hundred years ago players didn't play to beat par, at the time
it was referred to as bogey. The year saw the inaugural playing
of the Irish Professional Golf Championship, five years before
the Irish PGA was eventually established and a further fifteen
years before the first Irish Open Championship was played.
May Hezlet took
the British Ladies Amateur Championship, a feat that wouldn't
be repeated by an Irish lady for a further forty-four years
[Kitty MacCann: 1951]. The Irish ladies had a triple-crown victory
in the home internationals at Royal County Down, Newcastle it
would be another seventy-three years before this achievement
Both the Irish
Senior and Junior Cups were in existence for seven years and
the Barton cup was only on its second outing after being instituted
by Justice Barton in 1905, he later followed with the Barton
Shield. The entries to the Irish Close Championship at Royal
Portrush, then in its fifteenth year numbered forty and both
the Irish Amateur Open the oldest of the national titles and
South of Ireland Championship attracted strong fields with a
large overseas contingent.
There was in
excess of 100 golf clubs with probably no more than ten to twelve
thousand golfers averaging around hundred players per club.
Six golf clubs started in 1907 and they included Milltown, Muskerry,
Scrabo, Spa, Tuam, Ennis and Borris.
Golf tees as
we know them now (although versions had been patented in the
late 1800s) hadn't been invented it would be a further fifteen
years before the Lowell's Reddy tee appeared and there was a
sand box at each tee which were used to elevate the ball. The
era of the gutty and featherie golf balls were well and truly
over, and replaced by the rubber-cored golf ball patented by
Haskell in 1898. A 21-day court case in 1907 struck down the
patent and allowed all golf ball manufacturers to produce this
cheaper more durable and aerodynamic golf ball which was now
available for 2/- per ball. Dunlop wouldn't start making golf
balls until the following year. Golf clubs were made of hickory,
beech, dogwood and persimmon with beech probably being the more
expensive of these, the quality of the club would also be affected
by what part of the tree it originated from. Aluminium drivers
and putters had been experimented with although the drivers
weren't that common the braid mills aluminium putter was in
common usage. There was no limit on the number of golf clubs
you could use on the course it would be a further 31 years before
it would be limited to 14 clubs on this side of the Atlantic.
Clubs such as the brassie (named after the brass on the sole),
spoon, cleek, mashie, niblick were used which in modern parlance
are equivalent to the two and three woods, three and five iron
and finally a pitching or sand wedge but there were many variations
golfers were usually well to do and wore tweed suits with plus
twos or fours and this would distinguish them from the professionals.
Hickory shafted golf clubs were still being made by professionals
Tom Hood (Royal Dublin), James Rea (Shane's Park), John Aiken
(Portrush) to name but a few. More and more they were being
mass-produced like clubs by Simpson's, Aucterlonie's, Butchart,
Spalding and Andersen. Ladies wore skirts, not full length,
strong boots with studs or nails in them to gain grip, flannel
shirts with golf jacket, gloves to prevent blisters, chaps etc.
Headgear was also used but mainly caps or tam o'shanters so
as to avoid them being blown off in windy conditions.
competitions were normally played in conjunction with the Irish
Amateur Open championship from 1895 until the turn of the century
and from that time the events were organised sporadically until
the professionals approached the then president of the GUI in
1906 with a view to organising an annual event. The then President,
Justice Barton happily obliged and put up a golf medal for the
winner of the championship, the following year the Irish Professional
championship was instituted.
On the 20th
May 1907 the inaugural Irish Professional Golf Championship
took place in Royal Portrush and the prize fund was twenty-four
pounds (2006: Eur 140,000), with a top prize of ten pounds (2006:
Eur 20,000) and was open to all professionals who had resided
in Ireland during the six months prior to the Championship.
The competition was made up of an eighteen-hole qualifier with
the top eight moving to the matchplay stages. Even at this stage
Michael Moran, then only 21 years of age, took third place with
a 78 behind Hamill (Ormeau) and Edmundson (Portrush) with 76s
in relatively good playing conditions. It would appear that
twenty-two professionals took part in the qualifying competition
with the scores as follows:
Professional Championship - Strokeplay Qualifier
There was a
three way tie for the eight qualifying places and the final
slot was decided over nine holes in the afternoon with McNeill
(37), Kidd (38) and Robertson (retired).
Later in the
day the matchplay event got underway with the following results:
Pope beat Hood
3 and 2; Edmundson beat Hamill 5 and 4, Moran beat McNeill 3
and 2,and Snowball beat MacNamara by two holes.
day the semi-finals saw Edmundson face Pope and Moran and Snowball
would make up the other semi-final match. Edmundson took a commanding
lead in the first match and was four up by the turn closing
the match out on the thirteenth after a win, lose, win, and
win sequence for the inward holes. The second semi-final was
more exciting with the match taken all the way to the last.
By the turn Snowball who was playing the better golf was 4up
but in a remarkable turnaround Moran had brought the match back
to level terms by the thirteenth but on the seventeenth he was
laid a dead stymie and this ultimately proved to be the match
The final was
another exciting match with neither player giving the other
a quarter. Edmundson won the first, squared the second, lost
the third and halved the fourth an infringement on the fifth
by Snowball after ending on the road saw this hole handed to
Edmundson but Snowball recovered this on the next. The to and
fro nature of the match continued with Edmundson winning the
eighth with Snowball responding on the ninth to square the match
again. Edmundson took the next three to go three up and Snowball
taking the thirteenth to reduce the deficit. The next two were
halved, followed by another win by Snowball but Edmundson closed
the match out on the seventeenth by 2 and 1 to become the first
Irish Professional Champion.
the championship when he was twenty-one years of age and the
following year won it again together with being placed joint
eleventh in the Open championship. He left Portrush in 1909
to take up an engagement as professional in Bangor later he
moved to Bromborough golf club near Liverpool in 1911/1912 where
he stayed until 1920. Following this he emigrated to the US
and was a professional and the North Hills C.C. between 1921-1930
and won the Pennslyvania Open championship in 1923 (27 June)
at the Huntingdon Valley C.C. In 1925 and 1927 he tied for the
East Falls Open only to be beaten both times in the playoff.
Open strokeplay and International
Prior to the
inaugural professional championship and Open strokeplay competition
was held on the 17 May 2007 over the two courses at Portrush
with a total prize money of fifty pounds. Michael Moran took
the top prize of ten pounds beating is nearest pursuer, Bertie
Snowball, by four shots. In the field which was predominantly
Irish and to a lesser extent Scottish, the latter being there
for the international event which followed, were Ben Sayers
and Archie Simpson who by now were well past there prime when
in the 1880 and early 90s could have been considered realistic
challengers for the Open championship.
The Irish were
successful if lifting the inaugural Irish vs Scottish international
by 13 to 4 on the 18 May 2007.
British Amateur Championship
was played at St. Andrews with a record two hundred entries
meaning the Monday would be used up fully for first round matches
the decision on whether to have qualifying rounds or a handicap
limit would be deferred to the following year. There were four
entries from Ireland two from Portmarnock (Cairnes and Boyd)
and two from Royal Dublin (Dudgeon and Roche). Cairnes was beaten
3 and 2 by Edward Blackwell (the 1904 finalist) in the first
round, Roche scratched while the other two fell at the next
In 1907 the
championship was played at Dollymount with the strokeplay event
prior to the Championship being won by Violet Haslett with ninety
strokes. There were 42 players in the championship. The fourth
round saw a surprise defeat of May Hezlet by Ms J Magill, the
1898 champion, on the final hole but the scores were 91 (40:51)
versus 92 (46:48). In the end Florence Walker Leigh, the Foxrock
player had a convincing 4 and 3 victory over Mrs Fitzgibbons
from the Island.
There were 110
entries and this Championship also saw the Curtis sisters, who
were touring on the continent, playing on these shores for the
first time. Miss Harriot Curtis the then US Ladies' Champion
was beaten 9 and 7 by Ms Titterton, the Musselburgh player,
who covered the first nine in 38 strokes. Miss Margaret Curtis
was beaten by May Hezlet by 3 and 2, however, it needs to be
borne in mind that the Curtis sisters had played very little
golf prior to the Championship although their chances of getting
very far were restricted by relatively inferior short game.
The Championship was cursed with atrocious weather conditions
and the final was between the two Hezlet sisters with the more
accomplished of the two getting the upper hand. Miss May Hezlet
won with a 2 and 1 margin as over a thousand spectators showed
up to witness the spectacle.
The LGU handicapping
system was to set a course with a "bogey" score or
in modern parlance the standard scratch score [SSS]. The SSS
was arrived at by a "champion scratch player" having
played the course and at the time there were eight such players;
Mrs Cuthell (Rhona Adair), May hezlet, Miss M Graham, Lottie
Dod (the ex Wimbledon champion), Dorothy Campbell, Miss A. Glover,
Miss E.C. Neville and Miss B Thompson one of which would have
played the course and thereby set the SSS which would then determine
the handicapping for all other lady golfers. If the course had
not been played by one of these, the handicap manager would
source a person with knowledge of scratch golf and they would
assess how many shots they felt they might go around the course
was played in Portmarnock and while access now to the course
is quite simple, back in 1907 it would involve rail, road and
sea. The original clubhouse had been burned down in 1905 and
was replaced the year prior to the event with a relatively unobtrusive
concrete structure, the skeletal of the current clubhouse. The
journey involved the train to Sutton and the one mile journey
by horse drawn cart (known as a "vis-à-vis")
to the crossing at Baldoyle. If you were at low tide the vis-à-vis
might make the crossing while the passenger or "fare"
watches the water pouring through the cab. The alternative was
the row boat, it was a further two years before they would get
a motor boat and if you were unfortunate to want to play on
the Lords day then you would have to wade across the stretch
of water with clubs and shoes from the mainland to the clubhouse
on the peninsula. Once there, you discovered the true charm
of splendid isolation and still within seven miles of the metropolis.
In the evening the famous Captain Weatherall bell would toll
for the last boat crossing for the day.
which normally preceded the Championship, were cancelled due
to the large entry (149 players) for the Championship lest they
couldn't complete the event by the Friday. The strokeplay event,
before the Championship proper was marred by bad weather and
many of the players would return NRs, eventually it was won
by JA Healing from Richmond with a 79 across the Portmarnock
links. One hundred years on and the field is limited to 120
players, 84 of which are overseas and the handicap is also restricted
to anyone on plus 1.2 or better. Now the event is decided over
four rounds of stroke play from Friday to Sunday in 1907 (and
up to 1958) it was match play format played from Monday to Friday.
the field was John Ball the reigning British Amateur Champion
and the 1890 British Open Champion. One shock result during
the early rounds was the shock defeat of Boyd, the Portmarnock
player and champion in 1905, by an as yet unheard of, Lionel
Munn from the North West golf club who eventually went out in
the fourth round. Munn would himself win the title three times
in succession from 1909-1911.
In the quarterfinals
Ball went out to Chesterton from Royal Mid-Surrey despite being
three up at the turn and the semifinals had only one Irishman
left, Cairnes, who had seen off Howard Mitchell from Murrayfield
in exemplary fashion using his local knowledge and trademark
pitch and run to deadly effect. Another Murrayfield player and
event winner, J Douglas Brown, would take Cairnes out in the
semifinals but only by the narrowest of margins. The final was
played between Mr Brown and S H Fry from Royal Mid-Surrey, both
covering the first eighteen holes in 82 strokes and the final
seventeen holes were covered in 75 vs. 78.
A number of
Irish professionals entered the British Open Championship in
1907; Harry Kidd (Malone), James Edmundson (the Irish champion:
Portrush), H.Hamill (Ormeau) and William McNamara the Lahinch
professional but neither put up a particularly good showing
with Kidd doing the best of these in 24th place. Another professional
A. H. Toogood also entered as the professional at Tramore but
originally was a native of England who did only one better.
The South of
Ireland championship following closely on the heels of the Irish
Open and it wasn't uncommon for overseas competitors to take
in both events. Lahinch around the time of the golf was a vibrant
town which ran a number of festivities attracting the crowds
since the opening of the West Clare Railway.
were entered for the championship, which included John Ball.
Cairnes and Boyd the Irish hopefuls were knocked out in the
first and second round respectively. As normal the strokeplay
competition preceded the championship with Ranson, who went
on to win his first round match against Cairnes, was victorious
with 75 strokes. Ranson also went on to record a surprise defeat
of John Ball in the fourth round (quarter finals). It was followed
in the afternoon with a bogey competition which Cairnes won.
As was normal
at these events a sweep was taking place on a winner takes all
outcome for the person selecting the eventual winner.
eventual winner was playing out of Machrihanish he was a native
of Limerick and was working in Scotland as an excise officer.
His putting was very good if not a little unorthodox (for the
time) in that he would lie flat on the ground to read the line
of the putt. He played Gillies from Woking and eventually won
by 4 and 2 over the thirty-six holes.