Holley, William

Born: Dublin 26 June 1893 – Died: 10 January 1986

In 1909 he was apprenticed to James Davies the professional at Killiney Golf Club and by 1911 had moved to Naas Golf Club on a salary of 21 schillings per week where one of his duties was laying out the nine hole course. In 1913 he was appointed professional at the Stillorgan Golf Club where he was in charge of laying out an additional nine-holes. In 1918 he moved to the Castle Golf Club as an assistant to Richard Larkin but after six months moved to Monkstown. The next year in 1919 he took up a position as professional at Killiney GC but moved to the Castle Golf Club where he remained as professional until his retirement in 1965.

Holley won the Michael Moran Challenge Cup six times (1923,24, 26,27,29 and 30) a record only surpassed by Harry Bradshaw who won it thirteen times, in 1930 it was his eighth appearance in the final. Holley first played in a PGA tournament in 1910, it was the Irish section of the Assistants Championship sponsored by Perrier Waters, he finished in second place. He was runner-up in the Irish Professional Championship in 1919 (James O’Hare), 1923 (Moses O’Neill) and 1927 (Patrick O’Hare).

On 29 September 1926 Holley/Nolan teamed up the play with (morning) and against (afternoon) George Duncan and Arthur Havers at Portmarnock. The afternoon match was the highlight but Holley/Nolan were given a two-hole lead despite there own protestations which were borne out when they took the first three holes leaving the touring pros a monumental mountain to climb – the local pros closed out the match by 4 and 2. The galleries at these matches was substantial and comparable with the Irish Professional Championship. For the record Holley and Havers lost the morning match by one hole.

In Easter 1927 Harry Vardon was invited to play an exhibition match at Bundoran partnering Jack Smith, an English professional, against Willie Nolan and Holley. While the Holley/Nolan partnership losy by 3 and 2 the approximate scores showed Holley played the best golf of the fourball, his 71 was two shots better than Vardon and Smith and three better than Nolan. Vardon was likely in his fifty-sixth year at this stage and well past his prime but still managed a very respectably score.

William Holley qualified to play in the Open Championship at Royal St. George’s where he finished on a score of 314 (80,78,79,77) twenty-two shots behind the eventual winner Walter Hagen in joint 33rd place.

Holley played many exhibition matches the most notable being when he partnered Willie Nolan at Clontarf against Walter Hagen and Jack Quinn, the local professional, and managed to beat them 4 and 3 on Saturday 26th May, 1928. Click British Pathe for film footage.

On 31 May 1929 the Nolan/Holley partnership teed up against Ed Dudley and Johnny Farrell (“Smiling Johnny”), the US Open Champion and runner-up in the Open Championship. Farrell was of Irish descent, his parents having emigrated from Queen’s County (Offaly) to New York before he was born. Dudley/Farrell won their match against Holley/Nolan by 2 and 1.

William Holley was elected as first president of the Irish Professional Golfers Association.

Reading Sources:

J.P. Rooney, Play Good Golf 1939