IRISH GOLF TIMELINE - 1907

Summary of events: 1907

One 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 was repeated.

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.

Golf Courses

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.

Equipment

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 on these.

Apparel

Amateur male 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.

Championships

Irish Professional Championship

Professional 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:

Irish Professional Championship - Strokeplay Qualifier

Henry Hamill, Ormeau 76
James Edmundson, Portrush 76
Michael Moran, Dundalk 78
Bertie Snowball, Portmarnock 78
Willie McNamara, Lahinch 79
Charles W. Pope, Fortwilliam
81
Tom Hood, Royal Dublin 81
Hughie McNeill, Portrush 81
Edward Kidd, Malone 82
Alex Robertson, Newcastle 82
Michael Cahill, Skerries 83
G.P. Elder, Foxrock 84
David Brown, Cork 86
James Bonner, North West 87
John MacNamara, Co. Cork 87
Thomas Shannon, Greenore 87
Henry J. Magee, Bundoran 88
Richard Larkin, Bray 89
James Barrett, Portrush 90
John J. McKenna, Malahide 92
Francis Beacon, Portrush 93
Jas. McKenna, Carrickmines NR

 

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.

The following 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 winner.

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.

Edmundson won 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.

Irish Professional 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

The 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 hurdle.

Irish Ladies Close Championship

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.

British Ladies Championship

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 in.

Irish Amateur Open Championship

The Championship 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.

The Internationals, 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.

Included in 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.

British Open Championship

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.

South of Ireland Championship

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.

Sixty-one players 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.

Although the 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.

Event Venue Date Winner Runner-up Margin
Irish Close Amateur Championship Portrush 22-25 May H.M. ("Guppy") Cairnes Henry.A.Boyd 7 and 6
Irish Open Amateur Championship Portmarnock 2-6 September J. Douglas Brown S.H.Fry 2 and 1
Irish Ladies Close Championship Dollymount (Royal Dublin) 23-25 April Florence Walker Leigh Mrs Fitzgibbon 4 and 3
Irish Professional Championship Portrush 20-21 May James Edmundson Bertie Snowball 5 and 3
British Amateur Championship St. Andrews 27-31 May John Ball C.A. Palmer 6 and 4
British Ladies Amateur Championship Newcastle, County Down 7-10 May May Hezlet Florence Hezlet 2 and 1
British Open Hoylake   Arnaud Massy   312
Home Internationals - men's          
Home Internationals - Ladies Newcastle, County Down 3-4 May Ireland "Triple Crown Victory"    
South of Ireland Championship Lahinch 11-14 September J.J. Hurley H.D.Gillies 4 and 2
Irish Senior Cup     Portmarnock    
Irish Junior Cup     Sutton    
Barton Cup     Bray    

 

 

 

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