Irish Ladies Amateur Close
LADIES CHAMPIONSHIPS AT ROYAL DUBLIN
The ILGU was founded in 1893 and staged its first Ladies Championship in 1894. Three years later the women’s game was steadily growing in popularity, albeit with a membership solely of Northern clubs until Foxrock sought, and were granted, membership of the Union in 1897. In that context, we are told in the ILGU Centenary history (1893-1993) authored by John Redmond and Dermot Gilleece, that there was “an animated discussion” about the venue for the 1897 Championship.
North West, Portsalon, Portrush and Royal Dublin had all offered their courses as a venue to the ILGU and the deciding factor was: “the anxiety of delegates to make the event a truly, all-Ireland gathering.” The issue went to a vote, and Royal Dublin was chosen ahead of Portrush by 11-5, thus becoming the first southern club to stage the Irish Ladies Championship.
The final that year was played between two Royal County Down members - Miss Nellie Graham, the holder, and Miss Jessie Magill. Miss Magill was the daughter of Dr Robert Magill, one of the founders of Royal County Down. Her brother, Bertie, had won the GUI’s Irish Close Championship in 1894. On this occasion at Royal Dublin, Miss Magill had no answer to Miss Graham’s prowess, and lost 5 & 3.
Royal Dublin next held the Championship in 1907. The champion, Florence Walker-Leigh of Foxrock, defeated Mrs Fitzgibbon of The Island 4 & 3 in the final. This was a deserved triumph for Miss Walker Leigh. Off the course, she had been a prime mover in Foxrock seeking affiliation to the ILGU in 1897, and was made a Vice President of the Union soon afterwards. She had been defeated in the 1901 final by Rhona Adair, and in the 1904 decider by May Hezlet, both of Royal Portrush. Rhona Adair had also eclipsed Miss Walker-Leigh in the 1903 Ladies British Amateur Championship played at Royal Portrush.
Following her Irish Championship victory, Florence Walker-Leigh (Foxrock) played in the 1907 Home Internationals with Jesse Magill (Royal County Down), May Hezlet, Florence Hezlet, Violet Hezlet, Maud Stuart (all Royal Portrush), and Mrs Durlacher (Romford) two weeks later. The team achieved an historic Triple Crown at Royal County Down – a feat that no Irish women’s side repeated until 1980 at Cruden Bay.
Molly McLoughlin, a 19 year old member of Dun Laoghaire GC, defeated Miss Fanny Blake (Woodbrook), 2up in the final. The Irish Independent reported that Miss McLoughlin had started her golf at Grange where her father was steward. “Diminutive in physique, Miss McLoughlin is a stylist and her short game, especially approaching, was on a par with even our best professionals,” the writer observed.