Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Ulsterman Fred Daly with the Claret Jug following his remarkable Open success at Hoylake in 1947

Our Fred collected £250 for Open win

HOYLAKE and the Open championship with its heritage and tradition, astronomical prize-money and perks will be the focus of world golf for the next four days.

HOYLAKE and the Open championship with its heritage and tradition, astronomical prize-money and perks will be the focus of world golf for the next four days.

Many of those who tee off on the Old Course are millionaires, some like Tiger Woods in the multi-million bracket.

What a contrast with the scene at Royal Liverpool in July 1947 when Ulsterman Fred Daly, a mature 36, became the first and only Irishman to win the Open as well as a place in the top four over the next five years.

He collected a mere £250 and had a breakfast reception in the old Queen's Hotel with Balmoral members, some fellow professionals, and friends including his 11-year-old son George Greer Daly and Roy Mullan, 13, a juvenile club member who "just wanted to carry his clubs."

Dockers greeted him as he walked down the gangway of the MV Ulster Monarch after the overnight journey from Liverpool. It was a homespun but genuine homecoming in Belfast and his birthplace Portrush where he started his golf career as a caddie.

Jack Magowan, acclaimed former Belfast Telegraph golf correspondent, recalls that Sam Snead hadn't bothered to defend the title he won at St Andrews.

"This left the door open for what the Hoylake galleries contended would be a three horse race" said Magowan.

"A race between Henry Cotton, the American amateur, Frank Stranahan, and Jimmy Bulla. How wrong they were.

"Cotton leapt from the blocks with a pace-setting 69, but, by the half-way stage, it was Daly out in front, four strokes clear of everybody after solid scores of 73 and 70.

"Daly, who shared the same £1 a night digs as Harry Bradshaw and Max Faulkner, let it slip with a third round of 78, and, in the fourth, took three putts at the 17th for a six, but, on the last green, holed an eight yard putt for a three, a round of 72 and 293 aggregate - a stroke ahead of Hendon's Reg Horne and the wealthy 6ft Stranahan with the film star looks and lifestyle."

Everyone liked Fred, who died, aged 79, at his Belfast home on November 18, 1990.

You could not have wished for a better dinner companion. He possessed a fund of stories all told with a gin and tonic in his hand and in that Ulster accent so renowned around the golf courses of the world.

He was a genuine principled, dignified man with a sense of loyalty, total respect of his fellow professionals and the media.

The son of a blacksmith he was born on October 11, 1911, became an apprentice at Mahee Island and, when only 18, married teenage sweetheart Jean McCreadie; he was professional at Lurgan, then City of Derry before moving to Balmoral where he remained for the rest of his life.

The names Balmoral and Fred Daly are synonymous. He won the British Professional Match-Play title in 1947, 48 and 52, was selected for the Ryder Cup in 1947, 49 and 53, won the Ulster professional title eleven times, the Irish professional three. What a supreme ambassador for the Province.

Yet ,it was not until 1983 that he was awarded the MBE in the Queen's Honours List - a dreadful snub considering his contribution to the game and his status but he never showed any hurt.

"I'm honoured to be awarded it," he said in typical modest fashion.

That was Fred Daly. Let's rewind to the 1947 Open and that final round in which he took 38 to the turn where it appeared as if his chance had gone but Fred was made of solid Ulster stock.

He had a 3,3,4,3, maintained the momentum and, despite three putting the 17th for a six, he stood on the 18th tee needing a par to tie with clubhouse pacesetter Horne.

What did he do? Simply hit an astonishing 12-yard putt for a birdie.

Three hours play remained. Would his score stand? On his trail were Cotton, Australian Norman von Nida, Jimmy Adams and Stranahan. The first three faded in deteriorating weather but Stranahan was determined to finish the back nine in 33 to force a tie; in fact after the 15th he needed a 4,4,3 to force a play off which was within his capabilities.

Over now to Peter Alliss for the final drama as told in his book "The Open".

"On the 16th Stranahan was bunkered to the right of the green but got up and down in two. On the next he went boldly from 15 yards for a three, ran a yard past - and missed the return. Apparently, it was all over barring a miracle. On the last he did produce the exceptional.

"From some 150 yards off the green he was within inches of holing out his second shot but the ball stayed out and so Fred Daly was the surprise champion - the 40/1 outsider. Fred won it fair and square on what Bernard Darwin called "the toughest course I've ever seen."

Magowan again: "Alliss always contended his clubs were made for Goliath they were so long and heavy while Bradshaw asserted he had nerves of steel and, when the crunch came, he never once pressed the panic button."

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