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]
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]
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]
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!