Lionel Oulton Moore Munn was born in Londonderry in 4 May 1887 educated at St. Columba’s College, a boarding school in Rathfarnham and Trinity College Dublin where he played three quarter back for the Trinity XV in the 1909-1910 season. His father Afred Moore Munn worked for the City and County of Londonderry, his birthplace while his mother Blanche was born in Dublin City.
Much of Lionel Munn’s early years golf were spent on the ladies’ course at Buncrana and not Lisfannon and his brother’s (Ector) ability to take sixpences off him made him in matches only more entrenched in his desire to master the game. Some considered Ector the equal of his brother except he hadn’t played the number of courses Lionel had played but Lionel’s record will always stand as testament to who was the better of these siblings.
Munn was a careful, methodical player who weighed up each shot before playing it and his strengths lay in his long drives and deadly putting. By 1939 when JP Rooney’s Blue Book appeared he was an honorary member of Portrush, Castlerock, Lahinch, Island, Portmarnock and North West golf clubs.
British Amateur Championship (25-29 May 1908, Sandwich, Royal St. George’s)
The Championship was played at Sandwich, Royal St. George’s with only a small Irish contingent, all but one of which made it through the first round but by the third round all were packing their bags. However, Lionel Munn’s third round match was a humdinger, when it broke all previous records by going for ten extra holes, finishing on the 28th. Munn was playing C A Palmer from Handsworth, the previous year’s losing finalist.
British Amateur Championship (25-29 May 1909, Muirfield)
At the time the Amateur Championship was in the hands of the clubs on the rota (Hoylake, St. Andrews, Prestwick, Sandwich and Muirfield). 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 Open Championship
1909 Dollymount 31 August – 3 September
Lionel Munn had made the last eight in the championship by beating his brother by 6 and 4. Munn then played Herbert E Taylor of Richmond beating him by 6 and 5 in the fifth round with a enviable display of near faultless golf it was figured that the first bad shot he hit was on the sixth. He had reached the turn three up after playing 37 shots but Taylor wasn’t playing that badly and had kept pace with Munn after losing 3 of the first four holes. Munn’s card read [Out] 4,4,4,4,4,5,4,4,4 [In] 4,4,3,4 when he closed the match out on the thirteenth. Munn met Mr R Garson of Troon in the final of a championship which had only one Irish winner since it started back in 1892 the year following the foundation of the Golfing Union of Ireland. Initially the match looked like it would be won by Munn by a substantial margin but Carson dug deep and showed his grit in the afternoon as he clawed his way back into it and the result wasn’t finally decided until the eighteenth where Munn held on for a two hole victory.
Mr Justice Barton presented the trophy together with miniatures of an old Irish cup know as the Mother Cup. Hugh Kelly Hon.Treasurer of the GUI acted as official referree for the match. In the match Garson drew first blood at the first but at the fourth Munn had retrieved this and was three up by the turn, going out in 37 the match see-sawed for the next few holes and eventually by the end Munn was four up going into the final eighteen. As they reached tthe final nine holes Munn was still four up both having had 39s on the outward journey. Munn immediately lost the first two holes when he uncharacteristically missed shortish putts to half them. On the sixteenth three putts saw his lead reduce to one. Garson should have squared the match at the next hole as Munn missed another putt within two yards of the hole but Garson also missed from inside this range and left the match one down going into the last. However two good shots on the last together with Garson hitting the hazard where he needed two to get out and the match was conceding when Munn slid his ball close to the hole.
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.
1910 Portrush 29 August – 2 September [160 entrants 60 Scotsmen]
The course was set out as follows:
In the strokeplay event on Monday Lionel Munn playing with J.F. Mitchell produced the lowest score (77) in the qualifying round while rain had hampered the early starters it was just beginning to clear up when this pairing took to the golf course. At the time Munn was playing off a handicap of plus 4 so Mr A Babington of Royal Dublin took the handicap score with a 79 playing off scratch.
After a bye in the first round of the championship Munn beat J.D Gardner from West Lanc, playing off a handicap of plus 1, by 7 and 6 and went on to beat Rev. Potter from Headingley by 4 and 3. By the fourth round the field had been whittled down to thirty-two. Munn defeated Morton by 4 and 3 and faced Medrington i n the afternoon and despite halving the first hole with a six he managed to win every other hole on an outward leg of 39 strokes; eventually closing out the match by 8 and 6. In the sixth round Munn beat W. Crawford by 5 and 4 and continued is good form when playing George Wilkie beating him by a margin of 3 and 2. Munn would have shot a 73 if you gave him “bogey” for the last two holes of the semi-final match.
Munn was again crowned Irish Open Champion when he defeated Gordon Lockhart of Prestwick St. Nicholas by 9 and 7.
1911 Pormarnock 28 August – 1 September [123 entrants]
Munn took his third consecutive title by beating the Hon. Michael Scott in the final by 7 and 6.
Munn played in the Open Championship twice, twenty-one years apart, and his results are provided below but despite this he was inside the top twenty-five players after two rounds.
Munn also won the Irish Close Championship in 1908, 1911, 1913 and 1914. Munn gave up the game completely between 1914 and 1930, he joined as a lieutenant in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers during World War I.
British Amateur Championship (1930, St. Andrews)
Munn entered but appears to have scratched before his first match, at the time he was playing out of Royal Cinque Ports (Deal).
British Amateur Championship (1931, Westward Ho!)
Munn lost in second round by 1 hole.
British Amateur Championship (1932, Muirfield)
Munn made it to the semi-finals losing only to John De Forest by one hole.
British Amateur Championship (1933, Royal Liverpool, Hoylake)
Lionel lost in third round to JB Nash by 4 and 2.
British Amateur Championship (1934, Prestwick)
Munn made it through to the fourth round before being beaten by the eventual winner Lawson Little from the Presidio Club in the USA by 3 and 2.
British Amateur Championship (1935, Royal Lytham St. Anne’s)
Munn got knocked out in the first round by T A Torrance
British Amateur Championship (1936, St Andrews)
After a first round bye he met JL Mitchell, the Prestwick player and another titanic match ensued but he eventually succumbed at the 26th hole. At this stage Munn was playing out of Royal St. George’s, Sandwich.
British Amateur Championship (1937, Royal St. George’s Sandwich)
Now in his fiftieth year Munn finally realised a dream to play in the final of the Amateur Championship an honour which had alluded him in the past but nobody deserved more but alas Robert Sweeny jnr. foiled his only chance to take the Amateur title home with him. Munn had all but given up the game until the late twenties when a move to Kent facilitated him joined the host club and despite not being as active in the game as he was in his heyday he used to local knowledge to great effect according to the late John Behrend in his book, The Amateur. There was only one stroke in the morning round and by the fifth hole Munn had taken the lead but managed to lose the next two and never quite recovered losing by a margin of 3 and 3 in the end.
On his return he won the Belgian Amateur Championship in 1931 and 1932 and in Kent where he then resided he was near invincible winning Borough of Deal Cup, Lord Warden Cup (three years in succession) and the Prince of Wales Challenge Cup at Sandwich.
Munn died on 25 October 1958 at his home in Killarney at 71 years of age.
Michael Halliday & Gavin Caldwell: From College Courses to Lasting Links – A History of Dublin University Golfing Society 1909-2009.
J.P. Rooney : Irish Golfer’ Blue Book (incorporating “Irish Golfer’s Guide) 1939-40