MacCormack, Dr John D. (“JD”)

Dr. John D. MacCormack (a.k.a. J.D.) Born Co. Westmeath 8 May 1891 – 21 July 1973

Born to Charles and Mary MacCormack, both from Mayo but by 1901 were living in Athlone, Co. Westmeath where their Dad was a General Practitioner. They had eight children including Charles, Mary, Kitty, John Dillon and Edward Deane. It was likely that John was born in County Roscommon. By 1911 the family had moved to Cork where the father was a medical inspector.

During the WWI JD was badly wounded and shell shocked in 1916 while serving for the Royal Army Medical Corps (R.A.M.C.). According to the Great War Forum he was serving with the 141st Field Ambulances when he received his wounds on the 5 Deember 2016. His medical record shows him admitted to Milbank Hospital with GSW on 19 Dec 1916 and discharged to Bathurst House Hospital on 27 Jan 1917 JD was awarded the Military Cross for distinguished services.

He sought the help of a renowned physician in 1922 to allow him to walk again but even at this stage a return of golf seemed a fornlorn hope yet within eight months of his return to Dublin was not only playing but taking the honours in the 1923 Close Championship. According to Paul MacWeeney it was a testament to the human spirit that paralleled that of Ben Hogan’s and Jimmy Walker’s recovery from car crashes.

Wearing a steel corset lined with rubber to support muscles weakened by immobility and non-use he relentlessly set about reconstructing the rythm and power in his swing. JD held his title the following year in 1924 while almost completing the double in Dollymount at the Open Amateur Championship.

Considered a natural swinger of the golf club he had a colourful but forceful personality which probably made him a natural choice to captain Irish International teams which he did from 1934-1937. Immediately recognisable from his attire of riding breeches, buttoned up jacket and tweed cap. His driver which he used to devastating effect was four ounces and four inches longer than the norm and the swiftness of his club-head speed through the ball ensured him great distance and was consider one of if not the longest drivers in the British Isles for a short spell.

He had close connections with three clubs Portmarnock (where he scored the first sub-70 in the Legal Cup – 1934), Hermitage and the Grange.

  • Irish Amateur Close Champion 1923,1924 and 1927
  • Irish Amateur Open Champion runner-up 1924
  • Internationals 1924, 1927-28, 1932-37 [Captain 1934-1937]

He represented Ireland in sixteen international matches and was twice invited by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club to play for Great Britain in the Walker Cup matches in America and to tour Australia and South Africa.

Play Good Golf : J.P. Rooney

Gordon G. Simmonds in, The Walker Cup 1922-1999 Golf’s Finest Contest, his definitive work on the eponymous trophy refers to his selection for the matches at the Garden City Golf Club in New York from 12-13 September 1924. The reason for his withdrawal from the event was the refusal of his employers for the requested time off.

Dr. MacCormack’s participation would have been the culmination of one of the most extraordinary physical recoveries in the history of sport.

Gordon G. Simmonds

In the 1924 British Amateur at St. Andrews he lost by 3 and 1 to Roger Wethered in the quarter-finals. In 1926 at Muirfield he lost to Jesse Sweetser, the first US born amateur to win the Championship, by 4 and 3 in the fifth round. Bear in mind that Sweetser had beaten Bobby Jones by 8 and 7 in the semi-final of the US Amateur in 1922 which he went on to win beating Chick Evans by 3 & 2. In 1927 at Hoylake he lost by one hole to a local player in the quarters and in 1930, the year of the Grand Slam, he lost in the fourth round. Westward Ho! in 1931 was his most successful year at the Amateur Championship when he reached the semi-finals where he was defeated by Martin Smith the eventual winner by 3&1.

On 20th November 1933 he married June Walker (Spinster) at Donnybrook Church, and both were living at 116 Sandford Road at the time. Curiously MacCormack was recorded as widower on the marraige certificate and this referred to an earlier marraige to Eugènie Marie Guillou (13 September 1861 – [Not Known]. Daniel Grojnowski translates police transcripts for his biography of her as follows:

..known as “Guillou de Launay”, is a former nun become prostitute, pimp and follower of the whip..

Paris police archives early twentieth century, transcribed and published by Daniel Grojnowski
On September 21, 1916,  Eugène Guillou married at the town hall of
the 18th arrondissement of Paris, John Dillon MacCormack (1891-1973),
thirty years his junior, of Irish origin and captain of the British
army and champion golfer after the war. 

In John Behrend’s book, The Amateur, it was pointed out that Patrick Campbell indicated that this Amateur Championship would be the first that the UK competitors would have to show their passports to play in their own championship. There was both political and economic (expense involved) pressure being brought to bear for a change of venue.

An impassioned plea by ‘J.D.’ MacCormack at the November meeting of the committee decided the issue and, because of the speculation a press release was issued to the effect that there would be no change of venue.

John Behrend

MacCormack was listed as a competitor in the 1949 Amateur Championship held at Portmarnock Golf Club and was eventually beaten in the third round by Prestwick’s J.M. Dykes jr by 3 and 2.

He died on the 21 July 1973.

Reading Sources

Article by Brendan Cashell in Through the Green published by the British Golf Collectors Society. <Click here>

Wikipedia: Eugene Maries Guillou

Pathe News video of 1929 exhibition match at Hermitage – Johnny Farrell, Ed Dudley, J.D. MacCormack and Matt McDermott Click here.