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Harry Bradshaw Centennial

A legend of Irish Golf was born a century ago and what a tale it is

Posted Oct 08, 2013 by Dermot Gilleece


As we near the time of year when annual sporting honours are bestowed, it is interesting to note that Harry Bradshaw was the first Irish professional to receive the Golf Writers’ Trophy, awarded by the AGW.  As it happened, the decision of the scribes owed much to the influence of the great Henry Longhurst, but more about that anon.
Memories of The Brad, as he was affectionately known, are refreshed at this time by the fact that he was born in the village of Killincarrig, Co Wicklow, on October 9th, 1913, 100 years ago on Wednesday.  So, if the Americans could celebrate the centennials of their triumvirate of Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson last year, why not a nod now to one of our own.

Bradshaw was appointed professional at Portmarnock GC in June 1950 and held his position for more than 30 years until succeeded by another distinguished man of his craft, Peter Townsend.  His respect and affection for the club and its members were absolute.  In fact they still remember him fondly, to the extent that they are seeing fit to have a special celebration in his honour on November 23rd, when surviving members of his family are invited.

The Brad referred to the famous North Dublin links as above all else, a very fair course.  “In windy conditions it may be a bit daunting for the handicap player but there is more satisfaction to be gained from a moderate score around Portmarnock, than a very low return on a shorter, parkland track,” he said.

It is said that he once negotiated his way through its shallow duneland taking only 19 putts, and he had eight rounds of 64 in practice there along with four holes in one, two of them at the 12th.  Which should go some way towards explaining his eclectic score for the course.

Portmarnock par:        Out     444, 445, 344 = 36
Bradshaw eclectic:                 222, 323, 123 = 20
                                        In        443, 543, 544 = 36
                                                   231, 321, 333 = 21
Overall:                      Par - 72; Bradshaw eclectic - 41.

In the wake of Ireland’s Canada Cup victory in 1958, Longhurst felt moved to write in the “Sunday Times”:  “The journey so far afield as Mexico leaves many impressions on the mind, not all of them related to golf, which was strictly the object of the visit.  The first is that, having expended the whole of this space a year or so ago to lifting my hat off to Harry Bradshaw, I cannot refrain from briefly doing so again.  Ireland brought the Canada Cup home and Christy O’Connor played a splendid supporting role, but Harry was the hero.”

Longhurst went on: “I will not harp further on the difficulties of playing golf at high altitudes, but it will hardly be disputed that weight for weight and age for age, they progressively increase.  On a course longer than any British championship links and with a strict par of 72, Bradshaw had rounds of 70,70,76 and 70 – and he is 45 and carries 15 stone.

“When others were sinking exhausted in the locker room, he was ready with affable conversation and, as for the fears of dysentery – ‘I drink the water out of the tap. If you’re going to get it, you’ll get it any way.’  A year ago in Tokyo, he had to retire from this tournament through persistent nose-bleeding.  I saw him standing cheerfully in the hotel entrance as we left.  Only three or four people, of whom I was one, knew that in the intervening days, he had been so near to death that a priest had been called to administer the Last Rites.

“My colleagues are due shortly to elect a Golfer of the Year who has ‘done most for British golf.’  Had they seen him in Mexico, they would no further than Harry Bradshaw – and never mind what part of Ireland he comes from!”

The British scribes took Longhurst’s advice and duly awarded Bradshaw the AGW Trophy for 1958, on a poll of 36 votes against 25 for Peter Alliss and 21 for David Thomas who was runner-up to Peter Thomson in the Open Championship at Royal Lytham earlier that year.

- Dermot Gilleece

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