an 18 year old. Clarrie Reddan denied her victory on that occasion, but she won the Leinster title on six subsequent occasions. In fact, her only other defeat in the Leinster was in 1951, at the hands of Pat O’Sullivan of Tramore.
By 1946, when the Irish Close resumed after World War II, Phil was aged 20. She won the championship on her first attempt. Remarkably, of the 18 Irish Close championships played between 1946 and 1964, Phil won 14 and she was unable to play on two other occasions. So, in that era she was defeated only twice in an Irish championship – in 1949 (by Moira Smyth) and in 1952 (by Dorothy Forster).
Her decision to try her hand at professional golf came at the age of 37, by which time she had been one of the world’s leading lady amateurs for close on two decades. On 4 January 1964 the newspapers announced that Philomena Garvey had turned professional, becoming the first female Irish professional golfer. The rules on amateur status back then were extremely strict. As early as 1949 Phil had her status questioned by the R&A because she earned her living as a sales assistant in the sports section of Clerys department store. The very mention of contemplating turning professional was a breach of the rules. Consequently there were no rumours heralding Philomena’s announcement.
Ita Butler, who captained the victorious GB&I Curtis Cup team at Killarney in 1996, was a rising star in Irish golf when Phil took the step. ‘We were surprised when Philomena turned professional’ she recalls, ‘Professionalism was a taboo subject for amateurs then so there was no warning. But there was admiration for her courage in taking the step.’
At the time there were very few female professional golfers outside of the USA. Other than Jean Donald and Jessie Valentine there were really no professionals in Great Britain, and very little opportunity for competition. Being made an honorary member of the Irish Professional Golfers Association, Phil was able to compete in the inaugural IPGA Southern Championship in July 1964. The following month she made more history in becoming the first woman to compete in the Irish Professional Championship. There was no qualifying round and no half-way cut, so she completed all 72 holes, albeit finishing in last place.
Finding that she could not make a career as a club professional, a teacher or a tournament pro, Philomena sought reinstatement as an amateur, which she obtained in December 1967. Having been defeated in the early stages of the Irish Close in 1968 and 1969 she claimed her 15th national title in 1970. At the age of 44 years and 27 days, she became the second oldest winner in the championship’s history.
Phil Garvey’s amateur career was at a time when international travel was slow and expensive. Consequently, her overseas competition was limited primarily to the British Ladies’ and to team events. It was as a member of the Curtis Cup team that she got the opportunity to play in the US Women’s Amateur twice. In 1950 she lost in the quarter-finals to the eventual winner, Beverly Hanson. In 1954 she reached the Last 16 before Mary Lena Faulk finished her run. In Phil’s day an amateur had to finance their own travel. Had she lived in a different era she could have made an even greater impact on women’s golf.
Other Irish players were slow to follow her unsuccessful lead. In 1969 Gwen Brandom became the second female Irish golfer to turn professional. Her experiment lasted a decade. In 1986 Maureen Madill turned professional, and succeeded in making a career as a tournament player, teacher and commentator. Later in 1986 Lillian Behan followed Maureen’s example, giving Ireland two female professional golfers for the first time. In 1989, twenty-five years after Phil played in the Irish Professional Championship, Gillian Burrell became the second woman to compete in it. Forty-five years after Phil’s appearance Marion Riordan became the first woman to come through the pre-qualifying process to gain a starting place in the 2009 Irish Professional Championship.
Phil was justly honoured with a biography, Philomena Garvey – Queen of the Irish Fairways, by her namesake Paul Garvey, published in 2009 by The Liffey Press. Sadly, she died on 5 May 2009, shortly before the publication. Today Rebecca Codd is the sole Irish member of the Ladies European Tour, but there are a few female club professionals and teaching pros in various parts of Ireland. They all stand on the shoulders of this giant of Irish women’s golf.
[First published in the Irish Clubhouse, April-May 2014]
I'm a genealogist by profession, with credentials from AGI. I also dabble in local history and the history of Irish golfers, and I'm always writing something!