Joe Carr

18th February 2015

On the anniversary of his birth I thought I should record the career of Ireland’s best ever amateur golfer, Joe Carr.

Here are 20 facts you should know about the great man: –

1) Joseph Benedict Carr was born on 18th February 1922 in Inchicore, near Dublin.

2) He was the fifth of seven children born to George and Margaret Waters.  When he was just 10 days old he was adopted by his maternal Aunt Kathleen and her husband James Carr.  The Carr’s had recently been appointed steward and stewardess of Portmarnock GC so Joe was brought up with practice facilities literally on his doorstep.

3) It was not possible for him to join Portmarnock given his parent’s positions so he joined nearby Sutton Golf Club.  Sutton was his golfing home for his entire career and he spent much of his life living in Suncroft House, overlooking the course’s 2nd green.  He was an aggressive, big hitter and quickly developed into a fearless competitor.  The Joe Carr Room at Sutton Golf Club today houses much of his memorabilia.


Joe Carr Portrait at Sutton GC (Photo: John Hanna)

4) He won three British Amateur Championships in 1953, ’58 and ’60.  He was also runner-up to Michael Bonallack in 1968.  He competed in 26 Amateurs in total playing 119 matches.  He won 96 and lost 23 of these giving him a superb 81% win rate.  He was determined to win at St. Andrews in 1958 – “With all the practice shots I hit by way of preparation for St Andrews, I almost wore through the blades of my eight and nine irons,” he recalled.  He later estimated that he had hit 47,000 shots in preparation for that championship.

5) He was prolific in Irish amateur golf despite strong competition at the time, winning six Irish Amateur Close Championships (1954, ’57, ’63, ’64, ’65 and ’67), four Irish Amateur Open Championships (1946, ’50, ’54 and ’56), 12 West of Ireland Championships (1946, ’47, ’48, ’51, ’53, ’54, ’56, ’58, ’60, ’61, ’62 and ’66), 12 East of Ireland Championships (1941, ’43, ’45, ’46, ’48, ’56, ’57, ’58, ’60, ’61, ’64, and ’69) and three South of Ireland Championships (1948, ’66 and ’69).

Joe Carr Trophies

Joe Carr With A Selection Of His Golf Trophies

6) He also won the Gleneagles Saxone (1955), Golf Illustrated Golf Vase (1951), Berkshire Trophy (1959), Formby Hare (1962) and Antlers Royal Mid Surrey (1970) in Great Britain.

7) He played in a record (for both sides) 10 Walker Cup teams (1947, ’49, ’51, ’53, ’55, ’57, ’59, ’61, ’63 and ’67).  He was a non-playing captain in 1965 and the playing captain in 1967.  He played 20 matches but surprisingly has a relatively poor record; W5 L14 H1, perhaps worn down by the heavy responsibility he personally carried throughout this era.  GB&I lost every match in which he competed but halved the 1965 contest in Baltimore.

8) The Eisenhower Trophy started in 1958 and Joe played in the first two at St. Andrews (’58) and Merion (’60).  He was non-playing captain of the GB&I team in 1964 (Rome) and ’66 (Mexico City).

9) He also played for GB&I in the first St Andrews Trophy match against Europe in 1956, ’64 (playing captain) and 1968. He was non-playing captain of the team in 1966.  All of these matches were won by GB&I.

10) He played international golf for Ireland for an astonishing 22 years, from 1947 to 1969 inclusive, earning 157 caps. He played 138 games, accumulated 166 points and had a 56.5% win percentage (W 78, H 10 and L 50). The European Team Championships started in 1959 and Joe represented Ireland in this competition in 1965, ’67 and ’69, the team winning the first two of these.  As captain in later years he brought an organisation to the international team that had previously not been seen and that perhaps only he could deliver.

Joe Carr Swing

Joe Carr Plays An Approach Shot

11) He was the leading amateur at the Open Championship, winning the Silver Medal, in both 1956 (73 77 79 77 / T36) and 1958 (70 74 77 77 / 37th). Surprisingly he only played in four Opens, often because the dates clashed with Irish amateur events he wished to enter. His first Open was at Royal Portrush in 1951 (75 76 73 76 / T24) and the last at St. Andrews in 1960 (72 73 67 73 / 8th), his best finish, albeit one beaten by Guy Wolstenholme (6th).

12) He was also the leading amateur at the Irish Open in 1946, ’48, ’50 and ’53.

13) Joe played in many professional events during his career.  His best finish coming in the 1959 Dunlop Masters, played at Pormarnock, where he was second to Christy O’Connor Snr.

14) Joe was the first Irishman to play in the US Masters Tournament, competing in 1967, ’68 and ’69.  In 1967 he was paired with the defending champion Jack Nicklaus.  Carr made the cut but Jack missed it.  In 1968 he played with Arnold Palmer; again he made the cut, finishing 52nd, whilst Arnie missed it.  In 1969 he played with Sam Snead but this time both players failed to make the final two rounds.

15) Joe was made Captain of The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in 1991-92, the first Irishman to be afforded this honour.

16) He won numerous awards during his lifetime, including the Association of Golf Writers’ Award (1953), the Bobby Jones Award (1961), for distinguished sportsmanship in golf, and the Walter Hagen Award (1967) for his contribution to Anglo-American goodwill.

17) He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame posthumously in 2007.  Jack Nicklaus gave the induction speech for his old friend.  He was again the first Irishman to have this golfing honour bestowed upon them.

18) He ran a successful clothing business for many years.  Joe was also a keen gambler and certainly enjoyed a wager on the course and elsewhere.  This approach to life was also reflected in his approach to the game, where he often took on brave recovery shots.  In 2002 Irish golf writer Dermot Gilleece wrote a biography on Joe Carr, ‘Breaking 80: The Life and Times of Joe Carr’.

Joe Carr ProfileJoe Carr

19) His first wife Dorothy (‘Dor’), died in 1976.  They had six children, Jody, Roddy, Sibeal, John, Gerry and Marty.  He married for a second time to Mary.

20) Joe died on 3rd June 2004 near Portmarnock, aged 82.  His golfing achievements and gentlemanly charm made him one of the most famous and popular Irishmen of the 21st Century.


Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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