- Irish Amateur Open
Irish Amateur Open
The Golf Union of Ireland was founded in 1891 and the following year this new national golfing authority was organizing the Irish Championship Meeting at Royal Portrush, with the Irish Amateur Open Championship as the main match play event.
A resolution was passed at a meeting of delegates in Belfast on 25 March 1892 to provide a Championship trophy “and that members of the Clubs of the Union be requested to contribute thereto the sum of 2/6 each to establish the said trophy”.
From an entry of 32 players for the first Amateur, three English and ten Scottish golfers took part and the winner to emerge was one of these overseas players, Alexander Stuart from the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, who defeated JH Andrew from Prestwick St Nicholas 1 up in the Final.
The composition of this inaugural final was a taste of things to come in the formative years of the Irish Amateur. In the twenty two competitions before World War I, forty of the forty-four finalists were non-Irish players.
Henry Boyd of Portmarnock was the first Irish winner at Royal Dublin in 1905 then shortly after this Lionel Munn from North West in Donegal lifted the trophy in three successive years, starting in 1909. Still, he wasn’t the first to achieve such a hat-trick of victories as Harold Hilton from Royal Liverpool accomplished the same feat between 1900 and 1902.
Another Royal Liverpool member, John Ball, also won the Irish Amateur (at Royal County Down in 1893, Royal Dublin in 1894 and Portmarnock in 1899) and he, along with Hilton, were also the first two amateurs to win the Open. Only Bobby Jones has joined them in capturing the world’s most prestigious championship as an amateur.
During six of the first ten Irish Championship Meetings, a professional tournament was also held. Two were played as stroke play events over two 18-hole rounds, while the other four were match play contests.
Scotsman Sandy Herd won three of these competitions (1895, 1896 and 1901) and two of his compatriots – Andrew Kirkaldy and Willie Fernie – claimed victories in 1894 and 1897, respectively. The 1899 edition was won by Harry Vardon, who trounced J.H. Taylor 13&11 in the match play final tie.
The Golf Union of Ireland also instigated the Irish Amateur Close Championship in 1893, which was to be restricted to players born in (or with a parent born in) Ireland or (at the discretion of the GUI) resident in Ireland for at least five years. Like the Open Trophy, the Close Trophy is a magnificent solid silver hand-chased circular bowl, similar to a large punch bowl. There’s no record to show if clubs were invited to subscribe for its purchase.
The inaugural event at Portrush drew an entry of thirteen, including two of the nineteen home-based players who’d entered the Irish Amateur Open at the same venue the year before. The first winner was Thomas Dickson from Royal County Down, who beat George Combe from the same club 2 up.
Multiple winners of this native championship down the years include John Burke from Lahinch (8) and Joe Carr of Sutton (6). In the new millennium, Graeme McDowell (2000), Rory McIlroy (2005 & 2006) and Shane Lowry (2007) all won the event before embarking on successful professional careers.
After World War II, Joe Carr won the first of his four Amateur Open titles at Portrush in 1946. When he completed the set at Portmarnock in 1956, he joined Harold Hilton as the two golfers who’d won most titles. John Ball (1893-1899), Lionel Munn (1909-1911) and William Taylor (1895-1898) are next, each with three victories.
In 1958, the format of the competition was changed from match play to 72-hole stroke play but this lasted for only two years before the championship was discontinued.
Miraculously, the Irish Amateur Open was resurrected in 1995, with the four 18-hole format re-introduced. Up until 1959, the only venues outwith Royal Portrush, Royal Dublin, Royal County Down and Portmarnock to host the event were Killarney (1949 & 1953) and County Sligo (1950) but Fota Island became the seventh club honoured with staging the tournament when it resumed after its long hibernation.
Pádraig Harrington won that Fota Island event and other champions who’ve gone on to carve out successful careers as a professional include Northern Irishman Michael Hoey (1998), South African Louis Oosthuisen (2002) and Scotsman Richie Ramsey (2005).
The competition stayed at Fota Island in 1996 and 1997 before returning to Royal Dublin for sixteen of the following nineteen editions. During that time, the two courses at Carton House were also used for the tournament in 2005 and 2006.
Irish Amateur Open Top 100 Leaderboard
B-NL Challenge Trophy