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]
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!