The story of armed conflict often dominates and clouds our perception of the past. When we read about a time of war it seems as if nothing but war was happening: as if normal life was suspended while shooting and killing were all pervasive. The Great War of 1914-1918 was an armed conflict that impacted on people’s lives all over the globe. It finished in November 1918 and in Ireland two months later the War of Independence began. It lasted until July 1921.
After the Great War competitive and championship golf resumed in many parts of the world during 1919, even as the global influenza pandemic burned itself out. The three Irish national championships (ladies’, men’s amateur and professional – won by Janet Jackson, Ernest Carter and Pat O’Hare), as well as the Irish Amateur Open (won by Carl Bretherton of England), all took place in 1919, despite the added obstacle of the War of Independence.
One of the casualties of the Great War was Michael Moran, who died in 1918, aged 32. Before the conflict he was Ireland’s leading professional, and he tied for third place in The Open Championship in 1913. As a memorial, the golf clubs of the province of Leinster presented a trophy to be competed for among professionals, originally only those from Leinster. The first staging of the Moran Cup was at Hermitage, Co. Dublin, on 5-7 May 1920. It was a match-play event and the winner was Moses O’Neill, who beat Fred Smyth at the first extra hole in the 36-hole final.
The (British) Ladies’ Championship was resumed only in 1920. It was to take place in 1919 but it was abandoned: not due to influenza, but because of the nine-day national railway strike in September-October. The 1920 championship was played in mid-May at Royal Co. Down, Newcastle. Cecil Leitch, then widely regarded as the greatest lady golfer, came to Newcastle as the reigning British, French and English champion.
1920 was the sixth time the championship was played in Ireland and the third time it was played at Newcastle. On both previous occasions, 1899 and 1907, the finals were played between two Irish competitors. On this occasion two Irish ladies reached the quarter-finals. They were Marion Alexander and the Irish Close champion, Janet Jackson. Alexander lost at that stage, but Jackson beat Phyllis Lobett from England by 8/6. Her semi-final was a close run affair against another English player, Molly Griffiths, but Jackson lost by one hole. It was her second time to reach that stage in the championship. In the final Cecil Leitch came through again to win her second of four British titles.
The Open Championship did not restart until 30 June 1920, when play commenced at Royal Cinque Ports in Kent. No Irish competitor featured on the last day, and it is doubtful that there was any Irishman in the field. Across the Atlantic in August 1920 the other ‘Major’ of professional golf, the US Open, took place at Inverness in Toledo, Ohio. Three Irishmen completed all four rounds. Gene McCarthy, a long-time resident of the USA, finished in 67th place. Pat Doyle, from Delgany in Co. Wicklow, was joint 43rd. The best of the Irish was Peter O’Hare, one of three golfing brothers from Greenore, Co. Louth. He finished tied for 27th position, 15 shots behind the winner, Ted Ray. For whatever reason, the O’Hare brothers were referred to consistently as O’Hara in America.
Days after the US Open finished, the US PGA Championship (not yet quite the ‘Major’ it subsequently became) commenced at Flossmoor in Chicago. At that time it was a match-play event, with 32 players qualifying to compete after 36 holes of stroke-play. Among the 32 qualifiers were four Irish competitors – Tom Boyd, originally from Armagh, Pat Doyle and the ‘O’Hara’ brothers, Pat and Peter. Each match in each round was over 36 holes. All but Peter O’Hare went out in the first round, Peter beating Pat Doyle by 1 hole, while Pat O’Hare was defeated by the same margin by the eventual runner-up, Douglas Edgar. Peter got to the quarter-finals, where he was beaten on the 38th hole by George McLean.
Meanwhile, back in Ireland in May, the Irish Professional Championship had been played at Castlerock as a sort of preamble to the Irish Amateur Close. The professional title was not defended by the holder as he was Pat O’Hare, who was competing in the USA by that time. He was replaced as Irish champion by the third O’Hare brother, Jimmy, who won in the first ever play-off in the event. Jimmy O’Hare and Harry Hamill finished in a tie on 315 for the 72-hole championship. The next day their 18-hole play-off resulted in a 3 shot win for O’Hare. Jimmy O’Hare was professional at Skerries Golf Club, Co. Dublin, at the time. Three months after his win, the Skerries clubhouse was burned to the ground and the championship cup was destroyed. This does not seem to have been linked to the War of Independence.
The Irish Close championship that followed the professional one, at the same venue, was won by Charles Hezlet, who had been runner-up in The Amateur Championship at Sandwich in 1914, not long before war was declared. As a British Army officer, Hezlet spent the next several years as a soldier and he was only slowly returning to competitive golf by 1920. At this point this article veers in the direction of self-indulgence, with mention of the writer’s grandfather, Joe Gorry. He reached the Irish Close quarter-finals, where he was beaten 3/2 by Hezlet. Referring to Charles Hezlet, the Belfast Newsletter of 1 June 1920 stated:
In his earlier matches the opposition was not very serious, but on the Wednesday he ran up against Gorry, of Kildare, who, as all are aware, is a very hard man to beat. On this occasion Hezlet played better golf than before, and Gorry, in his anxiety to leave nothing to chance, practically beat himself by the elaborate and, as many thought, the unnecessary care he took over every shot.
The Amateur Championship returned from hibernation in early June 1920, at Muirfield, near Edinburgh. Best of the Irish was Charles Hezlet, who reached the fourth round (last 32), going down to G.L. Mellin, who ended his challenge in the semi-finals. Also in early June, the Irish Ladies’ Close was played at Royal Portrush and the holder, Janet Jackson of the Island Golf Club, Co. Dublin, retained the title. This was her fourth in a row, as she had won the title in 1913 and 1914, before the suspension of competition due to the war, and she won it again when competition resumed in 1919. She was to claim the title twice more, in 1923 and 1925. Her photograph is reproduced here courtesy of the Women Golfers’ Museum.
The autumn brought the last two big events of the Irish calendar, the Irish Amateur Open and the South of Ireland. In 1919 the Amateur Open, played at Royal Portrush, had its usual quota of cross-channel competitors, with Carl Bretherton of England winning the final against Tommy Armour, the future professional from Scotland. The other two semi-finalists also were from England. The 1920 staging was at Portmarnock, in Co. Dublin. The field was down from 132 the previous year to 83, and only 16 entered from across the Irish Sea, compared with 57 in 1919. Bretherton came to defend his title, but he was defeated in the quarter-finals by Noel Martin of Portrush, another Irish veteran of the Great War. Only one non-Irish player made it to the semi-finals and Martin was the eventual winner.
In another display of self-indulgence, the following was reported on 7 September 1920 in the Irish Independent account of the first round:
One of the disappointments was the moderate form shown by J. Gorry (Kildare), who was 3 down at the turn to J.L. Morgan (Delgany), and was beaten 3 and 2, but it must be said in extenuation of the Kildare man’s form that he was playing with strange clubs, his own having been burnt in the recent fire at the Skerries Club.
The South of Ireland Amateur Championship at Lahinch followed on the heels of the Amateur Open and the victor was Ernest Carter, yet another British Army officer. His entry in the 1922 Golfer’s Handbook states:
Badly wounded in the war and amputation of a leg was deemed necessary to save his life. He refused to permit the operation “because with only one leg he would be little use at golf and life would be unbearable”.
Carter’s victory in the 1919 Irish Close is all the more remarkable because of this. His win in the 1920 South of Ireland final had some War of Independence mischief as a backdrop. Arthur J. Quinlan’s history of the ‘South’ relates a story told by John Burke. In 1920 Burke was involved in the armed struggle but in later years he was one of Ireland’s greatest amateur golfers. He told Quinlan that during the final he and two others removed the Union Jack from the flagpole outside the clubhouse and burned it, replacing it with a Tricolour.
During the politically turbulent times the Irish region of the Professional Golfers Association divided into northern and southern branches. In September 1920 a stroke tournament for northern professionals was held at Bangor, with Harry Hamill winning the event. In succeeding years this developed into the Ulster Professional Championship.
Two babies born in 1920 were among those who in later years would make their mark on Irish golf. In February, Zelie Godfrey was born. It was under her married name of Fallon that she won the Irish Ladies’ Close in 1964, becoming the oldest ever winner, at 44 years and 94 days. Philomena Garvey was 67 days younger when she won her last Irish title in 1970. Zelie Fallon remarried and in later years was better known as Mrs. Gaynor.
In May 1920, Jimmy Bruen came into the world. He became an amateur golf sensation in the late 1930s but his career was interrupted by World War II and his sparkle had faded by the time he reached his early thirties. Nevertheless, he won the Boys’ Championship, the Amateur Championship, the Irish Amateur Open and the Irish Close, as well as being leading amateur in The Open.
Despite the overshadowing story of conflict, 1920 in Ireland had an eventful golf calendar, and the beginnings of new growth.
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]
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]
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!