Fred Daly: Bio of Irish Golf Trailblazer

Although the period of his biggest successes was brief, Northern Ireland golfer Fred Daly was a big star of the British circuit of the late 1940s and early 1950s. He also was a trailblazer for Irish golfer: first Irish winner of the Irish Open, first Irish winner of the British Open, first Ireland-born golfer to play in the Ryder Cup.

Full name: Frederick J. Daly

Date of birth: October 11, 1911

Place of birth: Portrush, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

Date and place of death: November 18, 1990, in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Daly's Biggest Wins

  • 1946 Irish Open
  • 1946 Irish Dunlop Tournament
  • 1947 British Open
  • 1947 News of the World Match Play
  • 1948 Dunlop-Southport Tournament
  • 1948 Penfold Tournament
  • 1948 News of the World Match Play
  • 1949 Manchester Evening Chronicle Tournament
  • 1950 Lotus Tournament
  • 1952 Irish Dunlop Tournament
  • 1952 Daks Tournament
  • 1952 News of the World Match Play
  • 1956 Irish Dunlop Tournament
Daly won the Irish Professional Championship (now called the Irish PGA Championship) three times, in 1940, 1946 and 1952. He also won the Ulster Professional Championship (equivalent to a Northern Ireland Closed PGA Championship) 11 times, 1936, 1940-41, 1943-44, 1946, 1951, and 1955-58.

His British Open Win and Other Major Finishes

Fred Daly only ever played in one of the four professional majors, the British Open, and he played the Open 13 times in his prime years (1940s and 1950s). His first appearance was in the 1946 British Open, where he tied for eighth place. In the seven Opens from 1946-1952, Daly was in the Top 10 six times and in the Top 4 four times.

And he won it in his second appearance, at the 1947 Open Championship. An opening 73 put Daly into fourth position. A 70 in Round 2 was the best score of that round and moved Daly into a four-stroke lead. He carded a 78 in the third round, which ended with a four-way tie for the lead between Daly, Henry Cotton, Arthur Lees and Norman Von Nida.

But in the final round, the other three third-round co-leaders all recorded 76s, while Daly shot 72. Reg Horne lipped out a putt on the final hole to post 294. Daly then birdied (sinking a putt of about 30 feet) the last hole to get into the clubhouse at 293. Amateur Frank Stranahan nearly holed his approach to the 18th green, but he, too, finished at 294. And that made Daly the one-stroke winner.

In his title defense at the 1948 British Open, Daly finished runner-up, although by five strokes to Cotton. After missing the cut in 1949, Daly finished tied third, tied fourth and solo third in 1950, 1951 and 1952, respectively. He did not have any Top 10s after that, but did finish 11th in 1954 and 12th in 1955.

Daly stopped playing the Open for a decade after 1958, then made five appearances in the 1970s, well past his prime, when all former champions were exempted into the field. (He was fellow-competitor to Gene Sarazen when the 71-year-old Sarazen aced the "Postage Stamp" hole during the 1973 Open.) Daly missed all those cuts. His last appearance was in 1976.

After Daly's 1947 victory, it took 60 years, until Padraig Harrigton's 2007 British Open win, before another Irishman won the Open. Graeme McDowell, at the 2010 U.S. Open, was the next Northern Ireland golfer to win a major. And it wasn't until Darren Clarke's 2011 win that another golfer from Northern Ireland claimed the Open Championship.

More About Fred Daly

"He was not a stylish golfer," the British authors of the 1975 Encyclopedia of Golf (affiliate links used in this article) wrote about Fred Daly, "for his wide arc and consequent movement away from the ball gave his swing the appearance of a lurch."

Daly was known as a character, a golfer whose play was full of personality: He appeared a happy golfer, walking jauntily, whistling to help himself relax. He even whistled while over a ball on the putting green, while taking as many as nine or 10 sideways glances at the hole before starting his putting stroke. Daly was a golfer who was very popular both with fellow pros and with spectators. He was known for his wit and charm, and was a popular after-dinner speaker.

Peter Alliss wrote that Daly tried to gain length by using clubs with shafts almost two inches longer than standard. "He made a wide arc away from the ball," wrote Alliss in his 1980s reference book The Who's Who of Golf, "combined with a pronounced sway to a backswing position well past the horizontal. Nevertheless, he was a superb straight hitter."

Sam Snead onced said of Daly's iron play that Daly was:

"(O)ne of the finest long iron players in the game. He could knock your hat off with a 1-iron at 220 yards."
Alliss also commended Daly's putting, which, although Daly appeared "uneasy" on the greens, according to Alliss, "he had a wonderful feel for pace and for several years had few equals in this area."

Fred Daly grew up in Portrush in what is now Northern Ireland. He got into golf as a caddie at Royal Portrush Golf Club. Self-taught, Daly never had a golf lesson, but honed a game at Portrush built to stand up to the wind.

It was at age 19 in 1931 that Daly broke into the club professional ranks. He took a job at Mahee Island Golf Club in County Down as a greenskeeper and part-time pro. Two years later, he moved to Lurgan Golf Club, and then, in 1939, to City of Derry golf course.

In 1944, Daly was appointed pro at Balmoral Golf Club in Belfast. And he was there for nearly 46 years, all the way into 1990.

Daly's first tournament successes were all in Ireland and most in Northern Ireland, beginning in the 1930s. He won tournaments during the years of World War II, too. It was in the first post-war year, 1946, when he was already in his mid-30s, that Daly first played something resembling a regular schedule of tournament golf in Great Britain. And that is the year Daly's star began its brief but bright ascent.

Daly had been the highest-finishing Irish golfer in the Irish Open as early as 1939, when he placed fifth. But in 1946, Daly became the first Irish golfer to win that championship, winning the title by four strokes over runner-up Bobby Locke. No other golfer finished within 10 strokes of Daly.

But 1947 was Daly's real breakout year. He won the Open Championship, of course, but also the News of the World Match Play. Also called the British PGA Match Play, that tournament was one of the biggest on the British circuit. In 1947, Daly defeated Flory Von Donck in the championship match just a couple weeks after winning the Open, becoming the first golfer since James Braid in 1905 to win both those titles in the same year.

Daly won the News of the World Match Play three times, including repeating as champ in 1948. He was the first to successfully defend that title since Abe Mitchell in 1920. It was one of three big wins for Daly in 1948, including the Dunlop-Southport and Penfold tournaments.

His win in the 1947 News of the World Match Play gave Daly an automatic berth on Team Great Britain (not yet named Great Britain & Ireland) in the 1947 Ryder Cup. Daly thereby became the first Irish-born golfer to play in the Ryder Cup.

He wound up playing in four Ryder Cups, compiling an overall 3-4-1 record, 1-2-1 in singles. In 1947, Daly lost in singles to Dutch Harrison, 5 and 4. In the 1949 Ryder Cup, Daly partnered Ken Bousfield to a foursomes win over Bob Hamilton/Skip Alexander, but lost in singles to Lloyd Mangrum, 4 and 3.

In the 1951 Ryder Cup, Daly halved in singles against Clayton Heafner. In the 1953 Ryder Cup, Daly and fellow Irishman Harry Bradshaw defeated the side of Walter Burkemo/Cary Middlecoff in foursomes, 1-up. Then in singles, Daly routed Ted Kroll, 9 and 7.

Daly did not win the 1953 News of the World Match Play, but he had himself a famous day during that tournament. In the second round, Daly faced Alan Poulton in a match scheduled for 18 holes. Still tied after 18, they kept going. And going, and going. Eleven holes into sudden-death, they were still tied. Finally, on the 12th extra hole, Daly won it. He took a 10-minute break, then teed off against Peter Alliss in the third round. This time, Daly was on fire. He went out in 31, and easily dispatched Alliss, 6 and 5. The first match against Poulton had taken 5 hours, 10 minutes; the second match against Alliss was over in less than two hours.

Alliss later wrote that Daly "began to suffer ill health and was not a major force in British golf after the early 1950s, when into his 40s."

He was still a force in Irish golf, though. He had two wins in the Irish Dunlop Tournament (1954, 1956) after 1953. And he won his last four Ulster Professional Championships consecutively, 1955 through 1958. Daly also represented Ireland in the Canada Cup (later known as the World Cup) in 1954 and 1955.

Daly was awarded the MBE in 1983. In 1984, he was inducted into the long-running British institution known as the Texaco Hall of Fame, just the third golfer so honored.

Daly didn't fully retire from Balmoral Golf Club until 1990. He died of a heart attack later in the year at age 79.

During his career, Daly wrote articles about golf for newspapers. In 1951, those articles were compiled into the book Golf As I See It. He was a contributor to the 1957 book Golfing Techniques in Pictures. In 1978, a biography of Daly was published — The Fred Daly Story by Eoin McQuillan.

Since 1995, amateur boys teams representing golf clubs across Ireland have competed for the Fred Daly Trophy.

Popular posts from this blog

Ryder Cup Captains: The Full List