The Greats

The Greats

At the Royal Dublin
Legends of the Game

Perhaps the greatest pioneer in the history of the game, Old Tom Morris, came to the Royal Dublin and played two matches here on June 7, 1894. Also in that year, the Royal Dublin hosted its first championship event, the Irish Amateur Open.

Since then, the greatest golfers in the world – both professional and amateur – have come to play in tournaments at the famed links.

legends 5
Seve Ballesteros

Seve Ballesteros

Seve Ballesteros

(April 9, 1957- May 7, 2011)

By any standard, the mercurial Seve Ballesteros deserves to be hailed as a genuine golfing legend.

Taken from life far too soon after a long battle with brain cancer at just 54, his memory and achievements in the game will last as long as golf is played.

Among those privileged to see him first hand in the heat of competitive fire were the many thousands of fans from home and abroad who flocked to The Royal Dublin Golf Club where the Carrolls Irish Open was staged in 1983, 1984, and 1985, the club’s Centenary Year.

Great Championships, great players, and the great Seve in his prime.

He fully lived up to his reputation for his first visit in 1983.

Despite feeling tired from jet lag after his Monday trip from Los Angeles to Dublin following the conclusion of the US PGA Championship, Seve took to the Dollymount links with aplomb, scoring 67, to lie three shots behind round one joint leader Bernhard Langer.

He went on to win the Irish title with a 17-under par total of 271.

It was love at first sight between the European Tour’s most charismatic golfer and the venerable links of Royal Dublin.

“I like this course, it suits my game. The greens are very fast and like those in America,” he said after his first 18 holes.

A year later, Seve arrived for the Carrolls Irish Open as the recently-crowned Open Champion which he had won in a dramatic finish at St Andrews.

This time he had to surrender his Irish Open crown to Bernhard Langer whose 21-under par 267 gave him a four shot margin ahead of nearest challenger Mark James of England.

Seve came out fighting in the final round with five birdies in his first eight holes, but ultimately had to settle for tied- third on 15-under par alongside Australians Greg Norman and Graham Marsh.

Royal Dublin hosted the Irish Open again in 1985, an auspicious year in which the club celebrated 100 years of existence.

How fitting that the tournament should end in a dramatic climax with the two previous Royal Dublin winners deciding the outcome in a playoff.

Langer looked certain to retain his title as he signed for a superb 63 in the fourth round and six-under par 278 total.

Ballesteros was still on the course and three shots behind with four to play.

He needed a miracle to get back in contention, and typical of him, Seve delivered in spectacular style.

Birdies on the 15th 16th and 17th holes and a good par at the 18th brought roars that could be heard the length of the Bull Island.

A tie at the top of the leaderboard meant that Langer, the 1985 Masters Champion and Ballesteros, The Open Champion, were set for sudden death.

They halved the 17th in par fours, and came up the 18th with everything on the line.

Both men were on the green in two, with Langer a shade closer to the hole than Ballesteros’ 35 feet.

The Masters Champion putted first, and his ball came up just short.

Then it was the turn of The Champion Golfer of the Year, and

Seve made no mistake, drilling the ball into the hole for a winning birdie.

His dance of delight, reminiscent of his exuberant celebration on the 18th at St Andrews showed how much the title and the victory meant to him.

Jack Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus was born in Dublin, Ohio, and how appropriate that his first visit to Ireland should take place at The Royal Dublin Golf Club.

The date was Monday July 21, 1986, the occasion the Toyota Challenge of Champions, an exhibition match between Jack and Severiano Ballesteros.

Earlier that year, Jack had stunned and delighted the world of golf by his triumph in The Masters at Augusta at age 46 to win his 18th professional Major championship.

The Toyota Challenge of Champions was the brainchild of Dr Tim Mahony, a member of Royal Dublin, and the Chairman of Toyota Ireland.

Temporary stands were erected close to the 18th green to cater for the enthusiastic gallery of 6,000 golf fans eager to see two golfing greats ply their trade.

Politicians, including the then US Ambassador Margaret Heckler, members of the Dáil, and leading business people were among the attendance.

Seve, then 29, had shot 64 in his final round at The Open Championship held in Turnberry the day before the Challenge, but it was not enough to deny Greg Norman the Claret Jug.

Jack had played The Open but finished down the field.

He flew on his private jet to Dublin, accompanied by his wife Barbara, daughter Nan, then 21, and one of his sons, Michael (12).

The well known actor and entertainer Niall Tóibín, another Royal Dublin member, was Master of Ceremonies and the Army No 1 band provided pre-event entertainment.

First on the agenda was an enjoyable, informative, and entertaining golf clinic in which the two stars displayed their considerable talents.

The highlight of the clinic was the Spanish maestro amazing the gallery by getting down on his knees and hitting a drive 250 yards.

With the players duly warmed up, the match began.

Jack, clad in the colours of the Irish national flag with green trousers, white golf shirt and yellow sweater, had the honour.

He had never seen the course, and by his own admission, was very short sighted, but he hit the fairway with his opening drive and made birdie on the first hole.

That set the tone. The competitive pride of both men was evident and while their exchanges were friendly and witty throughout the match, they were both trying their best on every shot.

Seve, then 29 and winner of four Majors - he was to win his fifth and final one, The Open, in 1988 - produced some trademark stunning short game shots and reached the turn in 34, one under par.

Good, but not quite good enough as Jack had negotiated the outward nine in 32, bringing huge roars from the gallery as he birdied the eighth and ninth holes.

The weather deteriorated through the back nine but falling rain did not dampen the spirits of the spectators, nor the focus of the players.

The lead ebbed and flowed between the two protagonists.

Jack led by three after the 11th when Seve bogeyed; then came a two shot swing on the par-3, 12th with a birdie for the Spaniard and a bogey for the Golden Bear.

On 13, Jack was bunkered off the tee and a par for Seve brought them level with six to play.

Hole 14, par-5.  An errant drive from Seve and a birdie four by Jack left the man from Dublin, Ohio, ahead by a shot.

They each made par on the 15th and Jack thrilled the spectators by driving the 16th.  His eagle putt came up just short, but the birdie was assured.  Leader by two with two to play.

Was it over for Seve? Not at all. He had an opening when his opponent found sand off the tee and made sure of his par to Jack’s five.

Last hole. The famous “Garden” where Seve had holed a monster putt to defeat Bernhard Langer in the 1985 Carrolls Irish Open.

They each played a safe tee shot. Nicklaus’s second finished left of the green, about pin high.

Seve’s second came up short, about 40 feet from the hole.

Jack pitched onto the green, but his ball stopped rolling six feet away from the flagstick.

Over to Seve - and he did not disappoint. Settling himself carefully, he drew back the putter and with a firm rap sent the ball on its way.

It arrowed across the green and flashed into the hole for a sensational birdie three and a round of 70.

 A thunderous roar erupted from the gallery.

Now it was Jack’s turn, but his read was slightly off and the ball finished a tad right of the hole for 71.

Seve was the winner of the match, but the real winners were the fans who attended Royal Dublin on that memorable occasion to see two superstars of the game display their talents.

Dustin Johnson

Dustin Johnson

Dustin Johnson

Dustin Johnson is a big fan of links golf despite learning the game on typical American parkland courses around his home city Columbia, South Carolina.

Johnson showed his affinity for the seaside layouts in Ireland when he came to Royal County Down in 2007 as a member of the USA Walker Cup team.

The Americans defied all predictions when they defeated GB & Ireland – Rory McIlroy included – for a first American Walker Cup victory on this side of the Atlantic since 1991.

Johnson turned professional soon after the Walker Cup and won his PGA Tour playing rights at the Tour School that Autumn.

He adjusted quickly to life on Tour as he showed by winning the 2008 Turning Stone Resort Championship.

Johnson played The Open Championship for the first time at Turnberry in 2009.

A year later he took part in the JP McManus Pro Am and following that huge charity fund raising event, he stayed in Ireland to adjust to the time zone and sample the links experience, including Royal Dublin.

He has since made regular forays to this country prior to Open Championships.

“I try to come over every year a little bit early. I usually go to Dublin and hang out and play.

“I’ve always enjoyed playing links golf. You’ve got to hit all different shots. 

“You’ve got to cut it, you’ve got to draw it, you’ve got to hit it low, you’ve got to hit it high, and I enjoy that,” he said.

The big-hitting Johnson has achieved most of his ambitions.

He has enjoyed long periods as number one in the World rankings, played on successful Ryder Cup and President’s Cup teams with the USA, and, most important, he finally broke his Major Championship hoodoo in the US Open at Oakmont in 2016.

Prior to his breakthrough Johnson held the unenviable record of failing to win the four times he was in a final pairing of a Major – 2010 US Open (finished tied-8), 2010 US PGA Championship (finished tied-5) 2011 US Open (finished tied-2), and the 2015 US Open (finished tied-2).

Arguably, Johnson was overdue a Major. Credit to him, he came from four behind tournament leader Shane Lowry after 54 holes at Oakmont to win his national Open title.

Bernhard Langer

Bernhard Langer

Bernhard Langer

Longevity and an enduring capacity for winning tournaments are the hallmarks of the remarkable Bernhard Langer.

Born in August, 1957, the native of Anhausen, Germany, turned professional in 1972 and almost five decades later, he retains a level of competitiveness which testifies to his iron will and sheer love of the game.

Bernhard’s record speaks for itself. Two regular Major Championships - The Masters of 1985 and 1993 - were backed up by success on every continent.

He won 42 times on the European Tour, and three times on the PGA Tour, including those victories at Augusta.

He played ten times on European Ryder Cup teams, finishing on the winning team on five occasions, and famously captained Europe to an overwhelming defeat of the USA at Oakland Hills in 2004.

Like Gary Player before him, Bernhard has criss-crossed all time zones in travelling the world many times over to compete and win titles, comfortably breaking the 100 barrier in total tournament victories.

The pride of German golf rose to international fame during the Eighties, and in that respect, Bernhard’s performances in the three Carrolls Irish Opens staged at Royal Dublin were out of the top drawer.

He had to bow the knee to Seve Ballesteros in the 1983 Irish Open, but Bernhard made amends by his remorseless conquering of the Spaniard and the rest of the field in 1984.

The victory by four shots over his closest challenger Mark James was all the more impressive given that he had won the KLM Dutch Open the previous week.

Bernhard did pretty much everything he could to retain his title in 1985 but there was no accounting for the magic touch of Seve Ballesteros who came from three behind with four to play to earn a play off and beat the German in a playoff.

However, it is a tribute to Royal Dublin experience he enjoyed from 1983-85 that Langer remained hugely enthusiastic about the course and the Irish golfing public who attended those tournaments.

“I always enjoy playing here. The crowds are unbelievable. They cheer you when you go on the tee. They cheer you after your drive. They cheer you when you walk up the fairway and onto the green. You walk seven thousand yards and they cheer you every step of the way. It’s incredible,” he said.

Never as flamboyant as Seve, Bernhard nevertheless deserved the admiration and respect he received from the Irish Open galleries.

When he entered Seniors golf, there was no diminution of his performance level.

Bernhard carried on where he had left off at the Over-50 level, winning 11 Senior Majors up to 2019, and 29 PGA Tour Champions events.

Louis Oosthuizen

Louis Oosthuizen

Louis Oosthuizen

Oosthuizen wins Irish Amateur Open at Dollymount

South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen made his first visit to Royal Dublin in May 2002 when he shot a four under par final round of 68 to win the Irish Amateur Open Championship by a single shot over the Dollymount Links.

The 19 year old South African from Swellendam was nine behind halfway leader Paul Bradshaw starting the final day but youngster from the Southern Cape shot a 71 in the morning’s play followed by a 68 in the afternoon which included five birdies in the first nine holes.

Despite a monstrous drive and perfect six-iron to 25 feet, Oosthuizen three putted the difficult 18th to set a clubhouse target of five under par 283 with rounds of 73 71 71 68. It was good enough for a one shot victory over Paul Bradshaw.

A product of the Ernie Els Foundation, Oosthuizen looked like schoolboy compared to the rest of the field. “I just try to enjoy myself on the course,” he said. “Ernie Els has told us to go out and have fun and that’s what I tried to do today. It’s a real thrill from me to win here.”

He followed in the steps of fellow South African Bobby Locke who as an 18 year old on his first visit to Europe won the low amateur prize at the Open Championship of Ireland played at Royal Dublin.  Louis Oosthuizen went on to win the 2010 Open Championship at St Andrews and was subsequently made an Honorary Member at Royal Dublin.

Old Tom Morris

Old Tom Morris

Old Tom Morris

Old Tom Morris visits Royal Dublin

In June 1894 Old Tom Morris of St. Andrews, a winner of four Opens Championships, visited Dollymount. The members of the Royal Dublin Golf Club gave him a warm welcome on his arrival, brisk and hale. Playing on the evening of his arrival at Dollymount, with Anthony Brown, the club professional, Old Tom went round in 88 an excellent score, and one that, with knowledge of the links, might easily have been under 80.

On Wednesday Old Tom and Mr Tom Gilroy (the Captain of the club and regarded as the best player in Ireland) played Brown and Mr John Petrie. The match was halved, as Old Tom’s approaches to the greens on the back nine helped the Morris/Gilroy partnership get back on level terms. In the book, The Life of Tom Morris, the following day (Thursday) a return match was played, which ended in a win for the Captain and the visitor by one hole.

It had been proposed by Mr Petrie that Old Tom Morris be engaged to lay out the course at Dollymount but in the end it was John Lumsden and Tom Gilroy who took on task.

"Is there need to add," says a report, "that all the members of the Club gave a hearty welcome to the grand old champion, that we look forward to another visit from him soon, and that he departed with good wishes for his success at Sandwich during the Championship Meeting"

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy is one of the most charismatic, popular, and influential golfers on the planet.

It is fair to say that Rory’s four Major Championships and a host of Tour wins on both sides of the Atlantic make him Ireland’s greatest golfer, thus fulfilling the potential he displayed in his early teens.

Rory was only 15 when he became the youngest winner of the West of Ireland Championship in April, 2005.

Two months later, shortly after he turned 16, the boy wonder defied all comers to claim the Irish Close title, and he repeated the West of Ireland/Irish Close double in 2006.

Rory was clearly destined for a great career as a professional, but before he left the amateur ranks, he had an ambition to add the Irish Amateur Open Championship to his golfing C.V.

His last chance came when the Amateur Open returned to Royal Dublin in May, 2007.

By then young master McIlroy had reached the number one spot in the World Amateur rankings for a short time earlier in the year, and was the reigning European Amateur Individual champion.

Rory came to Royal Dublin as the tournament favourite, underlined by his plus 5.1 handicap being the lowest of all the competitors.

A refurbished clubhouse and an upgraded course awaited the elite field which included the US Amateur champion Richie Ramsay of Scotland and 13 members of the GB & Ireland Walker Cup squad due to play the USA at Royal County Down in September of that year.

Rory teed off in round one on Friday, May 11, a week after his 18th birthday and had mixed fortunes.  

He started well and notched up four birdies on the outward nine.

The homeward stretch proved more difficult. Rory struggled in windy and wet conditions on the back nine and finished with 73.

In the circumstances, he felt that was a reasonable return and hoped to improve over the next three rounds.

Unfortunately his optimism was not matched by his golf, and he failed to fire on all cylinders.

Subsequent rounds of 74, 75, and 76 left him too far adrift of eventual champion, Lloyd Saltman of Scotland, and he had to settle for a share of fourth place.

The outcome was disappointing, but to put it in context, this was little more than a blip given his subsequent rise to the highest level of world golf.

Since 2007, Rory has returned to Royal Dublin on a number of occasions for prestigious corporate events.

Pádraig Harrington

Pádraig Harrington

Pádraig Harrington

3 Time Major Champion

Pádraig is one of our greatest players and universally popular with golf followers at home and abroad.

Renowned for his dedication to practice and always seeking improvement, the man from Stackstown GC ushered in a new era for golf on this island starting in a memorable 2007 season.

Pádraig’s first big breakthrough on native soil came with his Irish Open Championship win at Adare Manor in May of that year.

Prior to that, 25 years elapsed since the last home winner, John O’Leary, triumphed in our national professional Open.

The best was yet to come. Within two months of the Irish Open win, his career reached a new level at Carnoustie where Pádraig defeated Sergio Garcia of Spain in a playoff to lift the Claret Jug.

A year later he retained the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in and then capped a magical 13 months by victory in the US PGA Championship at Oakland Hills, where he had helped Europe defeat the USA in 2004.

The Irish Major Champions who followed Pádraig to the highest honours in golf, Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke, and Rory McIlroy all acknowledged the importance of Pádraig’s breakthrough.

If he could do it, then so could they, and how well they followed his example.

Shane Lowry’s Open Championship success at Royal Portrush in 2019 added another stirring chapter to the ever-evolving story of Irish golf.

As one generation follows another, so it was that a young Pádraig had looked to the example set by the great Christy O’Connor Senior, forever to be linked with Royal Dublin.

Pádraig had the good fortune as a rising star in the amateur ranks and later as a professional to play a number of times with Christy Senior in the Links Golfing Society at Royal Dublin and other venues.

Taking every opportunity to learn from his illustrious playing partner, Pádraig had the height of respect for Christy Senior and cherished every moment he spent in his company.

Pádraig’s career took on a new dimension when he was selected as Europe’s captain for the 2020 Ryder Cup match against the USA at Whistling Straits.

Pádraig Harrington has been a frequent visitor to Royal Dublin over the years, including a memorable round with former United States President Bill Clinton and U2 guitarist Edge.

Given its quality and location, the Royal Dublin Golf Club is perfect for anyone staying in the city and looking to play a great links golf course.

Ernie Els

Ernie Els

Ernie Els

Ernie Els, “The Big Easy”, known for his height - 6ft 3 ins- and his beautifully rhythmic swing, has won four regular Tour Majors.

His first was the 1994 US Open, the second the 1997 US Open.

Els showed his affinity for links golf with success in the 2002 and 2012 stagings of The Open Championship.

Ireland rates highly with the former World number one.

He first played here in the 1992 Irish Open in Killarney and in his prime, made a number of trips to Irish links courses, including Royal Dublin, in preparation for The Open Championships.

His experiences in Ireland made a very favourable impression on the globe-trotting South African who has added course design to his business portfolio.

Speaking with Royal Dublin member and top Tour caddie Colin Byrne prior to the 2019 BMW Championship at Wentworth, Ernie recalled his last visit to the Dollymount links.

“I have fond memories of playing Royal Dublin in 1998 in preparation for the Open Championship.

“My father and Johan Rupert joined me on a fabulous day at the old Harry Colt links.

“I have a great affinity with Colt given my association with the West course at Wentworth.

“Apart from playing the links in a demanding westerly, my most lasting memory is of meeting Christy O’Connor  and listening to some of his many yarns about his days on the links.

“What a wonderful test of golf.  I found it in impeccable condition. It is one of the most impressive facilities, wonderfully situated so close to the city.

“Please pass on my warm regards to everyone at Royal Dublin.”


Ernie turned professional in 1989 and within five years had catapulted himself into the highest levels of golf by winning the 1994 US Open.

As his career graph continued to rise, Els did not forget his early struggles to gain traction as a Tour player, so he set up the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation to assist promising young South African players to fund their development.

Among the most spectacular beneficiaries of the Els & Fancourt Foundation were major champions Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, both of whom competed in the Irish Amateur Open at Royal Dublin in 2002.

Darren Clarke

Darren Clarke

Darren Clarke

Darren Clarke is considered one of the most talented players to emerge from the island of Ireland.

The big man from Dungannon, County Tyrone, turned pro in 1990 with a handicap of plus-four, rounding off his amateur career with victory in the Spanish Amateur and the Irish Close championships.

He went on to win 20 professional titles, including two WGC Championships, and, on Irish soil, the 2001 Smurfit European Open at The K Club.

Darren’s crowning glory came in 2011, a few weeks before his 43rd birthday, when he won The Open Championship at Royal St George’s.

The golfing world rejoiced for a player who had graced five European Ryder Cup sides, including the 2006 staging at The K Club which was played shortly after the death of his wife Heather.

Darren’s role in the European victory for Ian Woosnam’s team brought tears of emotion from the player, his caddie, and his team mates.

Ten years later Darren’s Ryder Cup career climaxed with his captaincy of Europe at Hazeltine.

Unlike Oakland Hills in 2004 when he, Pádraig Harrington and Paul McGinley were part of a winning team in America, Hazeltine proved a breakthrough occasion for the USA and Darren had to suffer the disappointment of being a losing captain.

On a happier note, Darren’s Open victory and the majors won by Rory McIlroy (4), Pádraig Harrington (3), and Graeme McDowell (2010 US Open), paved the way for the historic return of The Open Championship to Royal Portrush in 2019.

This was a dream come true for Darren who lives in Portrush, all the more so as he was given the honour of playing the first tee shot in The Open on his home course.

The Royal Dublin Golf Club is a superb links test with a very rich history.  It's a course I always enjoy playing  and it offers a fair and difficult challenge

David Feherty

David Feherty

David Feherty

David Feherty has had two careers - the first as a professional golfer, the second and most enduring, as a commentator on the game for US networks CBS, NBC and The Golf Channel.

The generation who grew up watching Tiger Woods since his professional debut in 1996 came to know, and mostly love, the often irreverent, but always entertaining input from David Feherty on television.

Born in Bangor, County Down on August 13, 1958, David showed early promise as a budding opera singer but golf gradually became his passion.

He learned the game at Bangor GC, and at age 17 turned professional.

David had a short stint at Mid-Herts GC before returning to Holywood GC in 1976, and later went to Balmoral GC as an assistant to Fred Daly, winner of The Open Championship in 1947.

His first big breakthrough came in the 1980 Irish PGA Championship held at Royal Dublin, when, aged 22, he won the title and became the youngest champion in the tournament’s history.

The Ulsterman’s 283 for nine-under par was three shots better than runner-up Hugh Jackson of Donabate.

David enjoyed a solid career as a Tour professional, winning five times on the European Tour: Italian and Scottish Opens (1986); BMW International Open (1989); Cannes Open (1991); and Madrid Open (1992).

He captained Ireland to a Dunhill Cup win in 1990, and played on the European Ryder Cup team at Kiawah Island in 1991, beating Payne Stewart 2&1 in the singles.

David’s best Major Championship performances were in the 1989 Open at Turnberry (tied-6th), the 1994 Open at Troon (tied-4th), and the 1991 USPGA at Crooked Stick (solo 7th).

As his playing career wound down, David found new horizons opening for him, beginning with his first full time contract with CBS in 1997.

He has since gone on to become internationally famous for his witty, occasionally caustic, and insightful observations on golf via the medium of television.

Christy O’Connor

Christy O’Connor

Christy O’Connor

Christy O’Connor was a 25-year-old assistant professional at Galway GC, when he decided on a trip to the capital so as to broaden his golfing education. With an elite field of 96 competitors assembled at Royal Dublin for the 1950 Irish Open Championship, his objective, as he put it, was “to see top professionals such as Dai Rees and Australia’s Norman von Nida in action.”

As it happened, a lesser-known Australian, Ossie Pickworth, captured the title. On his journey back to the west, however, the young Galwayman’s thoughts were dominated by images not of distinguished players, but of a celebrated links which had captured his heart. “I loved Royal Dublin from first sight, and I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to get back there,” he later remarked. This was the traditional, out-and-back layout which the great English architect, Harry Colt, had crafted on Dollymount’s Bull Island, after it was returned to the members having served as a musketry range during World War I. And through remarkable developments for both player and club, it would become Christy’s golfing home from April 1959 until his death in May 2016 at the grand old age of 91.

When Royal Dublin advertised for a professional early in 1959, Christy chose not to apply for the job. Remarkably, he didn’t consider himself worthy of attachment to such a distinguished club, despite being by then, an established winner on the embryonic European Tour along with two appearances in the Ryder Cup and a victory the previous November as Harry Bradshaw’s partner in the Canada Cup in Mexico City. So, determined to get their man, the club felt obliged to send a deputation down to Killarney GC, where Christy was then attached. "I remember when I wasn't showing that much interest, Mary [Christy’s wife] kicked me under the table," he later recalled. "She was fed up with all the driving to Shannon Airport when I'd be coming back from trips abroad.”

So the deal was done and a remarkable association of employer and employee, began to take shape. The admiration sparked by Christy’s 1950 visit developed into a profound love of the place. Then there were the club members. "They’ve  been fantastic to me," he later remarked. "From the very start, I was invited to captains' dinners, which didn't often happen to club pros at that time. Then they made me a honorary life member." Christy and Royal Dublin became very good for each other, with the player happy to fulfil his role in enhancing the club’s image, either through his tournament exploits abroad or his physical presence on site. As each triumph was reported, newspaper phrases such as “Christy O’Connor, the Royal Dublin maestro” were to became a familiar part of golfing lore.

Indeed on a rather special weekend in 1966, the club was to experience the best of both worlds. That was when the scoring sequence of eagle, birdie, eagle would link Christy and Royal Dublin indelibly to the climax of the Carrolls International. It was a time when Himself, as he became affectionately known, was at the peak of his formidable powers, though he faced Sunday’s climax a stroke behind the leader, Eric Brown, after rounds of 71,68 and 67.

In the event, a closing 69 for an aggregate of 274, seemed to assure Brown of victory. Yet for all his vast experience of the professional arena, the Scot couldn’t have imagined what was about to unfold. Standing on the 16th tee on 11 under par, three strokes short of Brown’s clubhouse target, Christy commenced an electrifying, finishing surge. Having driven the green to be 16 feet above the hole, he rolled in the putt for an eagle-two. A huge drive then found the middle of the 17th fairway from where an over-zealous approach send the ball 20 feet past the pin. But the putt still found the target. With a birdie-three, he was level with Brown.

By this stage, huge crowds were scurrying on either side of the finishing hole, which their hero played to perfection. Splitting the fairway with a three-wood off the tee, his three-iron second shot over the Garden was so precise that the ball narrowly missed the pin before coming to rest nine feet away. Though two putts would have given him victory, he took only one, to resounding cheers from the delighted faithful.

Two decades later, appearances in the Irish Open at Royal Dublin would draw glowing comments from such golfing luminaries as Lee Trevino, who remarked: “Christy’s swing still flows like fine wine.” And further tournament exploits on home terrain would include a record-equalling 10th Irish Professional Championship triumph in 1978 and a tie with Tommy Horton in the 1992 PGA Seniors, before losing in a play-off.

Then there was his influence on newcomers to the ranks. Looking to a career as a tournament professional, Padraig Harrington considered it appropriate to head to Royal Dublin on a bleak January day in the hope of seeing Christy hit practice balls. His face stinging from sharp winds, he came across a familiar, lone figure, considerably older than in the picture he kept on his bedroom wall as a youngster.

“Most people wouldn't have let their dog out," recalled the winner of three Major championships. “Yet Christy was there in the Garden hitting shots. I figured at the time that nobody in the world could have played one particular shot, a six-iron of maybe 140 yards which he was holding onto the wind with a low draw. Then he hit a few fades. It was just spectacular. Here was a man in his late sixties at the time, who still had the will to go out in that weather and hit those wonderful shots." It was May in 2009 when Christy was formally told of his elevation into the World Golf Hall of Fame. And the occasion was marked by a phone call from Jack Nicklaus. "The timing was pretty good because I caught him on the first tee at Royal Dublin and Christy Junior was there, too,” recalled the Bear, who described the distinction as “A great honour and well deserved.”

As autumn years eased into the winter of a long, fruitful career, Royal Dublin remained dear to Christy’s heart. Attendance at each New Year captain’s drive-in remained a top priority. And in quieter moments, he could be observed in his familiar Audi car, driving down the service road beside the back-nine to watch his beloved members in action.

Sometimes the car would stop and out would step this legendary figure with a mid-iron in one hand and golf-balls in the other. And he would attempt, with an easy half-swing, to recapture the feel of his glory years by hitting a few, gentle shots.

This was Christy O’Connor. Royal Dublin will never see his like again.

Michael ‘Dyke’ Moran

Michael ‘Dyke’ Moran

Michael ‘Dyke’ Moran

The Life and Times of Michael ‘Dyke’ Moran

Michael "Dyke" Moran was born in 1886 in a small one-roomed cottage with on Bull Island, Dollymount in the demesne of what was to become the Royal Dublin Golf Club. The cottage, located between the 3rd and 13th holes, in what is now called Curley's Yard after Michael’s grandfather Patrick Curley.

He was an assistant to Tom Hood the professional at Royal Dublin, before taking up the job of professional at Dundalk GC in 1907, he then moved to Galway GC in 1908 before returning to Royal Dublin in 1909 as playing professional.

A group of Irish professionals convened a meeting in the North Star Hotel in Amiens Street, Dublin in 1907 to form the Irish PGA. Michael 'Dyke' Moran of Royal Dublin was elected its first chairman. 

He won the Irish Professional Championship for five consecutive years from 1909 to 1913, a feat which has never been equalled. He tied for third place with Harry Vardon in the Open championship in 1913 at Hoylake Royal Liverpool. He was the first Irishman to win prize money at the Open. The next was Fred Daly who became the first Irishman to win the British Open in 1947 at the same venue.

In 1914 he left Dollymount for Seaham Harbour Golf Club in County Durham never to return as that year the Royal Dublin Links was appropriated by the military for use as a musketry range.

He enlisted in the South Irish Horse in 1915 and later transferred to the Royal Irish Regiment. Michael Moran was 32 years of age when he died of wounds in France on 10th April 1918; 100 years ago and is buried at Le Cateau Military Cemetery in France.

The Moran Cup was inaugurated in 1920 by the Southern Branch of the Irish PGA to commemorate the career of Michael Moran. Its role of honour includes five Ryder Cup players and has been won by some of the great names of Irish Golf including Christy O’Connor, Harry Bradshaw, Des Smyth, Jimmy Martin, Philip Walton, Paddy Mahon, Paddy Skerrit, Christy Greene, Jimmy Kinsella.

The 14th Hole is named Moran’s in his memory and the Moran Room in the Royal Dublin clubhouse overlooks the 18th green.

Bobby Locke

Bobby Locke

Bobby Locke

Arthur D’Arcy “Bobby” Locke, born in Germiston, Transvaal, South Africa on November 20, 1917, showcased his burgeoning talents at the British Open and Irish Open in the summer of 1936.

Aged just 18, the young amateur Locke had already beaten the professionals in the 1935 South African Open.

A year later, still an amateur, he fought his way through a star-studded field in the Open at Hoylake to finish tied for eighth place on 294.

This was just seven shots adrift of winner Alf Padgham, and earned Locke the leading amateur accolade on June 27.

A few weeks after Hoylake, Locke repeated his performance by winning the Silver Salver awarded to the top amateur in the Irish Open played at Royal Dublin from July 14-16.

Locke’s display was described as “the essence of steadiness in his round” and notably that he “putted admirably throughout” by one reporter in scoring 71 for his opening 18 holes.

“His game seems incapable of cracking” was the verdict after a second round 72.

On the final day over 36 holes, Locke rounded off with 74, 70, for 287, to win the amateur prize and a top ten finish overall. 

That salver is still to be seen in the Royal Dublin clubhouse.

As for Locke, the steadiness of nerve and composure, and his admirable putting were the foundations of a great career as a professional in the following decades.

Peter Alliss, Ryder Cup player, tournament winner and renowned television commentator, considered Locke as the greatest putter he had ever seen.

The 1938 Irish Open at Portmarnock was Locke’s first of many professional tournament victories outside his native South Africa.

After the War, which he spent with the South African Air Force, Locke brought his talents across the Atlantic.

Between April 1947 and the end of 1948 he won eight tournaments on what is now the PGA Tour – a winning habit which did not endear himself to many of the American professionals.

Back in Europe, Locke set his sights on winning the Claret Jug and did so in 1949, but not before enduring a 36-hole playoff with Ireland’s Harry Bradshaw.

That Open was, of course, the one in which ‘The Brad’ suffered the infamous “ball in a bottle” incident on the fifth hole in the second round at Royal St George’s.

When Harry decided to play the ball as it lay, which was in a broken bottle, the glass flew everywhere and the ball moved just about 40 yards, leading to a double-bogey six. 

It was an upsetting incident and had to be a factor in his scoring 77.

However it is often overlooked in Ireland that Locke shot 76 in round two.

Thus, the two players were tied after 36 holes on 145 – Locke 69,76; Bradshaw 68, 77. They trailed the half way leader Sam King by five shots.

King could not sustain his early form, and fell out of contention.

Meanwhile, the Irishman and the South African each scored 68,70 for a 283 total to finish tied at the end of 72 holes.

Locke made no mistakes in the 36-hole playoff, registering a 12-shot winning margin -135  (67,68) to Bradshaw’s 147 (74, 73).

One writer described Locke that day as “a machine that just would not let go.”

“ I did my best, but my best was just not good enough,” said a disappointed Bradshaw afterwards.

The South African, who, it was said, coined the phrase “you drive for show, you putt for dough” won 74 times in his professional career, including four Open Championships – 1949, 1950, 1952, and 1957.

In 1960 Locke suffered serious injuries when his car was hit by a train at a level crossing.

He could have been killed, but survived, only for the after-effects of the injuries to end of his playing career.

Bobby Locke’s contribution to the game and his achievements were marked by his election to membership of the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1977.

He passed away in Johannesburg aged 69 on March 9, 1987.

Famous Faces at Royal Dublin

Many personalities have played the Royal Dublin over the years, among them President Clinton, pictured with then Club President Mr Frank McDevitt on the occasion of his visit in 2004.  President Clinton returned a few years later and renewed acquaintance with Anthony Birney our starter, who caddied for him on both visits to the club. Sadly, Anthony developed MND and passed away in 2016, but not before he had received a personal letter from the former President wishing him well.

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Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton

42nd President of the United States (1991-2001)

William Jefferson Clinton, the   42nd President of the United States, is an avid golfer who twice enjoyed the hospitality of The Royal Dublin Golf Club.

The first occasion was August 25th, 2004, when the then former President was in Dublin to promote his autobiography “My Life.”

He spent the morning signing an estimated 1500 copies of his book at the well known Eason’s bookshop before travelling the couple of miles out of the city to play Royal Dublin .

The President was welcomed to the club by the 2004 Captain John McDevitt, and his father, Frank McDevitt who was the Royal Dublin President. 

 On that occasion, President Clinton played with friends, and his caddie was Anthony “Anto” Birney, the club’s much-loved starter and locker room steward.

The next visit by Bill Clinton was in October 2011, and this time his playing partners were three-time Major champion Pádraig Harrington and The Edge of U2 fame.

Anto Birney was once again commissioned for caddie duties. 

On his return to the USA, the 42nd President spoke admiringly of Pádraig’s physical prowess, saying: “He is a marvellous guy, but by God, he looks like he could play professional football.”

It is to Bill Clinton’s credit that he did not forget Anto Birney, who retired from the club in 2009.

In 2015 on hearing that the former locker room steward was ill, golf writer Dermot Gilleece revealed that President Clinton had written a letter to Anto saying: "Dear Anto. I heard you're going through a difficult time. I'm deeply grateful for your kindness to me over the years and will always remember our rounds at Royal Dublin.

“I'm praying that you'll gain comfort and strength from the love of your family and friends and I send my warmest wishes. Sincerely, Bill Clinton. PS. Hang in there."

Sadly, Anto, an Honorary member of The Royal Dublin Golf Club,  passed away on October 2, 2016.


Bing Crosby

Bing Crosby

Bing Crosby

Bing Crosby has left enduring legacies in music and golf.

No Christmas entertainment is complete without Bing’s classic song “White Christmas” ringing out across the airwaves.

The mellifluous tones of the late, great actor, entertainer and businessman, who died in 1977 on a golf course in Spain, never fail to evoke special memories every December.

His golfing legacy lives on in the form of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, one of the highlights of the PGA Tour schedule.

The event had its origins in 1937 when it was called the “National Pro-Am” with Bing and his great friend and acting partner Bob Hope bringing professional golfers and showbiz personalities together for an annual tournament.

Popular with pros and amateurs alike, the event soon became an established annual tournament, and was the forerunner of the Pro-Am format that is now an established feature on professional Tours.

How appropriate that one of his last rounds of golf in Ireland should be alongside Royal Dublin’s maestro Christy O’Connor Senior in such a format.

The date was July 11, 1976, and the event was the Musgrave-Christy O’Connor Pro-Am organized by The Links Golf Society at Hermitage GC.

Bing was in Ireland on one of his regular visits to this country. He and Bob Hope were among a host of celebrities who had enjoyed a round at Royal Dublin over the years.

On this occasion, Bing and Christy were joined by another big name entertainer, Val Doonican, and amid great excitement, their every shot was followed avidly by a large gallery.

Golf was a huge part of Bing’s life. A 2-handicap at his lowest, he competed in the British and US Amateur Championships in his prime.

Bing could hardly have chosen a more appropriate way to shuffle off this mortal coil than to make his exit at the end of a round of golf.

He was playing with Spanish champion Manuel Pinero and two top Spanish professionals at La Moraleja GC near Madrid when he collapsed at the 17th hole on October 14, 1977.

An ambulance took him to hospital where he was pronounced dead. He was 74.

 The world mourned the loss of a great singer and actor who had sold over millions of records and entertained generations of fans for over 40 years.

Brian O’Driscoll

Brian O’Driscoll

Brian O’Driscoll

Before rugby, there was golf for Brian O’Driscoll, and after rugby, golf still offers a welcome sporting outlet for one of Ireland’s greatest sport stars.

Brian first sampled golf at Royal Dublin when caddying for his father and long time club member, Dr Frank O’Driscoll.

He got his handicap down to eight before rugby began to dominate his life and sporting career.

Brian’s record speaks for itself; from 1999 to his retirement in 2014 he enjoyed three Heineken European Cup wins with Leinster, plus four Celtic Leagues and a European Challenge Cup.

The highlights of his time with Ireland were a Grand Slam and two Six Nations championships. He was Six Nations Player of the Tournament in 2006, 2007, and 2009.

He earned 133 caps for his country, scoring 46 tries. He played 186 times for Leinster, scoring 67 tries. For the Lions, he won eight caps, scoring one try.

Brian proved himself an inspiring captain for club, country and for the Lions.

His strength of character and will to win were evident by his total of 367 matches played during his career.

Since his retirement Brian has played regularly in prestigous Pro-Ams, including the Irish Open and the Dunhill Links. Brian is still a regular visitor to Royal Dublin where he is an Honorary Member.