1962: Dr David Sheahan (Grange)
UCD medical student David Sheahan was front page news on Monday, June 4, 1962, the morning after his astonishing success in winning the Jeyes International Pro-Am at Royal Dublin. “David defeats Golf Goliaths” was the headline in the Irish Independent which carried a photo of the Grange Golf Club member being raised aloft by friends and club mates after he had clinched a history-making victory. Previews of the Jeyes tournament suggested that the winner would most likely emerge from the clutch of Ryder Cup players and South Africans in the field.
Christy O’Connor Senior, Dai Rees, Harry Weetman – winner the previous week of the Swallow-Penfold tournament - Peter Butler, and Bernard Hunt had all represented GB and Ireland in the Ryder Cup, while Denis Hutchinson of South Africa was another of the headline players. David Sheahan, the 1961 Irish Close champion, was one of a select group of the best Irish amateurs in the field, including the great Joe Carr, Tom Craddock, and Noel Fogarty of Royal Dublin.
The tournament format was 18 holes on Friday, June 1; another 18 on Saturday June 2, and 36 holes on Sunday, June 3. Par for the course was 74 (35, 39). Sheahan’s 69, 72, 72, had him nicely tucked in three shots behind Christy Senior, who led after 54 holes by a shot from Hutchinson. Senior’s second round 65 was a new course record. The stage was thus set for a big finish. An air of excitement flourished among the large galleries following Christy Senior but as he fell away with 75, news spread that the amateur, David Sheahan, was making a charge. Out in 33, the Grange golfer kept cool amid the buzz of anticipation generated by his performance. He came to the 16th tee needing 3-4-4 (birdie, par, birdie) to win. The UCD student rose to the challenge and duly passed this stern examination of nerve and technique. He almost holed for eagle on 16, but was grateful to take the birdie. Then came a par on 17.
The final test was the notorious “Garden”. Sheahan opted for a safety first policy, taking driver and four-iron to leave himself a 20 foot pitch. From there he played a delightful wedge shot to within a foot of the flagstick. Sheahan tapped in for his birdie to close out the tournament with 69 and a 282 total. South Africa’s Hutchinson came second, beaten by a shot. Ironically, as an amateur, Hutchinson had won the South African Open championship in 1959. Christy Senior was third on 285.
Consolation for the two professionals came in the form of first and second place prize money respectively, but the winner was not complaining Noel Fogarty (290) was runner-up to Sheahan for the amateur prize. The UCD student was quickly brought down to earth as, despite the clamour for photographs and interviews, he had to face exams the day after his golfing success. His feat went unmatched in European golf until 2007 when Spain’s Pablo Martin Benavides won the Estoril Open de Portugal as an amateur. Two years later Shane Lowry joined Dr Sheahan in defeating the professionals at the 2009 ‘3’ Irish Open.
1963: Guy Wolstenholme (St George’s Hill)
Holder Dr David Sheahan did not defend his Jeyes International Pro-Am title in 1963, as the event clashed with the Walker Cup being played at Turnberry. Dr Sheahan, Joe Carr and David Madeley were the Irish representatives on the GB and Ireland team that played the USA that year. Back home, Christy O’Connor Senior was once again expected to mount a strong challenge at Royal Dublin.
Christy’s friend and Ryder Cup partner Peter Alliss, Bernard Hunt, Denis Hutchinson, Harry Weetman and former amateur star Guy Wolstenholme also looked likely contenders for the Jeyes tournament. Wolstenholme made an early move, leading after round one on 68, six under the par of 74, to go a shot clear of surprise packet Jimmy Barrett of Carrickmines.
After that, the St George’s Hill professional turned the event into a one man show. Wolstenholme produced a record-equalling 65, highlighted by seven birdies and an eagle 3 at the 13th, in the second round to lie five shots clear of the field. With three rounds completed, the Englishman led by nine. He completed the rout with a 68 for 269 and a 12 shot winning margin. Australia’s Frank Philips, twice an Australian Open champion, carded 65 to equal the course record and finish second on 281. John Nestor of Milltown led from pillar to post to take the amateur prize on 292.