Philomena Garvey – Queen of the Irish Fairways


Philomena Garvey (“Phil”), the slim, fair-haired girl from the small village of Baltray sadly passed away this year on the doorstep of her beloved County Louth Golf Club. She lived at a time when women didn’t occupy any status in sport let alone golf. Phil dominated ladies Irish golf from 1946 to 1970. This journey saw her reach the top of her sport and achieve celebrity status at a time when golf was mainly a male preserve. Upon her shoulders rested the hopes and aspirations for ladies golf in Ireland for quarter of a century. Her death in May 2009 while residing in her beloved Baltray left much of her story untold.

Henry Cotton described her as: “The finest woman golfer I’ve ever seen” and aspects of her game compared to Ben Hogan, Walter Hagen and Joyce Wethered. Renowned abilities of concentration and professionalism took her to fifteen national titles, five Ladies’ British Open Amateur finals and representation on the Curtis Cup team, the ultimate accolade for ladies amateur golf, on six occasions. This was all achieved while working at Clerys department store in Dublin.

Her greatest achievement was winning the British Ladies’ Open Amateur Championship at Gleneagles in 1957. The following year as reigning champion, Phil controversially refused to wear the Union Jack as the sole emblem of the Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup team. The intransigence of the LGU executive council to accommodate an Irish sportswoman deprived her of a chance to rightfully compete on the world stage. Thankfully her sacrifice was not in vain for future players but Phil bore the brunt of their displeasure at the height of her golfing powers.

Phil’s golfing odyssey saw her compete with some of the greatest lady golfers of her generation, in the greatest events her sport had to offer, on the most spectacular and exclusive golf courses. Joining the professional ranks, a golf club endorsement contract and articles on golf instruction were all firsts for ladies golf in Ireland. Anne Tunney the centenary President of the Irish Ladies Golfing Union described her simply as: “a golfing national treasure”.

This is her story.

Additional information


Garvey, Paul


Irish Interest



Year of Publication