Thursday 17 January 2019

Fitting ceremony for Irish legend Moran

Seaham Harbour GC in the north-east of England has marked the centenary of the death of great Irish golfer Michael Moran
Seaham Harbour GC in the north-east of England has marked the centenary of the death of great Irish golfer Michael Moran

Dermot Gilleece

They honoured a great Irish golfer at Seaham Harbour GC in the north-east of England last Tuesday. Local dignitaries were involved in a special ceremony to mark the centenary of the death of Michael Moran, who moved to Wearside as resident professional before the outbreak of World War I.

It was hoped that a ceremony would be held outdoors and accompanied by a golf competition in aid of the British Legion. Wretched weather, however, meant limiting the activities to indoors where the mayor of Seaham, Sonia Forster, officiated at an unveiling of a memorial photograph of the five-time Irish Professional champion, accompanied by copies of his two service medals.

Moran was a relatively short time at Seaham when he answered the call to arms. Three years later, as a 31-year-old acting lance corporal in the 7th Battalion Royal Irish Regiment, he died of battle wounds in a German field hospital at Le Cateau, France, on April 10, 1918.

Now, a century on, he has caused golfing hands to be stretched across the Irish Sea by two of the clubs to which he was attached. On Friday, April 27, Royal Dublin will stage a pro-am in Moran's memory in which the captain of Seaham Harbour, Grant Dixon, will compete. It will be the first such event on the Dollymount links in more than 30 years.

Relatives of the honoree will be in attendance, as will the captains of the British PGA and the PGA Irish Region, along with representatives of the Dundalk and Galway clubs with which Michael Moran was also associated. As has been well documented, Moran was born in 1886 in a modest cottage in what became known as Curley's Yard, between the current third and 13th holes at Royal Dublin. His involvement with the club as a messenger, assistant professional and ultimately club maker and resident professional, quite apart from his tournament achievements, has led Royal Dublin to name their 14th hole 'Moran's' in his honour.

Meanwhile, the Seaham connection sparked the interest of club member Paul Murray, who retired 18 months ago as a British army captain. "I'm delighted our club decided to honour him," he said of last Tuesday's occasion.

"We had a nice intimate gathering. I gave an introduction about the German spring offensive of 1918, which became known as the Kaiser's Last Stand, then the captain took over."

He went on: "Grant spoke for about 10 minutes, detailing the skill of a player who finished third in the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in 1913. Other information was sourced from the Irish Golf Archive and from Phil Weaver of the PGA. Then we had a bugler who sounded the last post. Grant was delighted with the Royal Dublin invitation and as a one-handicapper, he's looking forward to playing a links with its international reputation. From an historical standpoint, there's also the fact that he happens to be the same age as Moran was when he died."

A particularly notable event during Moran's time at Seaham was the official opening of the clubhouse in 1914. To mark the occasion he played an exhibition match with George Duncan, the reigning French Open champion who went on to win the inaugural Irish Open at Portmarnock in 1927. Also involved was Douglas Edgar from Northumberland GC in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, who won the French Open that year before going on to win the Canadian Open in 1920.

In two months' time, Seaham are to institute an annual 18-hole medal competition, to be known as the Moran Trophy. The name was chosen so as not to clash with the Moran Cup, a PGA Irish Region event which has had current Royal Dublin professional John Dwyer on its roll of honour, along with Leonard Owens, Neil O'Briain and Niall Kearney, who are also familiar figures down Dollymount way.

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