The Irish Open Championship
THE IRISH OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP 1931-1950
The Irish Open Championship, inaugurated in 1927, was hosted by The Royal Dublin Golf Club six times, the first in 1931 and the last in 1985. From its inception, the Irish Open attracted some of the best players ever to grace the game including Open Champions and, in more recent times, winners of the other Major Championships.
Champion: E.W “Bob” Kenyon (England)
Score: 291 (75,72, 74, 70)
Date: August 25, 26, 27.
Format: 18 holes, 18 holes, 36 holes.
Runner-up: WH “Bill” Davies (England), Bert Hodson (Wales), Abe Mitchell (England), Mark Seymour (England), and Ernest Whitcombe (England) all tied on 293.
Bob Kenyon (West Lancs GC), then aged 26, was not among the fancied contenders in a starting field of 131 competitors, among them famous players such as Abe Mitchell, George Duncan, and Archie Compston. Kenyon trailed the 54 hole leader Tom Barber of Derbyshire by three shots going into the last round but his closing 70 earned a win with two shots to spare. The leading Irishman was Pat O’Connor (Woodbrook) on 294. Ernest Whitcombe set a new course record 66 in the fourth round. The previous best was 69 by Fred Smyth of The Royal Dublin.
Champion: Reg Whitcombe (England)
Score: 281 (72, 72, 68, 69)
Date: July 14, 15, 16.
Format: 18 holes; 18 holes, 36 holes.
Runner-up: W.H. “Bill” Davies (England) 283.
Reg Whitcombe (Parkstone GC) was the youngest of the Whitcombe brothers. Ernest had won the Irish Open twice, first in 1928 and again in 1935 when he defeated Reg in a playoff for the title at Royal County Down. Another brother, Charles Whitcombe, won the Irish Open in 1930 but neither he nor Ernest played at The Royal Dublin in 1936. Despite the absence of the holder, a record entry of 138 indicated the popularity of the Irish tournament with the majority of leading professionals of the time. Portmarnock professional Willie Nolan and Sid Easterbrook, the 1934 champion, were joint leaders after 36 holes on 142. South African amateur Bobby Locke was in a group on 143. A total of 64 players teed up in the final round. Reg Whitcombe went on to atone for his near miss the previous year by scoring 68, 69 for a tournament record total of 281. His final 18 holes featured eight single putts.
Jimmy Adams of Romford GC, runner-up to Alf Padgham in The Open Championship at Hoylake the previous month, rounded off his performance with a 67, thus setting a new record for the links which had been extended to 6,520 yards. That was over 500 yards longer than in 1931 when Ernest Whitcombe set the mark at 66. Bobby Locke (tied- sixth) won the best Amateur prize. Willie Nolan (tied-4th) on 285, was once again the leading Irishman.
Champion: Ossie Pickworth (Australia)
Score: 287 (70,74, 73, 70)
Date: July 12, 13, 14.
Format: 18 holes; 18 holes; 36 holes.
Runner-up: Norman Van Nida (Australia) and John Panton (Scotland) on 289.
Ossie Pickworth’s first visit to Ireland yielded the biggest tournament win of his career. Australian champion in 1946,’47, and ’48, Pickworth literally jumped for joy when he holed from 60 feet on the 72nd hole for an eagle three, as the 18th, “The Garden,” was a par-5 at the time. Out of 96 starters, 41 qualified for the final 36 holes, and 28 of them were Irishmen, including reigning champion Harry Bradshaw, Fred Daly, the 1947 Open Champion, and ten amateurs.
The second round had been played in horrendous conditions of wind and rain. It was so bad that only 21 players broke 80, so Pickworth’s 74 which kept him in the hunt for the title was quite an achievement. The leading Irish player was the great amateur Joe “JB” Carr from Sutton GC, who finished joint 5th on 292 with Ryder Cup player Arthur Lees of Sunningdale, the Irish Open champion of 1939. Highlighting the fine performance of the amateurs, Jimmy Carroll (Sutton) was next best Irishman on 298.