By Brian Keogh
Wrist injury ended the career of one of Ireland’s great Royal Birkdale heroes - Jimmy Bruen
The big-hitting Corkman is part of golfing folklore in Southport, where he won the 1936 British Boys title and then captured the British Amateur Championship in 1946.
Henry Cotton called Bruen the greatest player in the world, amateur or professional, before his career was halted prematurely by a wrist injury.
Describing the famous Bruen Loop that generated his massive length, golf writer Pat Ward-Thomas, said: “He drew the club back outside the line of flight and turned his wrists inward, to such an extent that at the top of the swing the clubhead would be pointing in the direction of the teebox.
“It was then whipped, no other word describes the action, inside and down into the hitting area with a terrible force.
“There was therefore in his swing a fantastic loop, defying all the canons of orthodoxy, which claims that the back and downswing should, as near as possible, follow the same arc. There must have been a foot or more between Bruen’s arcs of swing.”
But Bruen is not the only Irishman to find success on the Royal Birkdale links.
Donegal’s Brian McElhinney won the British Amateur title there in 2005 while Irish legends like Christy O'Connor Snr, his nephew Christy Jnr and Wicklow man Eamonn Darcy and have recorded five top-5 finishes in the eight editions of the Open held there.
Rare footage of Bruen in action will be shown on BBC One this Saturday morning between 10-11am, as part of the host broadcaster’s British Open coverage.
Ireland’s Shane O’Donoghue, a member of the BBC TV Golf commentary team, discovered the film during research for his book, “Legends in their Spare Time”.
The footage sees Bruen in action in various exhibitions in the forties and there is also some beautiful colour footage of Bruen hitting balls at Portmarnock.
Jose Maria Olazabal also makes a special video tribute, as he and Bruen are the only men to have won the British Boys and British Amateur titles and won the leading amateur title at the Open Championship.
Best Irish finishers at Royal Birkdale
1998 - Winner Mark O’Meara (280), T 15 Des Smyth 74 69 75 71 (289)
1991 - Winner Ian Baker Finch (272), T 5 Eamonn Darcy 73 68 66 70 (277)
1983 - Winner Tom Watson (275), T 8 Christy O’Connor Jnr 72 69 71 68 (280)
1976 - Winner Johnny Miller (279), T 5 Christy O’Connor Jnr 69 73 75 71 (288)
1971 - Winner Lee Trevino (278), T 35 Christy O’Connor Snr 74 72 76 72 (294)
1965 - Winner Peter Thomson (285), T 2 Christy O’Connor Snr 69 73 74 71 (287)
1961 - Winner Arnold Palmer (284), T 3 Christy O’Connor Snr 71 77 67 73 (288)
1954 - Winner Peter Thomson (283), T 12 Harry Bradshaw 72 72 73 73 (290)