Harry Bradshaw: Profile of Irish Golfer

Harry Bradshaw was an Irish golfer who played on the British and European circuits in the middle parts of the 20th century. He was best-known in the 1950s, and made multiple Ryder Cup appearances in that decade. Bradshaw also had a decades-long tenure as pro at the famous Irish golf course Portmarnock. He is most-remembered today, however, because of incident involving a beer bottle during the 1949 Open Championship.

Date of birth: October 9, 1913

Place of birth: Delgany, County Wicklow, Ireland

Date of death: December 22, 1990

Nickname: "The Brad"

Bradshaw's Biggest Wins

Bradshaw is credit with five wins on the European circuit that preceded today's European Tour:
  • 1947 Irish Open
  • 1949 Irish Open
  • 1953 Dunlop Masters
  • 1955 Dunlop Masters
  • 1958 British PGA Championship
In addition, Bradshaw won more than 15 other tournaments, mostly in Ireland. Two of those were team tournaments: the 1955 Gleneagles-Saxone Foursomes (partnered by Joe Carr) and 1958 Canada Cup (later called the World Cup) with partner Christy O'Connor Sr.

Bradshaw won the Irish Dunlop Tournament in 1950, 1951 and 1958; and the Irish PGA Championship 10 times: 1941-44, 1947, 1950-51, 1953-54 and 1957.

His British Open Near-Miss and Other Major Performances

If not for a broken bottle, Harry Bradshaw might be remembered as an Open champion. In the second round of the 1949 British Open, on the fifth hole, Bradshaw drove his golf ball into the rough off the fairway. Upon reaching the ball, Bradshaw found that it was sitting inside the bottom piece of a broken beer bottle. (Hey, crowd control was a very different thing in those days.)

In those days rules officials did not walk with groups. Unsure of whether he was entitled to a free drop, Bradshaw played the ball as it lie, smashing the bottle and ball. Luckily, nobody suffered cuts from the flying glass (Bradshaw reportedly swung with his eyes closed), but the ball only went about 25 yards. He made a six on the hole and, perhaps rattled by the incident, posted a 77.

Two rounds later, Bradshaw finished tied for the 72-hole lead with Bobby Locke at 283 (tying the then-scoring record). Had he merely bogeyed that fifth hole, he might have won by a stroke. Instead, Bradshaw and Locked played a 36-hole playoff, and Locke won by 12 shots, 135 to 147. It was the first of four Open Championship victories for Locke.

For Bradshaw, that near-miss was one of only two Top 10 finishes in the Open — he tied for ninth in 1952. Bradshaw never played any of the other three majors; his first Open Championship appearance was in 1946, when he was 11th, and his last in 1965.

Bradshaw ended with nine finishes in the Top 20 at the British Open. The others (in addition to those already mentioned) were in 1950-51, 1954, 1957, 1959 and 1961.

More About Harry Bradshaw

Harry Bradshaw's total of five wins on the British/European circuits is not a lot, but they were five big wins. Two Irish Opens in the late 1940s. In the 1950s, two Dunlop Masters (better-known today as the British Masters) and one British PGA Championship (known today as the BMW PGA Championship, the flagship European Tour event). Throw in all those wins in his native Ireland and numerous team appearances representing Ireland or Great Britain & Ireland, and Bradshaw authored a very fine career of tournament golf.

He was known for an excellent short game and an unorthodox grip. The authors of the 1975 Encyclopedia of Golf wrote of Bradshaw that "his golf was instinctive, uninhibited and free of affectation," and that he "never analyzed his style but, with three fingers of the right hand overlapping the left, he swung the club with a superbly constant rhythm."

Of that grip, Peter Alliss wrote that "Bradshaw introduced his own variation on the Vardon grip: Instead of conventionally overlapping the little finger, he overlapped three digits, leaving only the forefinger of his right hand on the shaft."

Bradshaw's father started as a caddie at Delgany Golf Club in the town where Harry was born in 1913. His father later worked his way up to club professional, and Harry's three brothers also became golf professionals.

Bradshaw had his first hole-in-one at age 10, and like his father, began working as a caddie at Delgany Golf Club. After leaving school, Bradshaw, again like his father, worked his way up at the club and became an assistant professional.

By the late 1930s, in his mid-20s, Bradshaw was considered a top golfer in Ireland. He represented Ireland in the Triangular Professional Tournament in 1937 and in the 1938 Llandudno International Golf Trophy, both team tournaments.

In 1941, Bradshaw was appointed golf professional at Kilcroney Club, like Delgany in County Wicklow, a position in which he served until 1950.

Bradshaw's first win on the British/European circuits was the 1947 Irish Open. And three weeks after his playoff loss to Bobby Locke in the 1949 British Open, Bradshaw won the Irish Open for a second time — by one stroke over Locke.

Locke was something of a nemesis to Bradshaw (and a lot of other golfers of the era). Bradshaw was runner-up to Locke at the 1951 South African Masters and 1951 South African Open, plus the 1952 Lotus Tournament.

Bradshaw also finished second twice in the Yorkshire Evening News Tournament (1953, 1957), and, at the 1958 Hennessy Tournament, lost an 18-hole playoff to Harry Weetman.

By the time of his last Irish PGA Championship win (in 1957, his 10th — a tournament record shared with Christy O'Connor) and his 1958 British PGA win, Bradshaw was in his mid-40s, and advanced age at the time to be winning big professional golf tournaments.

As noted earlier, Bradshaw was a frequent team player, most prominently in the Ryder Cup and the tournament now called the World Cup but then known as the Canada Cup. In the World Cup, Bradshaw was part of Team Ireland in every year from 1954 through 1959. The tournament was played in the high altitude of Mexico City in 1958, and the altitude caused Bradshaw severe nosebleeds. But he still partnered with Christy O'Connor to achieve victory for Ireland, and finished runner-up in the individual standings.

Bradshaw was on Team GB&I in the 1953 Ryder Cup, 1955 Ryder Cup and 1957 Ryder Cup. He played five matches, posting an overall 2-2-1 record. He beat Fred Haas in singles in 1953, lost to Jack Burke Jr. in 1955, and in 1957 halved Dick Mayer. Team GB&I's victory in 1957 was their only win in the Ryder Cup from 1935 until Team Europe achieved a victory in 1985.

Bradshaw was featured in a 1963 episode of Shell's Wonderful World of Golf (watch below) playing Billy Casper at Portmarnock in Ireland, the club where Bradshaw served as head pro. He took over that job in 1950 and was the head pro at Portmarnock through 1983, after which he served as an ambassador for the club.

Bradshaw was traveling and drinking buddies with John Panton in his early days playing the circuit, and had a role in the creation of the John Panton drink.

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