All time Top-100 Irish Amateur men
Early enthusiasts at Lahinch

Early enthusiasts at Lahinch

It’s like comparing George Best with Diego Maradona. Or Tiger Woods with Jack Nicklaus. Or Bobby Jones with Ben Hogan. Each generation has their favourites and their reasons for preferring one above the other. There’s no right or wrong answer, just a humdinger of a debate and the enjoyment of some great memories.

In the same way, compiling the list of the Top 100 Irish Amateur men of all time is an exercise that’s bound to frustrate those who don't see their favourites in the list or feel that others are far too high up, or too far down. 

To be frank, we could have made a list closer to 200 outstanding Irish golfers who’ve graced our game (or even 300 or 400), but there’s something special about one hundred — the century.

One thing that all 100 have in common is that each has a great story to tell and we can barely skim the surface here with our tiny capsules. What is important is that we remember our great champions. 

The list of the greatest women will have to wait for another day — perhaps the Top 100 Irish golfers of all time, amateur and professional, male and female should be next on our to-do list.

Compiling the list of the Top 100 Irish male amateurs started when we began wondering aloud how many championships had been captured by the great players of the past. Like the mouse with the cheese, it was impossible to stop once we started nibbling away at the record books.

A spreadsheet was prepared as it was the easiest way of listing the winners of all the national and provincial championships since the first Irish Amateur Open was played in Portrush in 1892. Why not add those who finished runner-up, we thought. So they were added too. Then we awarded points for each category. 

A list took shape but like a particularly complex sauce, it needed more ingredients so we added international appearances for Ireland, Great Britain and Ireland or Europe. Playing for Ireland, for example, is one thing, but how well did you do? And so we graded internationals on their winning percentages. Still, top amateurs often played at the top of the order against other top players so it was necessary to take that into account too.

Top performances in international championships, both amateur and professional, were also factored in to what was now becoming a hefty file and players were awarded points commensurate with their importance. Playing in a Major is all well and good but making the cut is another level altogether. As for winning a professional event as an amateur, that’s an even rarer feat.

Mark Twain once wrote: “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.” And so we felt it was necessary to apply the X factor to the equation — the human element.

Every effort was made to give genuine flavour of the vast array of wonderful characters and outstanding golfers that have graced the fairways of Ireland and faraway fields too. Golfing brilliance was only part of that process. While it was painful to leave out some already revered names, it was easy to gain a new appreciation for others we might otherwise have forgotten. 

You won’t agree with all our choices, of course, but that’s part of the fun. If we succeed in bringing back memories of those heroes of yesteryear, yesterday and even today, it will have been worth the effort.

Top-100 Irish Amateur men 

100 Richie Coughlan (Birr)

  • Irish Boys Open 1991; Walker Cup 1997; Irish Close runner-up 1995; Irish Amateur Open runner-up 1997. Caps 23

He didn’t win a ‘major’ but Birr’s Richie Coughlan must be regarded as one of the outstanding Irish talents of the last 20 years, defeating the prodigious Raymie Burns for the 1991 Irish Boys at Thurles. Beaten by Pádraig Harrington in the 1995 Irish Close final at Lahinch, the flame-haired Offaly man was also edged out by pal Keith Nolan for the 1997 Irish Amateur Open at Fota Island but went on to join the Bray man in that year’s Walker Cup side at Quaker Ridge and eventually earned both his PGA and European Tour cards in 1997, opting for the US.

99 Denis F. O’Sullivan (Cork)

  • Irish Close 1985; Irish Close runner-up 1976; East of Ireland 1990. Caps 39

The big Corkman went on to a successful career on the European Senior Tour and was no slouch in the amateur ranks, gaining revenge for his 1976 defeat to Declan Branigan at Royal Portrush by denying the Bettystown man a third Irish Close title at Westport in 1985. In 1990 he added the East of Ireland title to his list of honours, winning by two shots from Gary McNeill.

98 Pádraig Hogan (Elm Park)

  • East of Ireland 1986, 1991, East of Ireland runner-up 1985; South of Ireland runner up 1988. Caps 36

Regarded as a fine ball striker and general all-rounder, the current Irish Amateur team captain was a stalwart for his club and province before going on to make his international debut in 1985. The following year, he won the first of his two East of Ireland titles.

Michael Guerin (left) with Mark Gannon at the 1973 South of Ireland

Michael Guerin (left) with Mark Gannon at the 1973 South of Ireland

97 Michael Guerin (Killarney)

  • South of Ireland 1961, 1962, 1963, South of Ireland runner-up 1978. Caps 8

A hat-trick of South of Ireland titles is something that only Fred Ballingall, John Burke, PJ Leydon and Pádraig O'Rourke achieved, making Michael Guerin one of the outstanding talents of the 1960s. His third win over David Sheahan marked him out as a special player. He made a romantic appearance in the 1978 South final but fell to the great Vincent Nevin.

96 Michael Sinclair (Knock)

  • East of Ireland 2003; Irish Close runner-up 1999; North of Ireland 1997, North of Ireland runner-up 2012. Caps 12

A huge motor racing enthusiast, Michael Sinclair still plays the game with the precision of a formula one driver. Straight off the tee and doggedly determined, he enjoyed several prestigious wins over his hero Garth McGimpsey, beating him in the 1997 North of Ireland final. Denied the 1999 Irish Close by Ciaran McMonagle in Killarney, he captured the East in 2003 and played a crucial role in Ireland’s thrilling Home Internationals win at Ballybunion in 2003.

95 Rory Leonard (Banbridge)

  • West of Ireland 2010, West of Ireland runner-up 1999; Irish Close runner-up 2010; North of Ireland runner-up 2004; East of Ireland runner-up 1996. Caps 6

A stalwart of Irish amateur golf for the past 20 years, Rory Leonard is not a man you like to meet in any matchplay situation. Beaten by Mikko Illonen in the 1999 West of Ireland final, he finally claimed that title in 2010 having played 34 times for Ulster and six times for Ireland. His work with Junior Golf Ireland, now part of the Confederation of Golf in Ireland, is a testament to his dedication to the game.

Paul Rayfus. Picture by Pat Cashman

Paul Rayfus. Picture by Pat Cashman

94 Paul Rayfus (County Meath)

  • West of Ireland 1986; East of Ireland 1987; Irish Close runner-up 1986; East of Ireland runner up 1988. Caps 25

Winner of the Irish Golf Writers’ Association ‘Men’s Amateur Player of the Year’ award in 1987, former Garda Paul Rayfus imposed his law in the late 1980s with a string of memorable performances from Rosses Point to Baltray.

93 Dr Neil Anderson (Shandon Park)

  • North of Ireland 1988, 1989; South of Ireland 1984. Caps 69

Winning back-to-back North of Ireland championships is testament to the elegant style of Neil Anderson, who was a member of no fewer than three Irish Senior Cup winning sides in 1991, 1994 and 2000. However, his 19th hole 1984 South of Ireland Championship victory over Mick Morris in his only appearance at Lahinch must go down as one of the great achievements of a player who won 69 caps for Ireland but was cruelly denied a Walker Cup cap.

92 J.F.D. Madeley (Royal Belfast)

  • North of Ireland 1962, 1963; Walker Cup 1963. Caps 42

One of just 38 Irishmen to play in the Walker Cup, David Madeley was a stalwart of the Irish team from 1959 to 1966, winning 26 of his 42 matches. His lone Walker Cup appearance came at Turnberry in 1963, where he was joined by JB Carr and David Sheahan. 

91 G.N.C. Martin (Royal Portrush)

  • Irish Amateur Open 1920, 1923; Walker Cup 1928. Caps 11

A Captain in the Royal Artillery, G.N.C. Martin won the Irish Amateur Open in 1920 and 1923 but it was his Walker Cup appearance in Chicago in 1928 that says it all about those early days Irish appearances in the biennial clash with the US. A cutting from the Singapore Free Press revealed "surprise" in golfing circles when the R&A sent a telegram with a list of 24 players, asking which of them would be available to travel. Four Irishmen were included, including Major Charles Hezlet of Portrush but with Dr MacCormack of the Hermitage unable to accept, it was reported that "those in authority are extremely desirous that another Irishman should join Major Hezlet in the team, in order that the team may have a strong Hibernian interest for the great American city."

90 John Fitzsimmons (Bushfoot/Royal Portrush)

  • Irish Amateur Open 1937; Irish Close runner-up 1947; North of Ireland 1947, 48. Caps 16

He played during a golden era in Irish amateur golf, winning 16 caps between 1938 and 1948 at a time when Jimmy Bruen, John Burke and Cecil Ewing were in their prime. In 1947 he took Burke to the final hole in the Irish Close final on his Lahinch stomping ground having won the inaugural North that year, a title he would go on to retain in 1948. As JP Rooney reported in The Irish Times, Fitzsimmons’ defeat of Ewing in the fourth round of that 1947 Close was only a minor surprise as he had reached the quarter-finals of the British Amateur won by Bruen the previous year and had been "for years one of the soundest players in Ireland" thanks to his deadly short game.

89 Rupert de Lacy Staunton (Castlerea)

  • South of Ireland 1965, 1972; Irish Close runner-up 1973. Caps 18

"Young Castlerea farmer tops list of 64" ran the headline above Paul McWeeney’s report on the qualifying for the 1965 Irish Close at Rosses Point. The "tall and slender built” 22-year-old must surely have a chance of making the Irish team for the inaugural European Amateur Team Championship at Sandwich that year having impressed on his debut for Ireland the previous autumn. And so it proved, as the Roscommon man made history at Royal St George’s the following June as Ireland claimed the title. Two South of Ireland crowns were to follow for this future Irish team captain and Walker Cup selector.

88 Barry Reddan (Co. Louth)

  • West of Ireland 1978; East of Ireland 1984; South of Ireland 1987. Caps 5

Playing for your country is the highest honour a golfer can attain and Barry Reddan did not let his chances slip when he holed a 15-footer for birdie on the 20th to beat his close friend Mark Gannon for the 1987 South of Ireland title. It was the Baltray man’s third provincial crown but it took that win over Gannon to achieve his dream of pulling on the green jersey, a fitting reward for one of Irish golf’s great battlers.

87 Robert Pollin (Royal Belfast)

  • Irish Close 1973; West of Ireland 1967, 69; North of Ireland 1971. Caps 9

When Robert Pollin, a 21-year old Arts student at Trinity at the time, beat 12-time champion JB Carr in the third round of the 1967 West, it heralded the beginning of a fine career that would bring him another West in 1967, the North in 1971 and the Close in 1973.

86 JL Crabbe (Foxrock)

  • West of Ireland 1924, 26; South of Ireland 1924, South of Ireland runner-up 1925. Caps 4 (est.) 

J. Lindsay Crabbe, affectionately known as Bonzo, was the second winner of the West of Ireland Championship in 1924, the year he also won the South. Where the nickname originated, we do not know, but the Foxrock man was clearly made of stern stuff as a report from the 1924 South revealed. While his opponent William McConnell was blown off his feet during a particularly nasty Lahinch gale, completely missing the ball, Crabbe stood firm and went on to win the title by two holes.

85 Redmond Simcox (Douglas/Cork)

  • South of Ireland 1926, 27; Irish Close runner-up 1938; South of Ireland runner-up 1936. Caps 37

Inextricably linked with Douglas and then Cork Golf Club, where he was an administrator for many years, Redmond Simcox was regarded as one of Ireland’s finest golfers for more than a dozen years before the war. He won two championships, back-to-back Souths in 1926 and 1927, and went on to reach the Close final at Castle in 1936. That he faced the boy universally regarded as the greatest amateur in the world at the time, a 17-year-old Jimmy Bruen, did not perturb him and he took his club-mate to the 34th. A former President of the GUI, he was regarded as a magnificent ball-striker and remembered as "universally popular, radiating warmth, kindness and good fellowship”, in a tribute on his death published in The Irish Times in November 1969.

84 Greg Young (Kilrush)

  • Irish Close runner-up 1958; South of Ireland runner-up 1965, 66, 68, 70, 72. Caps 4

Those who believe winning is everything should look at Greg Young’s career. The Kilrush man reached six major finals and lost them all — the 1958 Irish Close to Cecil Ewing and five Souths between 1965 and 1972 — he is remembered at Lahinch as a player who displayed, as Arthur Quinlan put it in the club’s centenary book, "an exemplary standard of sportsmanship”. He also played hurling for Westmeath and Clare. "Greg had no enemies, only friends everywhere," wrote Quinlan.

83 Raymond Kane (Malahide/The Island)

  • Irish Close 1971, 74. Caps 60

One of an elite group of just 19 players to win at least two Irish Close titles, Ray Kane was a stalwart of the Irish team for 14 years and a member of The Island team that won the Irish Senior Cup in 1967 and 1983.

82 Simon Ward (Co. Louth)

  • South of Ireland 2006 2013; Irish Close runner-up 2006. Caps 29

A native of Carrickmacross, Ward made amends for his 2006 Irish Close defeat to pal Rory McIlroy at The European Club when he defeated Darren Crowe in the South final later that summer. He helped Ireland win the European Amateur Team Championship in 2007 before his university career saw him fade from the scene for a while before his short game skills brought him a second victory at Lahinch last year. It was to be his last big win before moving into the professional ranks. 

81 Niall Goulding (Portmarnock)

  • West of Ireland 1990, 91; Irish Close runner-up 1989, 91. Caps 40

He never got the Walker Cup cap many felt his talent deserved but Cork’s Niall Goulding earned his place in the annals of Irish golf with back-to-back wins in the West of Ireland Championship at Rosses Point, a feat only achieved by four Irish legends— JB Carr, Jack Burke, Cecil Ewing and Rory McIlroy. He also won three Irish Senior Cups with Portmarnock and earned 40 caps in a distinguished career.

80 Tom Cleary (Fermoy)

  • East of Ireland 1977, runner-up 1987; Irish Close runner-up 1978; West of Ireland runner-up 1976; South of Ireland runner-up 1979. Caps 56

While he won umpteen scratch cups and remains a highly competitive golfer to this day, Tom Cleary’s lone championship victory was a memorable one. It came early in a career that would see him win more than 50 caps for Ireland but any victory over Mark Gannon on his stomping ground of Baltray— in the 1977 East of Ireland at the first tie hole — must go down as a special one.

79 Ian Bamford (Warrenpoint/Royal Portrush)

  • Irish Amateur Open 1957; North of Ireland 1954, 72, runner-up 1953; South of Ireland runner-up 1961. Caps 10
Ian Bamford

Ian Bamford

Form may be temporary but Ian Bamford proved that class is permanent when, at the age of 39, he claimed the North of Ireland title 18 years after his first victory at Royal Portrush. He was also Irish Amateur Open champion in 1957, the last edition of that championship played under the matchplay format.

78 Jonathan Caldwell (Clandeboye)

  • East of Ireland runner-up 2006; Walker Cup 2007. Caps 24

He will be remembered in amateur circles for his brilliant performances for Ireland in the 2007 European Amateur Team Championship victory for a side that also featured his Walker Cup foursomes partner Rory McIlroy. His record for Ireland was outstanding — 17 wins, four halves and just three defeats from 24 matches.

77 J.P. Carroll (Greenore/Sutton/Westmanstown)

  • Irish Close 1949; East of Ireland 1950, 53, East of Ireland runner-up 1948; South of Ireland 1949, runner-up 1948. Caps 28

A popular Garda at Store Street, Jimmy Carroll was a native of Greenore but best known for his exploits alongside Joe Carr for Sutton and Ireland. Capped 28 times, he won the Irish Close Championship, two East of Irelands, and the South of Ireland between 1949 and 1953. With Sutton he claimed the Senior Cup five times as well as two Barton Shields. It was fitting that Westmanstown launched the Jimmy Carroll Cup in his honour and it is now an All-Ireland Seniors Fourball team tournament.

76 Bryan Malone (Tullamore/Portmarnock)

  • West of Ireland 1964, West of Ireland runner-up 1971-72; South of Ireland 1975; Mullingar Scratch Trophy 1967, 74. Caps  37

Renowned as a stroke player — he won six scratch cups in 1967, including the first of two wins at Mullingar — Bryan Malone showed that a good putter can be a match for anyone in ‘mano a mano' combat. He might have lost successive West of Ireland finals following his victory at Rosses Point in 1964 but in beating Michael "Darkie" Skerritt by two-holes to win the South 11 years later, he showed that class pays no attention to format. His win over the Lahinch man, not to mention half of County Clare, owned much to the experience he gained in winning 37 caps for Ireland, the last of which came later that season as it did to the Tullamore man’s God-given talent.

75 Dr Billy O’Sullivan (Killarney/Dooks)

  • Irish Close runner-up 1940; Irish Amateur Open winner 1949, Irish Amateur Open runner-up 1936, 53. Caps 68

His legacy as an administrator is as great as anything he achieved with club in hand. Dr Billy O’Sullivan, a proud son of Kerry, was a formidable player with his victory in the Irish Amateur Open at his beloved Killarney in 1949, undoubtedly his finest achievement. But he was also President of the Golfing Union of Ireland in 1960, and as a result, he was chairman of the organising committee for the Canada Cup at Portmarnock, leading to a huge boom in interest in the game here. Paul MacWeeney, the late golf correspondent of The Irish Times, described him as "a great golfer of truly natural talent”. "He got every ounce out of his considerable weight into his long game," MacWeeney wrote, "and with his wide, arced swing was a hitter of almost legendary power… Both as a player and official, and that rare breed of the two at the same time, he had been one of the leading figures in the game in Ireland for the last 30 years."

74 Darren Crowe (Dunmurry)  

  • North of Ireland winner 2006; South of Ireland winner 2007, runner-up 2005, 2006; Irish Amateur Open runner-up 2005; East of Ireland runner-up 2002. Caps 30

With his distinctive shock of flame-red hair, Darren Crowe was a consistent championship contender for at least five years before he claimed the 2006 North of Ireland title. Having lost in back-to-back finals of the South in 2005 and 2006, he finally achieved one of his career ambitions at Lahinch in 2007, beating Joe Lyons on the 18th.

73 H.E. Reade (Royal Belfast)

  • Irish Close 1897, 99, 1903, runner-up 1901. Caps 16

He won the Irish Close championship three times in seven years, reaching four finals but Harold Reade, as well as a distinguished officer of the GUI, also had a hand in producing Ireland’s youngest Major winner. Holywood was the original site of the Royal Belfast Golf Club in 1881. It had to relocate in 1892 as the primary purpose of the land was as a military rifle range. However, golf was revived there in 1904 and Reade, together with C.S. Butchart, the professional at Royal Co. Down, laid out the original nine-hole course.

72 Jim Carvill (Warrenpoint/Banbridge)

  • East of Ireland 2005; South of Ireland 2005, runner-up 1990. Caps 12

He turned professional after losing to Darren Clarke in the 1990 South of Ireland final and even ended up in the Guinness Book of Records for playing 18-holes at Warrenpoint in 27 minutes, 9 seconds. Reinstated as an amateur after 14 years, Carvill returned to the amateur fold with a bang in 2005, winning the East and the South at the age of 38 and reclaiming his place in the Irish team alongside a 16-year old Rory McIlroy.

71 George Crosbie (Cork)

  • Irish Close runner-up 1955, 56, 57. Caps 24

As captain of the Irish team, he played a key role in advancing the careers of Pádraig Harrington and Paul McGinley. But as a player he first came to national prominence when he reached the semi-finals of the West of Ireland Championships in 1949. He was also a semi-finalist in the South in 1951 and 1952 and in the Irish Amateur Open in 1953 as well a member of the Irish team that won the Home Internationals at Royal Birkdale in 1955.

Five-time winner of the Cork Scratch Cup, he captained Ireland to its first Triple Crown on foreign soil in 1990, justifying his decision to ’blood’ two youngsters – Harrington and McGinley. Darren Clarke had just announced he was turning professional, while the sceptics felt McGinley was too small and Harrington too young,

70 John O’Leary (Foxrock)

  • Irish Close runner-up 1969; West of Ireland runner-up 1970; North of Ireland runner-up 1968. Caps 17

He would go on to have a remarkable European Tour career, winning the Irish Open in 1982 and claiming Ryder Cup honours in 1975. But he also had a short but successful amateur career, having learnt the game under the watchful eye of young assistant professional Bobby Browne at Foxrock. A talented schools rugby player, O’Leary fell in love with the game on a family holiday to Butlins, just a few miles from Laytown & Bettystown where Browne would eventually become the long-serving professional. He reached three major finals between 1968 and 1970, including the Irish Close at Rosses Point, where he fell to the great Vincent Nevin by one-hole.

69 PJ Leyden (Spanish Point/Lahinch)

  • South of Ireland winner 1953, 55, 56, 57, runner-up 1950; West of Ireland runner-up 1959. Caps 20

One of the great personalities of the 1950s, Paddy Leyden was beaten 12 and 10 by Mick Power in the 1950 South of Ireland final and was so dejected on his return to Spanish Point that the thought he might never play the game again. He opted for practice instead, made the quarter-finals in 1951 and went on to beat Power in three successive finals from 1953. In "A Century of Golf at Lahinch”, Enda Glynn writes: "He was a tigerish match player, possessed of a fine rhythmic swing and had an excellent touch with a wedge."

68 Pat Murray (Tipperary/Limerick)

  • Irish Amateur Close 2009, runner-up 2011, 2014; East of Ireland runner-up 2001, 2011; South of Ireland winner 2012. Caps 45

Pat Murray’s championship breakthrough came in the Irish Close in 2009, when he beat Cian Curley at Enniscrone. But the victory he coveted above all others did not arrive until 2012 when he finally landed the South. A native of Tipperary, but a long-time servant of Limerick Golf Club, he had lost seven times in the semi finals, before battling through the pain barrier to achieve his dream at the age of 41, having severed his Achilles tendon playing football at Christmas and spending the next four months in plaster.

67 Colm Moriarty (Athlone)

  • South of Ireland winner 2002, runner-up 2003; Walker Cup 2003; Mullingar Scratch Trophy 2001, 2003. Caps 17

Twice a winner of the prestigious Mullingar Scratch Trophy, Colm Moriarty made his championship breakthrough at Lahinch in 2002 but quickly turned to the professional ranks after a winning Walker Cup appearance at Ganton in 2003. He went on to win on the European Challenge Tour and made the cut in the 2010 Open at St Andrews.

66 Chris Selfridge (Moyola Park)

  • Irish Amateur Close 2012; East of Ireland 2012; North of Ireland 2013, 2014. Caps 15 

A recent graduate of the University of Toledo, Chris Selfridge is the most prolific winner of Irish amateur championships since Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry and a key member of the Irish team that won the 2014 Home Internationals in Wales. His wins in both the strokeplay and matchplay formats mark him out as an all-round talent. 

65 H.M. Cairnes (Portmarnock)

  • Irish Close winner 1907, runner-up 1906, 25, 27; Irish Amateur Open runner-up 1908. Caps 14

Born in 1868, Hugh Cairns was once referred to as the Father of Portmarnock where he was a three-time captain. He was also was a member of the Royal & Ancient Championship committee. Irish Close champion in 1907 and runner-up 1906, 1925 and 1927, he created the famous 15th at the Dublin links with its devilish Valley of Sin to the left.

64 Paddy Caul (Malahide)

  • East of Ireland winner 1968, 80. Caps 39

As head greenkeeper, he transformed The Island into the great links we know today, but Paddy Caul will also be remembered as a fine player, capped 39 times for Ireland. The winner of two East of Ireland titles (he beat Garth McGimpsey in a play-off as a three-handicapper in 1980), he played Senior Cup and Barton Shield for Malahide for four decades, winning the former in 1965 and the latter in 1971, 78 and 82. A gentle soul off the course, but a lion with a club in hand, he greatly admired Tom Craddock and the admiration was mutual. "Paddy was a super guy, a great friend, a great neighbour and a wonderful golfer," Craddock said on Caul’s death in 1992. "No words of mine could do him justice."

63 J.W. Hulme (Warrenpoint)

  • East of Ireland winner 1944, runner-up 1947, 49, 58; Irish Amateur Open runner-up 1955, 58. Caps 28

Willie Hulme is remembered as a powerful hitter from that golfing stronghold of Warrenpoint with his win in the fourth East of Ireland staging in 1944 coming at the expense of the great JB Carr. "The new champion, tall and powerfully built, is a very fine golfer indeed," wrote JP Rooney in The Irish Times of the new "Ulster invader" to descend on Baltray. "Not many of our leading players have anything like his length from the teeing grounds. His iron play has the crispness, punch and length of the professional, his pitching has something of the JH Taylor touch and had he not so often been pushing with the heel of his putter, he might have had the best of the four championship aggregates…"

62 Peter Lawrie (UCD/Newlands)

  • Irish Close winner 1996, runner-up 1997; Irish Amateur Open runner-up 1996; Mullingar Scratch Trophy 1996. Caps 12

A member of the Irish Youths team that won the European Team Championship in Denmark in 1994, Peter Lawrie took over from Pádraig Harrington as Ireland’s number one amateur in 1996, beating Garth McGimpsey in the Irish Close final at Royal County Down and adding the Mullingar Scratch Trophy to his win in the Midlands Scratch Cup at Carlow. In his final season as an amateur he reached the Close final again but lost to Ken Kearney at Rosses Point. 

61 John D MacCormack (Hermitage/Grange)

  • Irish Close winner 1923, 24, 27; Irish Amateur Open runner-up 1924; West of Ireland runner-up 1925. Caps 44 (est.)

Dr John MacCormack is Ireland’s equivalent of Ben Hogan in that he made a miraculous recovery from serious injury to triumph in golf. He was badly wounded and shell shocked in 1916 while serving for the Royal Army Medical Corps in World War I but it was not until 1922, thanks to the help of a renowned physician, that he walked again. Within eight months of his return to Dublin, he won the 1923 Close Championship at Milltown, having worn a steel corset lined with rubber to support muscles weakened by immobility and non-use.

He retained his title the following year at Newcastle and almost completed the double in the Irish Amateur Open at Royal Dublin. Described as "a natural swinger of the golf club, he had a colourful but forceful personality which probably made him a natural choice to captain Irish international teams which he did from 1934-1937. He was immediately recognisable from his attire of riding breeches, buttoned up jacket and tweed cap. 

A long hitter, his driver was four ounces and four inches longer than the norm, he was considered one of the longest drivers in the British Isles for a spell. He had close connections with three clubs Portmarnock (where he scored the first sub-70 in the Legal Cup in 1934), Hermitage and Grange.

In the 1924 British Amateur at St. Andrews he lost by 3 and 1 to Roger Wethered in the quarter-finals while in 1926 at Muirfield he lost to Jesse Sweetser, the first US born amateur to win the Championship.

60 W.G. McConnell (Portmarnock/Milltown)

  • Irish Close runner-up 1919; West of Ireland winner 1925, 29, runner-up 1924, 26; South of Ireland runner-up 1924, 27. Caps unknown

One of the stalwarts of Irish amateur golf between the wars and after it in his capacity as an official, William McConnell reach five major finals but would have to be content with winning the West of Ireland championship twice. In 1919 he played the pipe-smoking Captain Ernest Carter in the final of the Close at his home club of Portmarnock but had it not been for his deadly putting, he might have lost by more than 9 and 7 in the 36-hole final. 

59 Michael Edwards (Shandon Park)

  • Irish Close winner 1960, 1962; West of Ireland runner-up 1961; North of Ireland winner 1956, 57, runner-up 1960. Caps 49

He was a wonderful golfer, but Michael Edwards is also the answer to a great trivia question. Who won the longest Irish Championship final? It happened at Baltray in 1962 when Edwards beat Adare Manor's Jackie Harrington at the 42nd in the 36-hole Irish Close decider. He parred the first five extra holes and won with a birdie to decide what has gone down in history as possibly the best final of all time.

58 Brendan Edwards (Shandon Park)

  • North of Ireland winner 1966, 73; East of Ireland runner-up 1962. Caps 49

As a player, Edwards won the North of Ireland Championship twice and collected 10 Irish Senior Cup medals, plus four Barton Shield trophies. As an administrator, he was a Walker Cup selector for eight years and captained the Irish team in 1982, '83 and '84 and was secretary of the GUI Ulster Branch for many years.

57 Martin D. O’Brien (New Ross)

  • Irish Close winner 1968, 75, runner-up 1971; Mullingar Scratch Trophy 1968, 71, 76. Caps 55

Having won the Close at Portrush in 1968, Martin O’Brien was a popular winner for the second time in 1975, beating Joey Bryan of Edmondstown by 5 and 4 in the final. While it carried the bonus of leading the Irish team in the home Internationals at Portmarnock later that season, it also represented rich compensation for O’Brien for a final defeat against Raymond Kane at Ballybunion, four years previously. A measure of O’Brien’s consistency over a period of 10 seasons was that he played 44 times for Ireland in the home Internationals between 1968 and 1977. 

56 T.B.C. (Brian) Hoey (Shandon Park)

  • Irish Close winner 1984, runner-up 1972; West of Ireland winner 1977; North of Ireland winner 1979, 83. Caps 42

Father of Michael, Brian Hoey was a stalwart of some of the great Shandon Park Senior Cup winning teams, winning seven times and captaining the side to another victory in 1994, a decade after he claimed his lone Irish Close at the age of 50. He had retired from international golf but that win over Liam MacNamara at the 20th at Malone earned him a return to the Irish team. He won three matches out of three at number one at Royal Troon in those Home Internationals, beating David Gilford 4 and 3 at the venue adjacent to Prestwick where son Michael won the 2001 British Amateur.

Vincent Nevin with the South of Ireland trophy 1976. Picture Michael John Glynne /

Vincent Nevin with the South of Ireland trophy 1976. Picture Michael John Glynne /

55 Vincent Nevin (Limerick/Portmarnock)

  • Irish Close winner 1959; West of Ireland winner 1972, runner-up 1965, 73; South of Ireland winner 1976, 78. Caps 61

One of Ireland’s most complete players, Nevin was a stalwart of the Irish team for more than a dozen years, putting the gloss on a fine championship career with two wins in the South, the first of them coming over Walker Cup player Pat Mulcare. Why he never earned Walker Cup honours himself is a mystery. He won his second South in 1978, the year he also completed a rare Irish Senior Cup/ Barton Shield double at Tramore. In all he helped Limerick to three Senior Cups, two Barton Shields, a European Championship and 11 provincial pennants.

54 Mick F. Morris (Portmarnock)

  • Irish Close winner 1978; East of Ireland runner-up 1975; South of Ireland winner 1982, runner-up 1977, 80, 84. Caps 41

An All-Ireland Senior Football finalist with Kerry in 1964 and ’65, Mick Morris got his winners medal in 1969 against a determined Offaly side and threw himself into golf, winning the Irish Close at Carlow in 1978. He also won the Irish Seniors in 2004, a testament to his sporting talent over five decades.

53 David Higgins (Waterville)

  • Irish Close winner 1994, runner-up 1993; South of Ireland winner 1994. Caps 18

Son of the great Waterville professional Liam Higgins, David turned professional with a handicap of plus three after a sensational season in which he beat Pádraig Harrington in the finals of the Irish Close at Portmarnock and the South at Lahinch. He would play 16 times for Ireland, winning nine of his matches.

52 Noel Fogarty (St.Anne’s/Royal Dublin)

  • Irish Close runner-up 1960; East of Ireland winner 1963, 67, runner-up 1957, 69; South of Ireland winner 1967, runner-up 1969. Caps 26

One of the big characters of Irish golf, his great claim to fame is that he took Jack Nicklaus to the 19th on the 1959 British Amateur Championship at Sandwich. A former boxer and cyclist, he was as prodigious Scratch Cup winner and lifelong friend of Joe Carr with whom he won the Killarney Foursomes three times. A Dublin bookmaker by trade, he made few appearances in the West as it clashed with big race meetings. His standout year came in 1967 when he captured the East and South of Ireland titles, lifting the trophies with those famously huge hands. He also played in several Open Championships.

51 R.M. (Roy) McConnell (Royal Portrush)

  • Irish Close winner 1935, runner-up 1934, 36, 39; Irish Amateur Open winner 1927, runner-up 1926. Caps 37 (approx)

Fred Daly learnt the game growing up at Portrush watching the likes of Roy McConnell and his bother Frank play the game. McConnell was one of the stars of the 1920s and 30s, winning both the Close and Irish Amateur Open titles. 

50 Eddie Power (Tramore)

  • Irish Close winner 1987, 1993, 1998, runner-up 1983; East of Ireland runner-up 1995; Mullingar Scratch Trophy 1993. Caps 47

Blessed with a wonderful short game and a dogged competitive spirit, Eddie Power became the first man since David Sheahan to win three Irish Close titles in 1998. A stalwart for Ireland from 1987 to 1999 he also won the Mullingar Scratch Trophy in 1993 to add his name to the elite list of winners.

Des Smyth, second from the right, at the 1973 South of Ireland Championship

Des Smyth, second from the right, at the 1973 South of Ireland Championship

49 Des Smyth (Laytown & Bettystown)

  • West of Ireland winner 1973; Mullingar Scratch Trophy 1972. Caps 16

One of the greatest Irish professionals of all time, Des Smyth’s amateur career was a short but explosive one. His only championship success came in the 1973 West of Ireland where he beat the great Vincent Nevin 2 and 1. But he also helped put Laytown and Bettystown on the map as a golfing powerhouse in the 1970s alongside his brother Val, Declan Branigan and Jimmy Clynch before turning professional in 1974. In 1971 he won the Woodbrook Scratch Cup and followed that in 1972 by claiming an incredible eleven scratch cup wins, including those at Tullamore, Mullingar, Castletroy and Laytown & Bettystown. With the amateur scene dominated by matchplay events, the scratch cup circuit gave Smyth a taste of what he would experience on tour with card and pencil in hand. His performances soon caught the eye of Irish selectors and he was capped for the first time at senior level in the 1972 Home International matches at Troon. A shoulder injury scuppered his chances of Walker Cup selection in 1973 and he turned professional the following year.

48 Stephen Browne (Hermitage)

  • Irish Close runner-up 2001; South of Ireland runner-up 2001; European Individual Amateur Champion 2001. Caps 12

Recently re-instated in the amateur ranks after seven years as a professional, the Hermitage man was a late bloomer in the amateur game, winning the European Individual title at Odense Eventyr Golf Club in Denmark after a sensational season that saw him finish fourth in the East of Ireland and reach the finals of the Close and the South. Buoyed by those performances, he played for Ireland in that season’s European Team Championship and Home Internationals before turning professional with a handicap of plus five.

47 Brennie Scannell (Woodbrook)

  • Irish Close runner-up 1948; Irish Amateur Open runner-up 1949; West of Ireland runner-up 1946, 54; East of Ireland winner 1947, 54, 55, runner-up 1953. Caps 32

Originally a member of Bray, Scannell played interprovincial golf 17 years apart, dating from the end of the series in 1939 to its revival in 1957. Three times a winner of the East, he represented Ireland from 1947 to 1954, playing 32 matches of which he won 17. He was the third winner of the Irish Seniors in 1972 and president of the GUI in 1979, leading the Irish Youths team to victory in Oslo.

46 Keith Nolan (Bray)

  • Irish Amateur Open winner 1996, 97; North of Ireland winner 1995; Walker Cup 1997. Caps 38

A native of Bray, Nolan was a scholarship star for East Tennessee State University where he studied Communications and was awarded All-American honours. He had a successful amateur career, which included back-to-back wins in the Irish Amateur Open strokeplay and also the North of Ireland, where he beat Pádraig Harrington in the 1995 final. He represented Great Britain and Ireland in the Eisenhower Trophy in 1996 and in the 1997 Walker Cup before winning his PGA Tour card.

45 Leslie Walker (Grange)

  • British Boys champion 1986. Caps 14 (Boys and Youths level)

One of the most flamboyant players at Boys level to emerge from Ireland, the big-hitting Grange talent won the British Boys championship at Seaton Carew in 1986, following in the footsteps of the great Jimmy Bruen, who was the first Irish winner in 1936. He played interprovincial golf for Leinster and formed the backbone of a formidable Grange team that won the Irish Clubs Youths title in 1986 and 1987 alongside European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley.

Captain HA Boyd. Via Golf Illustrated

Captain HA Boyd. Via Golf Illustrated

44 H.A. Boyd (Portmarnock)

  • Irish Close winner 1904, 1906, runner-up 1907, 1911, 1913; Irish Amateur Open winner 1905, runner-up 1903. Caps 12

One of the earlier pioneers in Irish amateur golf, Captain HA Boyd was a soldier in the Royal Artillery and the golf correspondent of The Times, Bernard Darwin, mentioned him at length in a piece in Golf Illustrated on "Golfing Soliders".

"Captain H. A. Boyd is a captain in the Royal Artillery and one of the best amateur golfers that Ireland has yet produced. He has three times won the Irish Close Championship and once the Irish Open Championship. For the latter event there is always a very strong field of competitors from England and Scotland, and Captain Boyd was the first Irishman to defeat all these invaders, so that there was great national rejoicing over his victory in 1905. Since that time Mr. Munn’s three successive victories has given Ireland a better conceit of herself in golfing matters. Captain Boyd is an especially fine putter and a most difficult man to beat, having the knack of doing something unexpectedly brilliant at most untoward times for his adversary. Had he had more time to devote to the game, he would probably have accomplished more than he has done away from his own country."

43 Adrian Morrow (Portmarnock)

  • East of Ireland winner 1975, 83; South of Ireland winner 1983, 96; West of Ireland runner-up 1992. Caps 39

Winner of three Irish Senior Cup medals with Portmarnock, Adrian Morrow’s tall, wiry figure was a mainstay on the amateur circuit from 1975 right up to the time he turned his attention to senior golf, following his first round defeat to eventual winner Rory McIlroy in the first round of the 2006 Close at The European Club. He won the East and South twice and earned 39 caps for Ireland in a fine career. It’s a testament to his skill that he won the European Seniors Individual Championship in 2008 and 2012.

42 David Long (Shandon Park)

  • West of Ireland winner 1979; North of Ireland winner 1981, 82, runner-up 1984; South of Ireland winner 1974, runner-up 1973; Brabazon Trophy 1979. Caps 54

Blessed with a beautiful swing, David Long was a big man with a big game as evidenced by his four championship victories and 54 Irish caps. He also helped Shandon Park to five Irish Senior Cup victories with one of his greatest achievements coming in 1979 when he won the Brabazon Trophy at Little Aston.

41 Michael Power (Muskerry)

  • Irish Close winner 1951, runner-up 1953; East of Ireland winner 1951, runner-up 1954; South of Ireland winner 1952, runner-up 1953, 56, 57. Caps 38

When Joe Carr emerged as John Burke’s rival for supremacy in Ireland, Muskerry’s Mick Power beat Carr in the 1951 Irish Close final at Little Island, kicking off a wonderful career. "I was always long off the tee and putted well, but perhaps even more importantly, I never fretted," Power recalled. "My approach was that if I was to be beaten, I’d be beaten and there was nothing I could do about it. It was a philosophy which meant a great deal when I faced Joe Carr in the final of the Irish Close at Little Island. I didn’t realise until afterwards that supporters had wagered a lot of money on the match." Later that year, he won the East with a then record aggregate of 297.

40 Gavin Moynihan (The Island)

  • Irish Amateur Open winner 2012, runner-up 2013; Walker Cup 2013. Scottish Open strokeplay 2014. Caps 16

Having joined Lee Westwood and Justin Rose on the list of winners of the prestigious Peter McEvoy Trophy just a few weeks earlier, Gavin Moynihan won the Irish Amateur Open at the age of 17 in 2012 and went on to make a play-off for the title the following year. A Junior Ryder Cup star in 2012, he earned a Walker Cup call up in 2013, winning two of his four matches. Now at top US college the University of Alabama, he clinched the winning putt for Europe in the Sir Michael Bonallack Trophy earlier this year before going on to become the first Irish winner of the ScottishAmateur Open Strokeplay since Malahide's Philip Walton in 1981.

39 Niall Kearney (Royal Dublin)

  • South of Ireland winner 2008; Brabazon Trophy 2009; Walker Cup 2009. Caps 27

A tall, elegant player, Niall Kearney won the South in 2008 and the Brabazon Trophy the following year to clinch his place in the 2009 Walker Cup side at Merion where he was the top points scorer for Great Britain and Ireland. He was also a member of Ireland’s winning team at the 2008 European Amateur Team Championships and Men’s Home Internationals, going on to win his card for the Challenge Tour in 2010.

38 Samuel McCready (Dunmurry)

  • British Amateur champion 1949; Walker Cup 1949, 51. Caps 28

Belfast's Sam McCready won the British Amateur on his debut at Portmarnock in 1949 and played in the Walker Cup that year and again in 1951. His win in the Amateur was a huge surprise as he was working for a tobacco company in London and was little known. Dubbed "the fighting Irishman" in the agency reports sent back to the US, his 4 and 3 win over the great Frank Stranahan in the quarter-finals caused a major surprise. After beating Willie Turnesa, another American, 2 and 1 in the final, he cradled the trophy, kissed it and said: "Baby."

37 Ken Kearney (Co. Sligo/Limerick/Roscommon)

  • Irish Close winner 1997, runner-up 2002; West of Ireland winner 1992, runner-up 1989, 94; East of Ireland winner 1999, 2001; South of Ireland runner-up 1992, 2000. Caps 68

Pádraig Harrington won his first senior title when he came back from four down after eight to beat Ken Kearney in the 1994 West of Ireland final. A rare putting error let Harrington in and he clawed his way back. But Kearney was to prove a doughty competitor, winning 68 caps between 1988 and 2002 and capturing the Close, the East twice, and the West in 1992 with a memorable win over Adrian Morrow on the 18th.

36 Raymond Burns (Warrenpoint, Banbridge)

  • East of Ireland winner 1992, 1993; Mullingar Scratch Cup 1992; Eisenhower Trophy 1992; Walker Cup 1993. Caps 23

A golfing genius, Raymie Burns won all four Boys provincial titles in 1989 before showing his true class in 1992 when he travelled south to Baltray and recorded his first triumph in the East of Ireland Championship, lowering Pat Mulcare's 21-year-old tournament record of 271, by two strokes. A year later, he shaved another stroke off the record and won again. His one and only appearance in the Mullingar Scratch Cup came in 1992 and won, prompting the great Joe Healy to remark: "Of all the amateurs that came through here there was no one I was ever more fond of. And no one who ever had as much potential. I remember he shot 64 in the third round on a really windy day. And he had such a lovely way about him, always smiling, always chirpy. He was a breath of fresh air." In 1993, Burns turned professional after losing 4 and 3 to Justin Leonard in the Walker Cup ("I thought I was good," he said, "until I met this guy.") Lasting success eluded him in the professional ranks, but anyone who saw him play, remains hugely impressed by his enormous talent.

35 Liam MacNamara (Woodbrook)

  • Irish Close runner-up 1984; West of Ireland runner-up 1977; South of Ireland winner 1977, 1992, runner-up 1986. Caps 100

Raymie Burns was on fire in 1992 and went out in an incredible 29 en route to an 8 and 7 demolition of Keith Nolan in the semi-finals of the South. Then he met Liam MacNamara, who beat him 2 and 1. After beating Ken Kearney in he final, MacNamara said the win had given him "as much satisfaction as anything I have achieved in golf." Affectionately known as "Grumpy" because of his grim determination to succeed, he achieved an immense amount, winning his 100th cap for Ireland in that season’s Home Internationals at Prestwick. Ireland took the title for an unprecedented third year in a row. McNamara won his 100th match and announced his retirement from international golf.

34 John McHenry (Douglas)

  • Irish Close winner 1986; South of Ireland winner 1986; Walker Cup 1987. Caps 24

A precocious talent, McHenry won the Irish Youths titles in 1980, ‘81 and ‘85, and in 1986 became the Irish Close champion, beating West of Ireland champion Paul Rayfus by 4 and 3 with an impressive display. He then added the South of Ireland title at Lahinch in 1986 with a 3 and 2 win over Liam MacNamara, leading to his selection for the Walker Cup team in 1987 before a move into the professional ranks.

33 Joe Brown (Waterford/Tramore)

  • Irish Close winner 1934, runner-up 1952, 61; Irish Amateur Open winner 1936, runner-up 1932; West of Ireland winner 1952; East of Ireland runner-up 1952; South of Ireland winner 1932, 33, 58, runner-up 1930, 44. Caps 52

The quartet of Jimmy Bruen, Cecil Ewing, Joe Brown and Joe Carr won almost 60 per cent of the Irish amateur titles that were played between 1928 and 1950. They were the four evangelists of the game in Ireland for a generation and while Brown would claim "just" six titles, he appeared in 12 finals. He was 51 when he reached the 1961 Close decider at Rosses Point, losing 5 and 4 in the 36-hole final to the first of a new generation of stars, a 21-year-old medical student from Dublin — David Sheahan of Grange.

32 Roddy Carr (Sutton)

  • West of Ireland winner 1971; East of Ireland winner 1970, runner-up 1971; North of Ireland runner-up 1970; Walker Cup 1971. Caps 18

Son of the great Joe Carr, Roddy stepped out of that enormous shadow and made an indelible mark on the game by winning the East and West of Ireland titles in 1970 and 1971 respectively. He also reached the North of Ireland final in 1970 but it was his performance in the 1971 Walker Cup at St Andrews that marked him out as a special talent. The Sutton man effectively won the match single-handedly for Great Britain and Ireland by claiming three wins and a half from his four matches in a 13-11 triumph. It was only the second win in the event for Great Britain and Ireland and their first since 1938. 

31 Kevin Phelan (Waterford Castle)

  • Palmer Cup 2013; Walker Cup 2013. Caps 31

Born in New York and brought up in Waterford before moving to Florida at an early age, Phelan had a successful college career at the University of North Florida. In 2010 he qualified for the US Open at Pebble Beach and reached the semi-finals of the US Amateur Public Links. In 2013 he again qualified for the US Open, making the cut at Merion before winning two points out of three in the Walker Cup. He then went on to win his European Tour card at the first attempt at the Final Stage of the Qualifying School.

30 Norman V. Drew (Bangor)

  • Irish Amateur Open winner 1952, 1953; West of Ireland runner-up 1952; East of Ireland winner 1952; North of Ireland winner 1950, 1952; South of Ireland runner-up 1952; Walker Cup 1953. Caps 12

A short game wizard, Norman Drew was the first to play in the Walker Cup, Ryder Cup and World Cup. His amateur record was outstanding; five championships between 1950 and 1953 as well as a runner-up finish in the British Boys. As for his name, Norman Vico Drew, Dermot Gilleece wrote in 2012:  “Drew's father, a Dubliner involved in engineering, lived on Vico Road in Dalkey before the family moved to Belfast where the future champion golfer was born. ‘I always assumed I was given Vico as my second name because of my father's home place’, he said. ‘My brothers knew me as Vico, not Norman. So did my school pals. As I grew older, however, the lads would shout 'Here comes VD'. He laughed. ‘My mother didn't like that. ‘You're Norman Vico Drew’, she said, ‘and you'll be called Norman from now on'. I have a photograph at home of Vico Road. Pity we don't own a house there now. It would be worth a few bob."

29 Paul McGinley (Grange)

  • Irish Amateur Close winner 1989; North of Ireland runner-up 1990, 1991; South of Ireland winner 1991; Walker Cup 1991. Caps 24
A 22-year old Paul McGinley with the 1989 Irish Close

A 22-year old Paul McGinley with the 1989 Irish Close

A latecomer to the game having concentrated on GAA until he broke his kneecap at the age of 19, Paul McGinley blossomed at Grange, where he was influenced by the great David Sheahan, the professional Wattie Sullivan and a host of top players including the Walker brothers, David and Leslie. He won the 1988 Irish Youths and Scottish Youths Championship and was greatly improved thanks to a walk-on scholarship at the United States International University, San Diego. He won the Irish Close in 1989 at the age of 22 and the South of Ireland in 1991 having just lost in the final of the North for the second year running, first to Darren Clarke then to Garth McGimpsey. He won Walker Cup honours alongside McGimpsey and his close friend Pádraig Harrington at Portmarnock in 1991 before earning his European Tour card later that year. 

28 Alan Dunbar (Rathmore)

  • Irish Amateur Open winner 2010; North of Ireland winner 2009; British Amateur winner 2012; St Andrews Links Trophy winner 2009; Walker Cup 2012

Another talent from Rathmore Golf Club in Portrush, Alan Dunbar broke onto the scene with his win in the 2008 Ulster Youths and went on to win the St Andrews Links Trophy and the North in 2009. In 2010 he won the Irish Amateur Open at Royal Dublin and went on to become the seventh Irish winner of the British Amateur Championship at Royal Troon in 2012, earning a Walker Cup call up. 

27 Paddy Gribben (Warrenpoint)

  • North of Ireland winner 1998, 99; European Individual Amateur champion 1998; Walker Cup 1999; Eisenhower Trophy 1998. Caps 14

Having won Ulster and Irish Boys’ titles and sundry other junior competitions and represented GB&I at Boys’ level and Ulster as a senior, Paddy Gribben turned professional in 1992. He lasted two years, returned to the amateur ranks with a broomhandle putter and was transformed. Picked for Ireland in 1997, he won the North and the European Amateur in 1998, retained the North in 1999 and made the Walker Cup team for 1999, helping GB&I to victory at Nairn. Winner of three Irish Senior Cups with Warrenpoint, he returned to the professional ranks for a short while but is now an amateur again and helped his club to the All- Ireland final in 2012, fully 25 years after his first success in the competition.

26 Brian McElhinney (North West)

  • North of Ireland winner 2003; European Individual Amateur 2003; Irish Close winner 2004; British Amateur winner 2005; Walker Cup 2005. Caps 26

Known for his unerring accuracy off the tee, Brian McElhinney also possessed a stunning short game as Michael McGeady discovered in the final of the Close championship at Murvagh in 2004. Though not a long hitter, his intelligence and precision also brought him the European Individual, North of Ireland and the British Amateur titles, earning him a Walker Cup call up in 2005. He went on to join the professional ranks after an amateur career that saw him lose just seven of his 26 matches for Ireland between 2003 and 2005.

25 Jody Fanagan (Milltown)

  • British Amateur semi-finals 1995; Irish Amateur Open runner-up 1999; West of Ireland winner 1997; East of Ireland runner-up 1992, 1993; South of Ireland winner 1995, runner-up 1989, 1996; North of Ireland runner-up 1994; Lytham Trophy runner-up 1992; Walker Cup 1995; St Andrews Trophy 1992, 1994, 1996. Caps 77

He said goodbye to the international arena 1997 by defeating Luke Donald on the 18th on the final day of the Home Internationals at Burnham and Berrow. It was the end of a great international career but it was never an ambition. Rugby was his game and he played for the Irish Universities in 1985 before an appearance for Milltown’s Barton Shield side in the 1988 Cups and Shields in Cork heralded a more serious dalliance with golf. Capped for Leinster in 1989, where he won six points form six at Rosses Point, he reached the final of the South and never looked back, winning his first Irish cap that September where he partnered Darren Clarke at Ganton. Championship victories resisted him until he beat his Leinster and Ireland partner Pádraig Harrington in the South decider in 1995 and sealed his Walker Cup place. He won his three matches, partnering Harrington to a famous 2 and 1 win over Tiger Woods and John Harris that helped GB&I to a 14-10 victory. 

Declan Branigan

Declan Branigan

24 Declan Branigan (Laytown & Bettystown/Seapoint)

  • Irish Close winner 1976, 1981, runner-up 1985; West of Ireland winner 1976, 1981, runner-up 1975; East of Ireland winner 1981, 1995, runner-up 1976. Caps 49
Des Smyth (left) and Declan Branigan, lifelong friends through golf

Des Smyth (left) and Declan Branigan, lifelong friends through golf

Declan Branigan was an unmistakeable figure on the Irish amateur scene from the moment he made his breakthrough by winning the inaugural Irish Youths Championship at Delgany in 1969. Apart from the great shock of hair and the ever-present cigarette, his most recognisable attributes were his tenacity as a match player and his determination to speak his mind, no matter what the consequences might be. Branigan’s strength was arguably his solid, repeatable swing, which brought him six championships and multiple scratch cup victories. His greatest season came in 1981, when he became the first man to win the West, East and Irish Close titles in the same season. He retired from the international scene at the end of 1982 after what he describes as ‘a clash of personalities’ with one of the selectors. While he won the Willie Gill Award for the third time in 1985, when he was beaten by Denis O’Sullivan in the Irish Close final at Westport, he was recalled to the Irish team for what proved to be the last time in 1986. It was not to be his last hurrah as a championship contender, however, as he would return to the winners’ circle in 1995 by winning the East for the second time.

23 Eoghan O’Connell (Killarney)

  • Walker Cup 1989. Caps 24

The son of a farmer and the Irish Boys champion in 1984, O’Connell was a natural talent who shot back-to-back 65s at North Berwick to qualify for the 1987 Open Championship. When called up for Walker Cup duty in 1989, he was undefeated in four matches at Peachtree in Atlanta as a member of the victorious GB&I team, halving a match with Phil Mickelson. A medallist at the 1989 US Amateur at Merion in 1989, he turned professional shortly afterward and played on the PGA European Tour for eight years before his career was ended by a wrist injury. He attended Wake Forest University, where he gained a Communications degree on a Lanny Wadkins Scholarship from 1986 to 1990. He was Second Team All American at Wake Forest in 1988 and All ACC for three years. 

22 Pat Mulcare (Woodbrook)

  • East of Ireland winner 1971, 72, 73; South of Ireland winner 1971, runner-up 1976; Walker Cup 1975. Caps 72

A Ballybunion legend, Pat earned his pocket money and learned his golf as a caddy. In 1965, at the age of 20, the club gave him his first handicap of 10 and won the captain’s prize that year and retained it the following year off a handicap of six. In 1968 he won the first of his 72 international caps. He won the South of Ireland in 1971, completed a hat-trick of East of Ireland wins from 1973, reached the quarter-finals of the British Amateur Championship and won three of his four matches in the 1975 Walker Cup, losing only to future two-time US Open winner Curtis Strange.

21 Arthur Pierse (Tipperary)

  • British Amateur semi-finalist 1980; British Seniors Amateur Open 2007; Irish Open leading amateur five times; West of Ireland winner 1980, 82, runner-up 1979, 90, 93; East of Ireland winner 1979, runner-up 1974, 89; North of Ireland winner 1987; Lytham Trophy runner-up 1981; Eisenhower Trophy 1982; St Andrews Trophy 1980, 82; Walker Cup 1983. Caps 99

Regarded as one of the greatest drivers of the ball in the history of Irish amateur golf, Arthur Pierse won four championships, played Walker Cup, 99 caps for Ireland in a legendary career that continues to this day in the Senior ranks. A pupil of the Ben Hogan method, his ability as a ball-striker was admired by the likes of Darren Clarke, who fell victim to him in the semi-finals of the North in 1987. 

Pádraig Harrington said of Pierse: "Arthur Pierse was unquestionably the best driver of a ball that ever played in a left to right wind. His ability to swing the golf club and strike the golf ball was as good as any pro’s was or is…. You worried about playing Arthur Pierse."

20 Mark Gannon (Co Louth)

  • Irish Close winner 1977, runner-up 1974, 79; West of Ireland winner 1974; East of Ireland winner 1978, runner-up 1977, 83, 84; South of Ireland winner 1973, 1988, runner-up 1987; Mullingar Scratch Trophy 1973, 81. Caps 91

What he lacked in stature or technical brilliance he made up for with hard work and the kind of short game skills that would make an opponent beg for mercy. In capturing the last of his five championships at Lahinch in 1988, it was Gannon’s short game that made the difference as he beat Pádraig Hogan 3 and 2. But it was at Baltray earlier that year that Mick Morris remarked colourfully: "Give that little wretch a wedge and a putter and he’d get in and out of hell without getting his clothed singed." He was as adept at strokeplay as he was in head-to-head combat, despite his lack of real length. The reason? His short game. "The overall length of a golf course means very little to me," he once told Dermot Gilleece,  "mainly because of the confidence I have in my short game." 

19 Paul Cutler (Portstewart)

  • Irish Close winner 2011; West of Ireland winner 2011, runner-up 2007; East of Ireland winner 2009; North of Ireland runner-up 2009; Lytham Trophy 2010; Walker Cup 2011. Caps 46

One of the quiet men of Irish golf, Paul Cutler achieved a remarkable amount in a very short span, winning four major championships before going on to help GB&I to Walker Cup success in 2011. His victory in the 2010 Lytham Trophy all but sealed his place in the GB&I team at Royal Aberdeen where he was the top scorer on either side in a match against a US team that featured future PGA Tour winners, Harris English, Russell Henley and Jordan Spieth.

18 Noel Fox (Portmarnock)

  • Irish Amateur Open winner 2000, 03; West of Ireland winner 1998; East of Ireland winner 96, 00, 02; Walker Cup 2003. Caps 70

He won six championships and made a Walker Cup appearance at Ganton in 2003 but the only memento you’ll find regarding Noel Fox in the Portmarnock clubhouse is the card of the course record, 12-under-par 60 he shot in the Mullingar Scratch Trophy in 2001. 

"It’s amazing. You think you’ve had a reasonably successful amateur career but the first thing I am always asked about is that round in Mullingar," Fox recalled of the day he made four eagles, eight birdies and two bogeys in the second round. "Portmarnock put up a picture of me in the clubhouse last year and while I’ve done stuff while playing for the club, they have the card from Mullingar framed under my photograph."

It says a lot about Fox’s deep love for the game that he changed his irons for the next day’s play, despite having four eagles. A hugely powerful player, his talent was so immense that he could also have two bogeys and a three-putt par on a par five in that remarkable round.

17 Graeme McDowell (Rathmore)

  • Irish Close winner 2000; North of Ireland runner-up 2001; South of Ireland winner 2000; World Universities 2000; Walker Cup 2001. Caps 12
Graeme McDowell with the 2000 Leinster Youths trophy at Laytown and Bettystown

Graeme McDowell with the 2000 Leinster Youths trophy at Laytown and Bettystown

A dogged match player with a brilliant short game, McDowell won the Ulster Boys Championship in 1996, the Irish Youths in 1999 and then enjoyed a massive season in 2000 when he captured the Irish Close, the South of Ireland, the Leinster Youths and the World Universities individual and team titles. He was a star for GB&I alongside Michael Hoey in the 2001 Walker Cup win on US soil. As a scholarship golfer with the University of Alabama, Birmingham, he won nine times between 1999 and 2002, breaking scoring records set by Tiger Woods. Awarded the Fred Haskins Award for top golfer in the nation in 2002, he was named All-American and Conference USA Player of the Year in both 2001 and 2002.

16 C.O. Hezlet (Royal Portrush)

  • Irish Close winner 1926; Irish Amateur Open winner 1926, 29, runner-up 1923, 25; Walker Cup 1924, 26, 28. Caps 13

Born in 1891, Charles Owen Hezlet was a major in the British army and one of Ireland’s early stars. In 1920 he won the Irish Close title and in 1926 and 1929 he won the Irish Open Amateur title. He played 13 international matches for Ireland between 1923 and 1931 and was Ireland's first player to win Walker Cup honours. In 1928 he played in the Open Championship at Sandwich and finished 17th behind Walter Hagen. He was Irish team captain 10 times before 1932 and six times after 1948. From 1947 to 1953 he was a selector for Ireland. He died in 1965.

15 Philip Walton (Malahide)

  • Irish Close winner 1982; West of Ireland runner-up 1980; Scottish Amateur Stroke Play winner 1981; Spanish Amateur Open winner 1981; Mullingar Scratch Trophy 1982; Eisenhower Trophy 1982; Walker Cup 1981, 83. Caps 40

Philip Walton grew up in Malahide and spent three years at Oklahoma University on a Scholarship. His talent, especially as a driver of the ball, was immense and he quickly dominated, following wins in the Scottish and Spanish Amateur Championships in 1981 with impressive performances in the Walker Cup in both 1981 and 1983, winning three points out of four both times. Blessed with enormous power, his swing was simple yet wonderfully effective and it was no surprise to his peers, Des Smyth in particular, that he went on to win some of the biggest events on the European Tour and earn Ryder Cup honours in 1995, holing the winning putt at Oak Hill.

14 Darren Clarke (Dungannon)

  • Irish Close winner 1990; East of Ireland winner 1989; North of Ireland winner 1990; South of Ireland winner 1990; Spanish Amateur Open Championship 1990; Mullingar Scratch Trophy 1989. Caps 16
Former GUI coach Howard Bennett recalled Darren Clarke's liking for prawns back in 1990

Former GUI coach Howard Bennett recalled Darren Clarke's liking for prawns back in 1990

A promising openside rugby flanker in his youth, Clarke turned his attention to golf and won his first senior cap as a teenager in 1987. He had a brief spell at Wake Forest University but fell out with the coach and returned to Ireland after just eight months and went on to dominate the amateur scene. Having won the East and the Mullingar Scratch Trophy in 1989, his final year as an amateur was a sensational one as he claimed the Close, the North, the South and the Spanish Amateur. He was a certainty to make the 1991 Walker Cup side but decided the professional game was his future and went on to become just the third Irish winner of the Open Championship in 2011. 

13 Lionel Munn (North West)

  • Irish Close winner 1908, 11, 13, 14, runner-up 1910; Irish Amateur Open winner 1909, 10, 11; South of Ireland winner 1911; British Open 1932, 29th behind Gene Sarazen; British Amateur runner-up 1937. Caps 13 (est.)

Lionel Oulton Moore Munn was born in Derry in 1887 and educated at St. Columba's College in Rathfarnham and at Trinity College Dublin where he played on the wing for the Trinity XV in the 1909-1910 season. At one stage he was an honorary member of Portrush, Castlerock, Lahinch, The Island, Portmarnock and North West. Munn played in the Open Championship twice, in 1911 (T41) and 1932 (29th), and won the Irish Close Championship four times and the Irish Amateur Open three times. He gave up the game completely between 1914 and 1930, joining the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers during World War I. At the age of 50 he achieved his dream of playing for the British Amateur title but lost to the American playboy Robert Sweeny Jnr in the final at Sandwich by 3 and 2. Jimmy Bruen would exact revenge on Sweeny in the same championship in 1946.

12 David Sheahan, (Grange & UCD)

  • Irish Close winner 1961, 1966, 1970; North of Ireland runner-up 1959; South of Ireland runner-up 1963; Walker Cup 1963; Jeyes Tournament - professional event - winner 1963. Caps 54

David Sheahan was a 21-year-old medical student and amateur when he beat the best of the British and Irish golf professionals in the 1962 Jeyes Tournament at Royal Dublin, a feat not matched until Pablo Martin won the Estoril Open de Portugal in 2007. A Walker Cup player in 1963, he won three Irish Close titles, the last of which came at his home club of Grange in 1970. Winner of the European Team Championship with Ireland in 1965 and 1967, he was Golfer of the Year at Grange at the age of 73 in 2013. European Ryder Cup skipper Paul McGinley rates his him as one of the biggest influences in his career, both on and off the course. "David is a thorough gentleman, and a terrific example to all the young golfers in the club. If I'm half as competitive as he is when I'm his age, I'll be delighted," McGinley said.

11 Ronan Rafferty (Warrenpoint)

  • British Boys winner 1979; Irish Close winner 1980; Brabazon Trophy (tied with Peter McEvoy) 1980; Eisenhower Trophy 1980; Walker Cup 1981. Caps 25

Hailed as a child prodigy, Ronan Rafferty lived up to his reputation by winning the British Boys Amateur Championship aged 15 and the Irish Close at 16, comfortably beating Rory McIlroy’s current coach Michael Bannon in the final at Royal County Down. He played in the Walker Cup at 17 years and seven months after finishing tied first in the 1980 Brabazon Trophy with two-time British Amateur champion Peter McEvoy. He displayed a golfing maturity beyond his years that put him head and shoulders above his contemporaries in the amateur game. He placed huge emphasis on course management and precision, which stood to him when he turned professional in 1981. He quickly became a star and won the European Tour’s Order of Merit 1989 as well as Ryder Cup honours.

Shane Lowry wins the 3 Irish Open as an amateur in 2009. Picture via

Shane Lowry wins the 3 Irish Open as an amateur in 2009. Picture via

10 Shane Lowry (Esker Hills)

  • Irish Close winner 2007; West of Ireland winner 2008, runner-up 2009; North of Ireland winner 2008, runner-up 2007; Irish Open winner - professional event – 2009; Sir Michael Bonallack Trophy 2008. Caps 29

A proud Offaly man and the son of 1982 All-Ireland winning footballer Brendan Lowry, Shane learned the game at the local pitch and putt course, progressing to Esker Hills Golf Club where he quickly excelled in the amateur ranks, winning the Irish Close in 2007, the West and the North in 2008 before reaching the West of Ireland final for the second time in 2009. A member of the Irish team that won back-to-back European Amateur Team Championships in 2007 and 2008, he made history when he won the 2009 Irish Open on the European Tour at Co Louth, beating Robert Rock on the third hole of a sudden death play-off in his first appearance in a professional event at the age of 22. That fairytale win, which featured a 62 in the second round, made him just the third amateur to win on the European Tour and catapulted him to 168th in the Official World Golf Ranking and stardom. It was an incredible achievement and he turned professional almost immediately, turning down what was a certain place in that year’s Walker Cup team. He has since gone on to win again on the European Tour, reaching a career high of 52nd in the world in January last year. 

9 Michael Hoey (Shandon Park)

  • Irish Amateur Open winner 1998, runner-up 2001; West of Ireland runner-up 2001; North of Ireland winner 2000; British Amateur winner 2001; Walker Cup 2001. Caps 25
Michael Hoey during a lesson with Laytown and Bettystown's Bobby Browne

Michael Hoey during a lesson with Laytown and Bettystown's Bobby Browne

Part of the great Hoey golfing dynasty at Shandon Park, Michael made his mark quickly in the amateur game, winning the Irish Amateur Open, the North and the Irish Senior Cup before claiming the 2001 British Amateur title at Prestwick. The memorable win sealed his Walker Cup place alongside Graeme McDowell and he went on to play a leading role in GB&I’s 15-9 victory on US soil, winning three points out of four. He put in some impressive performances as an amateur in tour events, missing the cut by just one shot in the 2002 Masters before turning professional. After some early struggles, he has shown his class, winning five times on the European Tour.

8 Tom Craddock (Malahide)

The 1964 Mullingar Scratch Trophy winner, Walker Cup player Tom Craddock, with Ray Macken (captain) and Kevin Whelehan - Picture via Westmeath Examiner

The 1964 Mullingar Scratch Trophy winner, Walker Cup player Tom Craddock, with Ray Macken (captain) and Kevin Whelehan - Picture via Westmeath Examiner

  • Irish Close winner 1959, runner-up 1965; Irish Amateur Open winner 1958; West of Ireland runner-up 1960; East of Ireland winner 1959, 65, 66; runner-up 1960, 63; Mullingar Scratch Trophy 1964; Walker Cup 1967, 69. Caps 91

Part of the fabric of Irish golf for 50 years until his death in 1998, Tom Craddock is remembered as not just a great player but a wonderful human being. He left behind a legacy as an architect too, working alongside Pat Ruddy to create such renowned courses as Druids Glen and the Glashedy links at Ballyliffin. Twice a Walker Cup player, he won five championships, becoming the first artisan golfer to play amateur golf for Ireland in 1955 having become a greenkeeper at Malahide aged 16. He played brilliantly in the Home Internationals at Royal Birkdale and was made an honorary member of Malahide, which meant he became eligible to play GUI competitions with an officially recognised handicap. Walker Cup honours came to him late in life, mainly because he played just twice in the British Amateur (1960 and 1970). He won the East three times but only played in the South once, the West just seven times and never competed in the North. Christy O’Connor said of him: "What a wonderful swing Tom has. Any aspiring champion should certainly take a look at his flowing, easy backswing and really classy follow through." A perfect tribute to a memorable champion.

7 Pádraig Harrington (Stackstown)

  • Irish Close winner 1995, runner-up 1990, 94; Irish Amateur Open winner 1995; West of Ireland winner 1994; North of Ireland runner-up 1993, 95; South of Ireland runner-up 1994, 95; Sherry Cup 1991; Mullingar Scratch Trophy 1994; Walker Cup 1991, 93, 95. Caps 76
Pádraig Harrington during the 1993 Walker Cup

Pádraig Harrington during the 1993 Walker Cup

Pádraig Harrington suffered more disappointments than successes in major championship finals in Ireland but was easily the most consistent player from 1990 until he turned professional at the end of the 1995 season. He finished that domestic season by winning the Irish Amateur Open and Close titles but it was his record for Ireland that set him apart as a truly talented match player. Capped 114 times for his country at all levels, he won an incredible 72 per cent of his matches, as well as 92 per cent of his singles. In three Walker Cup appearances he played nine matches, winning three and halving another, with one of his most memorable wins coming alongside Jody Fanagan at Royal Porthcawl in 1995 when he defeated John Harris and Tiger Woods to help GB&I win back the trophy. 

Rory McIlroy en route to victory in the 2005 Irish Amateur Close. Picture courtesy Westport Golf Club

Rory McIlroy en route to victory in the 2005 Irish Amateur Close. Picture courtesy Westport Golf Club

6 Rory McIlroy (Holywood)

  • Irish Close winner 2005, 06; Irish Amateur Open runner-up 2006; West of Ireland winner 2005, 06; European Amateur champion 2006; World Amateur Number One (1 week) 2007; Walker Cup 2007; Mullingar Scratch Trophy 2006. Caps 21

A golfing prodigy who was swinging a club from the age of three, Rory McIlroy has gone on to win two Majors and become world number one. His amateur career was littered with success, as he became the youngest winner of both the West of Ireland and Irish Close Championships in 2005 at 15 and 16 respectively. He also shot a course record 61 in qualifying for the North on the Dunluce Links at Portrush in 2005. He retained both the West and Close titles in 2006 and also captured the European Individual Amateur title at Biella Golf Club, near Milan that season. As European champion, he played in the 2007 Open at Carnoustie, opened with a 68 and made the cut to claim the Silver Medal as the leading amateur. He had made the cut in the Dubai Desert Classic earlier that season and went on to play in the Walker Cup at Royal County Down before turning professional later in 2007, earning his European Tour card in record time.

5 Cecil Ewing (Co Sligo)

  • West of Ireland winner [10] 1930, 32, 35, 39, 41, 42, 43, 45, 49, 50, runner-up [8] 1928, 34, 37, 44, 47, 48, 56, 58; Irish Close winner [2] 1948, 59, runner-up 1946; Irish Amateur Open winner (2) 1948, 51; Walker Cup [6] 1936, 38, 47, 49, 51, 55; British Amateur Championship runner-up 1938. Caps 92
Ceil Ewing and JB Carr in 1950. Picture courtesy County Sligo Golf Club

Ceil Ewing and JB Carr in 1950. Picture courtesy County Sligo Golf Club

Reginald Cecil Ewing (1910-1973) was brought up next to the Co Sligo links that would become synonymous with his name. His father owned the hotel, which became known simply as "Ewings". A big man, he reached 18 West of Ireland finals, winning 10 and due to a toe injury, changed his swing early in his career.

"He could drive a ball two hundred and fifty-yards and it never rose more than ten feet," wrote CE Anderson of the Ewing method. He lost the final of the British Amateur to American Charles Yates in 1938, but continued to compete at the highest level for Ireland until 1958, going on to represent his country as a non-playing captain between 1960-1969, winning two European Amateur Team Championships.

John Burke. Picture courtesy Limerick Golf Club

John Burke. Picture courtesy Limerick Golf Club

4 John Burke (Lahinch)

Sean (John or Jack) Burke (1899 - 1974)

  • Irish Amateur winner 1947; Irish Close winner [8] 1930, 31, 32, 33, 36, 40, 47, 48; South of Ireland winner [11] 1928, 29, 30, 31, 39, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46; West of Ireland Champion [6] 1933, 34, 36, 38, 40, 41; Walker Cup 1932. Caps 66 (est)
John Burke with some of his trophies. Picture courtesy Limerick Golf Club

John Burke with some of his trophies. Picture courtesy Limerick Golf Club

John Burke (1920). Lieut. Lahinch Company. After participating in the Rineen Ambush, he was promoted to Adjutant of the 4th Battalion, Mid-Clare Brigade. He would go on to become one of Ireland's greatest amateur golfers. Picture: Burke family collection

John Burke (1920). Lieut. Lahinch Company. After participating in the Rineen Ambush, he was promoted to Adjutant of the 4th Battalion, Mid-Clare Brigade. He would go on to become one of Ireland's greatest amateur golfers. Picture: Burke family collection

The King of Lahinch, John Burke remains a legendary figure, described by the Shell International Encyclopaedia of Golf as: "A big, strong man, bred among the Lahinch sandhills, he had a wide and handsome arc to his swing, and although he had a complete command of every shot it was his length with wood out of thick clinging rough that was phenomenal." In his book, "Only Golf Spoken Here", Ivan Morris described his impressions of the eight-time Irish Close and 11-time South of Ireland winner in detail. On his dominance of the South, he wrote of the famous Old IRA man: "John’s success was threatening the economic viability of Lahinch village at a vulnerable time. He was requested not to take part for the five years between 1932 and 1937 because he was scaring away too many likely contestants at a time when the village badly needed the influx of visiting golfers…" He won the Irish Open Amateur at Royal Dublin in 1947, the West of Ireland on six occasions, was runner-up four times in the East but never played in the North. He made just one Walker Cup appearance at Brookline in 1932, being told by officials "in no uncertain terms" that it would be his last Walker Cup because there was "no place on a British team for IRA terrorists”.

Garth McGimpsey. Picture Pat Cashman

Garth McGimpsey. Picture Pat Cashman

3 Garth McGimpsey (Bangor)

  • (Irish Close winner 1988, runner-up 1996; Irish Amateur Open runner-up 1995; West of Ireland winner [4] 1984, 88, 93, 96, runner-up 1983; East of Ireland winner [3] 1988, 94, 98, runner-up 1979, 80, 92, 97; North of Ireland winner [5] 1978, 84, 91, 92, 93, runner-up 1997; British Amateur winner 1985; Walker Cup [3] 1985, 89, 91 (non-playing captain 2003, 05); Eisenhower Trophy [3] 1984, 86, 88; European Amateur Team Championship winner 1983, 87; Mullingar Scratch Trophy 1985. Caps 202)

Only the second Irishman after Joe Carr to be appointed captain of the Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team, Garth McGimpsey’s career is unparalleled in the modern amateur game in Ireland. His haul of 14 majors titles — he won the British Amateur, one Irish Close, four Wests, three Easts and five North of Ireland titles — is astounding. He played more than 200 times for Ireland, winning two European Amateur team championships, and took part in three Walker Cups, forming part of the side that won for the first time on US soil at Peachtree in Atlanta in 1989. McGimpsey played Phil Mickelson.  Coached by his father, Hal, his approach to the game was almost professional in manner and Pádraig Harrington admits that he was the player he admired more than any other and the one that brought out the best in him. "Garth McGimpsey was the best player, the best ball striker, the guy to beat when I was an amateur," Harrington recalled. "He was comfortably number one. Others came and went and some of them went pro but Garth was the man. He was the best ball striker. He hit the ball different to everybody else. We didn’t know why but his golf ball came off different to everybody else’s."

Never a showman — he was a man of few words — he had such class as a golfer and person that he more than deserves his place amongst the all-time greats.

Jimmy Bruen and his famous loop

Jimmy Bruen and his famous loop

2 Jimmy Bruen Jr (Muskerry/Cork) 

  • British Boys winner 1936; Irish Close winner 1937, 38; Irish Amateur Open winner 1938; British Amateur Championship winner 1946; Walker Cup 1938, 49, 51. Caps 24

Born in Belfast in 1920, Jimmy Bruen was a cross between Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Bobby Jones - a boy genius who could do anything with a golf club, and frequently did. As John Beck, Captain 1938 US Walker Cup team said: "Bruen gave the Americans a bit of an inferiority complex." He was the most exciting golfer in the world, raw power, coupled with a magical touch. His career was cut short by WWII and a wrist injury, but what he achieved had a far greater impact on the golfing world than others who won far more.  Capable of hitting the ball more then 350-yards thanks to the famous ‘loop’ in his swing, he was a complete unknown until he astounded the world with his skill in winning the British Boys Championship by 11 and 9 in 1936. He then beat the legendary John Burke to win the Irish Close championship in 1937 at the age of 17 and played in that year’s Irish Open Championship at Portrush, finishing joint sixth.

In the 1938 Walker Cup trials at St Andrews he equalled Bobby Jones’ amateur course record with a five under par 68 and caused a sensation. Inevitably, he was selected for the Walker Cup matches and helped the Great Britain and Ireland team defeat the Americans for the first time in the event’s short history. In the Open Championship at Royal St George’s in 1938, Bruen opened with a 70 to become the first amateur since Bobby Jones to lead The Open. The legend grew. In the 1939 Open at St Andrews he led the qualifiers with two course record equalling 69s and was installed as third favourite. He eventually finished eight shots behind the winner, though he did win the Silver Medal awarded to the leading amateur. He was world famous but war broke out and there was no golf in Britain. And while his legend grew at home, he lost six valuable years. 

By 1946 he was favourite to take both the Open Championship and Amateur Championship. And while he won the Amateur, becoming the first Irish winner, he decided not to play in The Open, citing business commitments at home.

Had it not been for the war years and a wrist injury he picked up working in his garden, he would surely have secured more victories. Instead, his weak wrist forced him to retire after the 1951 Walker Cup at the age of 30. He died of a heart attack at the tragically young age of 51. Joe Carr said of him: "He was the best Irish amateur I ever saw. From 1938 to 1942 he was among the six best players in the world, amateur or professional, in my view." 

A hero's welcome. JB Carr with the British Amateur Championship trophy. Picture via

A hero's welcome. JB Carr with the British Amateur Championship trophy. Picture via

1 J.B. Carr  (Sutton)

  • Open Championship leading amateur [2] 1954, 58.
  • British Amateur Championship winner [3] 1953, 58, 60, runner-up 1968. 
  • US Amateur Open semi-finalist 1961.
  • Irish Amateur Close winner [6] 1954, 57, 63, 64, 65, 67, runner-up [2] 1951, 69.
  • Irish Open (professional) leading amateur [4] 1946, 48, 50, 53.
  • Dunlop Masters (professional) T2 1959.
  • West of Ireland winner [12] 1946, 47, 48, 51, 53, 54, 56, 58, 60, 61, 62, 66.
  • East of Ireland winner [12] 1941, 43, 45, 46, 48, 56, 57, 58, 60, 61, 64, 69, runner-up [2] 1944, 46.
  • South of Ireland winner [3] 1948, 66, 69, runner-up 1946.
  • Irish Senior Cup with Sutton [6] 1948, 49, 50, 56, 58, 63. 
  • Barton Shield with Sutton [3] 1946, 49, 50.
  • Walker Cup [11] 1947-1967; Non-playing captain 1965, playing captain 1967.
  • Eisenhower Trophy 1958, 60; Non-playing captain 1964, 66.
  • St Andrews Trophy 1954, 56, 64 (playing captain) 1966 (non-playing captain), 1968.
  • Caps 157.
  • European Team Championship wins [2] 1965, 67.
  • Captain Royal & Ancient 1991-92
  • Association of Golf Writers’ Award (AGW) 1953
  • Bob Jones Award 1960
  • Walter Hagen Award 1967
  • World Golf Hall of Fame 2007

Joseph Benedict Carr was born in Inchicore to George and Margaret Mary "Missie" Waters, the fifth of seven children. At 10 days old, he was adopted by his maternal aunt Kathleen and her husband, James Carr, who were childless and had just been appointed steward and stewardess of Portmarnock Golf Club. It was a twist of fate that would create one of the legendary figures in the history of the game. 

JB was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2007, having won 40 major amateur championships, made the cut in the Masters twice and even led the Open. 

His fame is such that it is almost futile to attempt to give a summary of his career in this space, but the summary is mind-boggling in itself. He won three British Amateur Championships, six Irish Amateur Close Championships, four Irish Amateur Open Championships, 12 West of Ireland Championships, 12 East of Ireland Championships and three South of Ireland Championships.

Joe Carr. Picture via

Joe Carr. Picture via

He played international golf for Ireland from 1947 to 1969, appeared in three Masters Tournaments at Augusta National, making the cut twice. In 1967 he was paired with defending champion Jack Nicklaus and the Golden Bear missed the cut. The following year he was paired with Arnold Palmer, who also failed to make the cut.

In his book "Breaking 80", written with Dermot Gilleece, he recalls sitting down on the Friday evening of that second year with Clifford Roberts, the notoriously autocratic club chairman. "Well, now," Roberts said to the gathering, "we're thinking of inviting Carr back next year, but who in the name of God will play with him?"

They paired him with another legend, Sam Snead, the next year . . . and both players missed the cut! He won the British Amateur in 1953 but coveted a win in that event at the Home of Golf in 1958. 

"With all the practice shots I hit by way of preparation for St Andrews, I almost wore through the blades of my eight and nine irons," he recalled. He estimated that he had hit 47,000 tee-shots in preparation for that championship, and he had two drivers - standard, persimmon Lambert Topping models custom-made in London - because he would wear the face off one.

Hugely popular in the US and instantly recognisable by the green bobble he wore on his cap, he was awarded the Bobby Jones Award by the USGA in 1955 for "distinguished sportsmanship in golf".

As captain, he brought the organisation of the Irish amateur international team to a level unseen before. As Garth McGimpsey was to remark, that transformation was similar to one that Tony Jacklin demanded for the European Ryder Cup team — only the best would do and the players came first.

He was a fearsome matchplay warrior, mentally in a different league, and would do just about anything to get an edge over his opponent. But for all that he achieved — you can see the trophy-laden shelves in the Joe Carr Room at Sutton Golf Club to this day — it's the man himself as much as the golfing legend that lives on.

As Jack Nicklaus remarked so eloquently in Shane O’Donoghue’s book, ‘Legends In Their Spare Time’: "The golf world lost a wonderful player in Joe Carr, but we all lost an even better man."


Special mentions also for: Paraic O'Rourke, Kilkenny; Jack Hume, Naas; Brud Slattery, Lahinch; Ian Elliott, Royal Portrush/Rathmore; E.F. Carter, Royal Portrush; J. Duncan, Shandon Park; F.P. McConnell, Royal Portrush; Andrew McCormick, Scrabo; W.H. Rainey, Shandon Park; J.R. Mahon, Portmarnock/Sligo; Paul O’Hanlon, The Curragh; AW Briscoe, Castlerea; M. Crowley, Portmarnock; T.W. Egan, Monkstown; B.J.S. Kissock, Bangor; Robbie Cannon, Balbriggan; Tom Corridan, Castletroy; Gareth Shaw, Lurgan; Enda McMenamin, Ballybofey; H.B. Smyth, Royal Co Down, Mourne; Stuart Paul, Tandragee; Jackie Harrington, Adare Manor; MJC Hoey, Shandon Park; R M. Saunders, Lahinch; Michael McDermott, Stackstown; W.I. Forsythe, Malone; Johnny Foster, Ballyclare; Dara Lernihan, Castle; Mark Murphy, Waterville; Mark Campbell, Stackstown; F.B. Newett, Malone; Connor Doran, Banbridge; RM Craigan, Malone; Gary Cullen, Beaverstown; Gary Murphy, Kilkenny;  Val Smyth, Laytown & Bettystown; JF McLoughlin, Royal Dublin; C.W. Robertson, Delgany; E.F. Spiller, Malone; G.H. Owens, Skerries; Cian Curley, Newlands; Richard Kilpatrick, Banbridge; Rory McNamara, Headfort; Eamonn Brady, Royal Dublin; Martin Sludds, The Island; Paul Dunne, Greystones; Ciaran McMonagle, Dunfanaghy; Gary McNeill, Warrenpoint; WJJ Ferguson, Malone; Kenny Stevenson, Banbridge; J.F. Fitzgibbon, Cork; Mick O’Loughlin, Lahinch; Gary Hurley, West Waterford; Seamus Power, West Waterford.