One hundred years ago the issues that played on golfers minds were; Sunday play, croquet mallet putters, the virtues of the smooth vs bramble golf ball and the state of the handicapping system.
The Irish Field brought out the Irish Field Golfer’s Guide in 1909 it was considered a significant breakthrough in promoting golf in Ireland.
A record drive of 469 yards was recorded over the North Berwick golf course by W.H. Horne, it exceeded Edward Blackwell’s record by 100 yards. The longest featherie drive was recorded by a Frenchman at St. Andrews in 1858, it was 361 yards.
Gambling was not prevalent on the golf courses of Ireland unlike their counterparts across the water who considered it an intrinsic part of the weekend singles or fourball. As one Irish Times journalist (who obviously like the occasional flutter) put it: “bookmakers on the course would be excellent people in the wrong place.”
Many golf clubs started in 1909 including Laytown & Bettystown, Bandon, Thurles, Dun Laoghaire, and Douglas golf clubs were all instituted in 1909. Others like Charleville and Stillorgan Park golf clubs were formed but didn’t last, at least, as is the case of Charleville not in their original form. By June Stillorgan Park golf course already had 225 male members and 125 female members, Murray was the professional, a protege of James McKenna, while at Portmarnock. It was 2,500 yards with a bogey 37 but wasn’t scheduled for regular play until the following year. Omagh and Dundrum (Co. Dublin) are also mentioned as courses starting in 1909.
Lionel Hewson was captain of Dun Laoghaire GC (or Kingstown GC as it was called then ) in its inaugural year, and commented that historians would remember two years in relation to Kingstown, 1817 for the building of the pier and 1909 for the formation of the golf club. Co-incidentially he was the editor of the Irish Golfers’ Guide for 1910 and for the magazine The Irish Golfer.
The Midland Great Western re-opened the Mallranny golf on the Achill extension line of the Midland Great Western Railway. The course was originally designed by Tom Hood.
Toome Club on the shores of Lough Neagh was created in place of a previously defunct course and Alec Day was appointed professional with George Baillie and John Black the driving forces behind the club. Despite backing from such notable luminaries the course didn’t appear in the Golfer’s Guide the following year.
The Elvery’s New Gipsy golf ball cost 1s 6d, gloves 2s 6d, a pair and brogues and boots cost anywhere between 17s 6d and 21s. Tweed golfing skirts 10s 22d. Dunlop Orange Spot, Haskell Royal, Kite, Baby Kite, Kempshall, Gipsy and Golden Kite golf balls, the latter claiming forty yards on its contemporaries, seemed to have been the missiles in vogue at the time.
It was noted in the Irish Times (“IT”) that Killarney had invested in a motorised lawn mower at a cost of £100, the IT special correspondent felt it was probably the first of its kind in Ireland.
1909 saw the introduction of the “Dreadnaught” golf club which was much publicised after Robert Maxwell won the Amateur Championship with the club. The club was a broader and deeper version of the existing clubs and in someways similar to “The Bap” developed by John Aitken from the Royal County Club (now Royal Portrush GC). However, this club had a whippy shaft with the suppleness focused near the grip. Basically it gave you greater distance if you were already a good golfer but could prove unforgiving in the wrong hands, the secret (it is said) was to let the club do the work and don’t force the shot. Probably the Big Bertha of its day.
It was becoming a part of the golfing landscape for two professionals to issue a challenge to all comers to foursome match : Professional Challenge Match. Edmundson and Hamill had defeated Kidd and Pope in a similar match and Moran and McKenna were now throwing down the gauntlet for a 72 holes event over two courses.
An eagerly awaited match between Edmundson and Moran took place over the Dollymount course, whose members put up the purse, on the 30 April 1909. Moran was considered by some to have an ugly but very effective swing and Edmundson, the visitor, had won the first two Irish Professional Championships and rightfully considered the best professional at the time. The match had already been postponed through illness, a bronchial infection, on the part of Edmundson and he hardly seemed to have fully recovered. The match was played in strong winds and rain so it would be difficult to use it to guage their pecking order. After thirty-six holes the match ended in a draw with Moran shooting 79,86 to 82,83.
In late July Harry Vardon played a best ball of John F. MacNamara (Muskerry GC) and Brown at the Little Island GC he was at the time on a visit for the purpose of laying out the Douglas Golf Club’s new course. Vardon was level at the end of the eighteen holes but his lack of knowledge of the links was his main obstacle as his golf was seen as far superior to that of of his opponents. Vardon joined forces with McNamara to play Brown and Le Folly (Middleton) winning the match one up. This match delayed the MacNamara’s arrival at the professional competition being played in the Curragh the following day.
Harry Vardon (77,71) played Michael Moran (78,75) at Delgany on the 18 September. The primary reason for his visit was to improve the difficulty of the course which was relatively bunkerless.
Michael Moran vs Fred Smyth 9 October 1909 – Moran won comfortably 4up after 36 holes at Hermitage the final 36 to be played at Dollymount 20 October 1909. The prize was for a substantial purse put up by the members of both clubs. Moran 77,29 to Smyth (82, 32) with Moran eventually winning 12 and 11.
US Ladies golf
No golfer is afraid of a true lady golfer. A “true lady golfer” embraces many qualities which the majority of lady players can never hope to acquire.
The 1909 US Ladies’ Amateur Championship was played at Merion and there were sixty-seven starters of which 32 reached the matchplay stages. Nonna Barlow, a native of County Waterford, lost to Dorothy Campbell in the final by 3 and 2. Campbell was the reigning British and Scottish Amateur champion but despite this Nonna Barlow was able to hold her off until the thirteenth.
The Rules of Golf
The year ushered in a changes in the rules of golf:
· Upon hitting the ball out of bounds from the tee area you could now tee-up the ball again. Hitting out of bounds from anywhere else meant taking a drop.
· Dropping would be done from over the shoulder and not the head as in the past.
· You could no longer sweep the line of a putt with your hand and dirt, snow and other impediments could only be removed with a club but by not applying more weight than that of the club itself.
· You could now take relief from casual water whether you were lying in it or if it interfered with your line to the hole. You could now drop two clubs behind where the ball rested or the nearest point of relief to this.
· Also playing a putt while the opponent’s ball is still in motion would result in the loss of the hole rather than the loss of a stroke as was previously the case.
Irish Professional Championship (May 12-14)
On the 14th May 1909 the IPC thirty-six-hole final was played over the Newcastle links with Michael Moran comprehensively beating Harry Kidd the Malone professional by 9 & 7. Accounts of the match recall Kidd securing an early three hole lead with Moran bringing the match all square by the turn. Moran proceeded to win four of the next five holes but lost the next two leaving the match with a two up lead at the half way stage. The final eighteen saw Moran playing great golf as he was out in thirty nine despite high winds leaving him seven up and followed it by winning the first two holes on the inward journey to secure the match and his first victory in the championship. This year was the last year for the matchplay format and the eighth qualifiers for the matchpaly stages were:
M. Moran (Royal Dublin) beat F. Bacon (Royal Portrush) 3 & 2
F Smith (Hermitage) beat H. Hamill (Ormeau) 3 & 2
H. Kidd (Malone) beat H. Ms Neill (Royal Portrush) 2 & 1
C. W. Pope (Fortwilliam) beat James Edmundson (Bangor) 2 & 1
Moran beat Smith 5 & 4
Kidd beat Pope 5 & 4
Moran beat Kidd 9 & 7
On July 23-24 the Curragh was handed over to professionals who wished to qualify for the News of the World £240 tournament two players would qualify from the Irish section. The prelude was a PGA strokeplay competition over thirty-six holes which was won by Harry Kidd (73,72) with Moran and Pope in second place (73,77) won the Irish qualifying section over thirty-six holes. Moran won his place in the News of the World after scoring 148 while Kidd and Robertson would play-off for the final place both finishing on 152. A curious incident would arise when it was later believed the Kidd may have signed for the wrong score albeit that an official marker was on hand to count and mark the cards. A three rather than a four may have been provided for on the basis of an answer given by a spectator. Presumably as Kidd was not offering to retract his score he felt the correct score had been lodged the Curragh GC made a statement in an IT editorial that the cards would stand an and additional £5 be put up as prize-money for the play-off. In the end the IPGA disqualified Harry Kidd in the News of the World qualifier upon Kidd’s acknowledgement of the error. In the end both Robertson and Moran were beaten in the first round of the News of the World tournament.
British Amateur Championship (25-29 May Muirfield)
Prior to the championship there was a proposal put by Edinburgh Burgess that the rota be changed to include an Irish club (Dollymount was stated example) by 1912. At the time the Amateur Championship was in the hands of the clubs on the rota (Hoylake, St. Andrews, Prestwick, Sandwich and Muirfield). Alas a new club was added to the rota but it was Westward Ho! Who hosted the event in 1912. It was recognised (in the would turkeys vote for Xmas category) that the only chance Ireland had of hosting the championship was if the Royal and Ancient were given control of the event.
There were a few scalps taken in the third and fourth rounds at Muirfield and Munn’s win over James Robb the 1906 champion gave some hope of an Irish victory. Munn was now playing out of Londonderry rather than the usual Dublin University affiliation. Munn went out in the next (fourth) round to Captain C.K. Hutchison on his home turf and this together with Dickson’s exit ended Irish involvement in the Championship.
Irish Ladies Close Championship (4-6 May – Lahinch)
The end of an era was ushered in when, on 10th March a presentation was made to May Hezlet by the ILGU for her contribution to Irish Golf. Her marriage on the 27 April meant she would not be defending her title at the out-of-the-way venue at Lahinch.
The sixteenth championship was played at Lahinch and despite the loss of Miss Hezlet the championship had the other Hezlet sisters, Mabel Harrison, Florence Walker-Leigh and Amy F. Ormsby. While Florence Hezlet’s early exit was unexpected the appearance of three of the last four in the Championship wasn’t, the exception being Amy who had really figured in the event before this.
Few at this stage would have bet against Miss Walker-Leigh, the 1907 champion. Amy Ormsby, the County Sligo player was quietly making her way through the rounds despite not having everything her own way. Amy faced Miss Walker-Leigh in the semi-final causing an upset by winning the match by 4 & 2 to take her place in the final against Miss Violet Hezlet. In the final she found herself three down but recovered quickly to the extent of being dormy in the lead by the fifteenth. In the end Amy took the next hole closing the match out by another 4 & 2 margin.
Later, Amy Ormsby would emigrate to South Africa with her husband Larry Vernon (winner of the inaugural West of Ireland championship) where she would win four South African (SA) Ladies’ Championships, an event coincidently instituted in 1909. Her first win in 1922 was as a member of Mowbray but later victories (1925,26,34) were as a member of Royal Johannesburg. One hundred years later Mrs A F Vernon would be balloted for induction into the SA hall of fame.
Left to Right: Miss Violet Hezlet, Lord Dunalley, Miss Walker Leigh, Sir Alex Shaw, Mrs Jackson and Miss Amy Ormsby
British Ladies Championship (17-21 May – Birkdale)
The 1909 Championship was played at Royal Birkdale and Florence Hezlet was again denied the ultimate prize in Ladies’ golf by being beaten 4 and 3 by Dorothy Campbell Hurd. Florence had lost to her more famous sister May in the 1907 final at Newcastle. Miss Campbell was the steadier player and while Florence showed moments of brilliance it wasn’t sufficient to sustain a credible challenge.
Irish Open Championship (30 August-3 September – Dollymount)
102 entrants but despite the inability to attract Robert Maxwell, Hilton or Hutchinson a first class field did show up. By the fifth round Munn was the last Irish person standing while he had a close first round match against J D Gardinier from there is passage proved reasonable unimpeded including a fourth round match against his brother Ector, whom he defeated by 6 and 4. In the fifth round Munn beat H.E. Taylor (Richmond’s Gate) by 6 and 5 and had another emphatic win over J.D. Lyttle (Burntisland) by the same margin. J.D. Lyttle would go on to win the South of Ireland championship at Lahinch between 8-12 September. In the final he beat Robert Garson the Scottish golfer from Troon GC by 2 up. It wasn’t until the last nine of the thirty-six hole final that the match got really interesting. Munn had gone into lunch four up and held onto that lead until the turn but heading for home started to miss small putts and the margin was being reeled in. Fortunately he held on to become only the second Irish winner in eighteen outings of the championship.
Irish Amateur Close Championship (18 May – May – Newcastle)
There were fifty entrants for this event, some of whom, for whatever reason, entered anonymously or under a nom-de-golf. Lionel Munn decided to defend his title despite suggestions that he might concentrate on the Amateur Championship. Munn got a bit of a scare in the third round when he turned three down against P.F. Jameson, the Malahide player but didn’t lose a hole from there in eventually closing out the match on the seventeenth by 2 & 1. The next round saw Munn defeated by Mr D. Martin, the Royal Dublin player, on the fourth extra tie hole. In the final it was another Dublin University player, A.H. Patterson who took the laurels against E.F. Spiller from Malone G.C. It was at all times a close match and nothing separated them and it eventually took the first extra tie hole to decide the contest.
Munn would play an exhibition match against Harold Hilton on the 26 June to celebrate Ormeau’s new nine-hole course. Lionel Munn won the thirty-six-hole competition. Hilton, the chain smoking golfer with the “piccolo” grip had two Amateur and Open Championships to his name and while he experience a lull in his golf since 1901 when many thought he was a spent force until 1909 when he began showing some of his old form. It was a significant scalp for Munn but he was unable to translate it into a win in either of the events that stand testament to your legacy in the golfing firnament.
British Open Championship – Deal (8-11 June)
There were 204 entrants, out of which only sixty four players survived included in these qualifiers was Michael Moran and Hughie McNeill. Moran was best positioned at the end of the championship in joint twenty-first albeit nineteen shots behind Taylor the eventual winner.