As a fascinating commentary on current events, the very idea of a professional golfer playing behind closed doors, was likened to "a fisherman without a fish, or a bookmaker without a customer."
This was how exemplary spectators were addressed at the conclusion of the Canada Cup at Portmarnock, 60 years ago this coming week.
Galleries had behaved so splendidly throughout the event, albeit blessed with perfect June weather, that all 60 competing players felt moved, in a unique gesture, to stand and applaud them from the presentation dais. That was when Golfing Union of Ireland president, Dr Billy O'Sullivan, as head of the organising committee, added his own observation.
Within weeks, it had become clear that the country at large would reap a handsome dividend from the biggest golfing venture on this island since The Open at Royal Portrush in 1951.
At a time when Ireland had roughly 200 affiliated clubs, most of them with nine-hole courses, it sparked a flood of phone calls from establishments throughout the country, enquiring about coaching and architectural work, to Bill Menton, the GUI's general secretary.
As it happened, Menton saw as a perfect candidate, Eddie Hackett, who was then a professional in semi-retirement, largely engaged in coaching at Belvedere College. So it was that the mild-mannered Dubliner found himself involved in his first project at Letterkenny GC and on the way to building a reputation as the country's only golf-course architect.
By the end of the decade, the number of clubs had increased to 228, while many of the established ones had enhanced their facilities. And Hackett worked on into the 1990s, amassing more than 100 design projects to his name.
Meanwhile, officials were so pleased with their handling of a daunting undertaking that they fully expected a return staging here within a few years. It never happened.
Strong possibilities arose of getting it to Waterville, where Hackett had wrought his design magic, but the prospect of South Africa competing conflicted with the government's stance on apartheid. Yet the two-man event, which had evolved into the World Cup by that stage, pointed a way towards the 2006 Ryder Cup at The K Club.
In his capacity as chairman of Fáilte Ireland, the late Pádraig Ó hUiginn attended the World Cup at Lake Nona, Florida in 1993. While there, he looked at a return Irish staging, only to have the European Tour specify the launch of another Irish-based tournament, as a fundamental requirement. By the time the Smurfit European Open came on stream in 1995, Ó hUiginn's sights had switched to the considerably bigger prize of the Ryder Cup.
Even 60 years on, Portmarnock 1960 remains a remarkable achievement. And contrary to the widespread belief that the event was effectively a pay-off for the success by Harry Bradshaw and Christy O'Connor in Mexico City in 1958, the seeds had, in fact, been sown two years earlier.
Pierce Purcell, who gained the distinction at the tender age of 28 of becoming the first professor of engineering in UCD, joined the throngs at Wentworth GC in 1956 for the first staging of the Canada Cup in these islands. "See Hogan and die" was how Henry Longhurst flagged the event and enormous crowds flocked to witness the great man's only competitive appearance in England.
Having been president of the GUI in 1948/'49, Purcell was a leading light in Portmarnock GC. However, his links to John Jay Hopkins, the founder of the Canada Cup in 1953, were very much more valuable in this particular context.
Hopkins was also responsible for launching the International Golf Association (IGA) which inaugurated an event aimed at healing "a world torn by the ravages of a Second World War". Through their friendship, Purcell was entrusted with the annual selection of the Irish duo who competed for the first time in 1954 when Bradshaw and Fred Daly were tied 11th behind Australia's Peter Thomson and Kel Nagle in Montreal.
During discussions at Wentworth, an ailing Hopkins formally pledged to bring the Canada Cup to Portmarnock and though he died a year later, the groundwork had been done. After the IGA satisfied themselves as to the quality of the Irish links, Purcell's eloquence and reputation did the rest, helped of course by the 1958 success in Mexico City.
When he asked the IGA who would organise and finance the tournament, the professor was told, "You will". There was the further instruction that the financing would be "in Portmarnock's hands." This involved hotel, travelling and catering costs for all members of the 30 competing nations. In addition, there were the organisational expenses, which included the cost of preparing the links, scoreboard, souvenir programme, receptions and official dinner. Waiters in the club's VIP section should also be expected to take orders in several languages.
Purcell calculated an overall cost in the region of £30,000, which would have paid the annual salaries of 30 middle-range civil servants at that time, about €2m at today's values. A Tournament Organising Committee (TOC) was set up with Dr O'Sullivan as chairman.
Irish Dunlop guaranteed £10,000 and Fáilte Ireland pledged £5,000 towards the overall cost, while additional income would come from gate receipts and programme advertising. Revenues from the sale of 10,000 programmes, however, went to the Central Remedial Clinic, whose founder, Lady Valerie Goulding, organised volunteer helpers as sellers.
For their part, Dublin County Council undertook to widen and resurface the approach road from Portmarnock village to the entrance to the club. Which seemed to work well, given that the only reported traffic problems were on the Sunday evening, when everybody waited until the presentation ceremony was over.
As to the team selections: the IGA always asked the winners from the previous year to defend the title, which meant that Thomson and Nagle, champions again at Royal Melbourne in 1959, topped the invitation list. In addition, as hosts, we were granted the privilege of nominating the members of the US and South African teams.
So it was that the GUI chose the Wentworth winners, Ben Hogan and Sam Snead, to represent the US, while Bobby Locke and Gary Player would represent South Africa. Locke's appearance was especially appropriate, given that he won the gold medal as leading amateur when the Irish Open was held at Portmarnock in 1934. And when he returned as a professional to the North Dublin links four years later, he actually captured the championship.
Hogan, however, declined, claiming he had effectively retired from competitive golf. So the invitation went to 30-year-old Arnold Palmer, who captured the US Masters that April and arrived in Dublin fresh from another triumph in the US Open at Cherry Hills. As a build-up to the Centenary Open at St Andrews the following week, Portmarnock would be Palmer's first experience of links terrain.
It was generally expected that Ireland would select their Mexico heroes, especially with the event being played at The Brad's home club. In a surprise development, however, preference was given to Norman Drew as O'Connor's partner, largely because of Drew's performance in being tied second to the Galwayman in the Dunlop Masters at Portmarnock the previous year.
As things turned out, Bradshaw would have been unable to play, given that he was in a Dublin hospital with a stomach complaint when the tournament got under way. Which prompted Locke to dash off a get-well telegram to his old adversary from the 1949 Open at Royal St George's. "It's very sad to hear that Harry is laid up," he said. "He is a charming man - a great friend of mine."
For his own part, Locke had not fully recovered from a road accident in which his skull was fractured. At 20 pounds below his normal weight and with the sight in his left eye all but gone, he cut a ghostly figure to those familiar with his well-rounded frame. As for The Brad: he recovered sufficiently to be up and about at the closing stages.
A further twist to the Bradshaw story saw his younger brother, Jimmy, later professional at Delgany, being promised a nomination from his adopted country, Finland, before returning there at the beginning of the 1960 season. As things turned out, however, the Finns didn't enter a team and it emerged that Jimmy Bradshaw would have been ineligible under a two-year residential rule.
Still, the Finnish Federation thought enough of him to arrange an invitation to the Dunlop Tournament in Sweden where, in a quality field largely British and Scandinavian, he shot an aggregate of 296 to claim third place.
Drew, meanwhile, was greatly upset by what became quite an emotive selection process, prompted by the widespread affection for The Brad. Yet the Northerner felt justifiably proud of becoming the first player from either side of the Atlantic to gain the distinction of Walker Cup, Ryder Cup and Canada/World Cup honours.
"It really saddened me that I was made to feel I had taken Harry's place in the side," this son of a Dublin father told me on a recent return visit to Portmarnock. "With Harry and Christy winning it in Mexico City and then being invited back in 1959, people thought Harry should have been picked once more, because it was Portmarnock.
"I felt the public certainly wanted him and here was I taking his place. And it really got to me over the opening nine holes. I almost hit it out of bounds at the first; was in deep rough on the right at the second; nearly hit the fifth green off the third tee and found some bunkers, too.
"But I pitched and putted marvellously well to reach the turn in 37 shots. That's when Christy said: 'You won't survive unless you settle down. Take your three-wood off the tee and hit it down the fairway.' My response was to start back with three birdies - 3,3,2.
"All of a sudden the crowd were on my side and I did the back nine in 33. Christy played beautifully and had a 73; I was all over the place and still shot 70. With the huge galleries and no ropes, I remember Christy telling me that if I had any doubts about distance, I should just aim for the crowd at the back of the green. 'They're 10-deep,' he said, 'and they'll not get out of the way.'"
In preparation for the big event, no play was permitted on Portmarnock's fairways for the previous four months. And in a significant change from O'Connor's Dunlop Masters victory, the par-five 18th played to a green behind the clubhouse, was reduced to a 398-yard par-four, finishing in its current location.
After one of the driest springs in years, normally fearsome rough was unusually tame and despite an overall length of 7,093 yards, the course was considered to be at its most benign over the four days.
With crowds thronging the great links in glorious sunshine, the tournament garnered very positive international coverage. Notable in the context of future tourism was the presence of the doyen of US golf scribes, Herbert Warren Wind, of Sports Illustrated, who described the weather as "uniformly warm and bright and, for Ireland, practically tropical." He then quoted the Taoiseach, Seán Lemass, protesting that it was "a typical Irish summer, the first typical Irish summer we've had in 10 years," no doubt with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek.
The American's report continued: "After Gary Player set a new course record of 65 in the first round, most of the native golf enthusiasts faced each ensuing sunny, windless day torn between joy and dismay. They were happy their visitors liked the weather but they openly confessed what a shame it was that the professional stars might be deprived of experiencing the true glories of Portmarnock, which come only when it is played in a fine cross-wind with a cold belt of rain.
"If the Irish galleries had a fault," he went on, "it was that they were almost too well behaved. They were the shooshingest galleries I have encountered in years, insisting on complete silence 15 seconds before a man was ready to play his shot.
"Large crowds turned out for the match, 10,000 on the first and second days, 15,000 on the third and close to 20,000 on the Sunday [Portrush '51 had a reported 7,000 on the final day]. The Irish, much more than is generally realized, are keen and knowing golf fans. While you cannot by any means call golf the national game, there are some 200 courses on this island of three million people, the highest number of courses per capita of any land in the world."
The climax to Player's course-record on the Thursday was memorable, with a par four on the 18th required to lower the 66 set by O'Connor in the final round of the 1959 Dunlop Masters. Aged only 24 at the time, he was building an impressive reputation worldwide, his 1959 Open Championship triumph at Muirfield making him a major attraction with the Portmarnock fans.
Yet he might not have played because of a severe attack of asthma. In fact he ignored medical advice after being ordered to rest following an injection prior to the round, though he and Locke were 50 minutes late on the tee as partners of Mexico for whom, incidentally, the great Roberto De Vicenzo played.
Woodbrook member, Tony Kelly, who was there as a news reporter for The Irish Times, recounted Player's memorable finish to me, some years after the event.
"His tee-shot at the 18th finished on the grass verge of a fairway bunker on the right," he said. "It being a team event, he then called his partner, whom he addressed as Mr Locke, and asked permission to go for the green.
"Hands on hips, Locke considered the matter for a few moments before giving the nod, whereupon Player hit a seven-iron over the green and then chipped back to four feet and holed the putt. He said afterwards: 'In all the countries I've played golf in, this is the finest ovation I've ever been given.'"
Player's record withstood some serious assaults from elite fields during the 1980s, before eventually falling to a 64 from Sandy Lyle, in the first round of the 1989 Carrolls Irish Open. As it happened, Lyle proceeded to add rounds of 73, 75 and 76 and the title went to Ian Woosnam who beat Philip Walton in a play-off.
Though predictably, South Africa led the opening day, Snead and Palmer took control into the weekend. Paul MacWeeney in The Irish Times described the American duo as "the perfect team, for both showed peak form during the first two days, at the end of which they led Ireland by three shots."
He went on: "Then, when Palmer had his uncertain spell on Saturday, Snead produced magnificent figures to keep them in front, and when he himself began to show his years over the final nine holes, Palmer stood as firm as a rock and piloted the ship safely home.
"No other pair could dovetail so smoothly over the four days. England [Harry Weetman and Bernard Hunt] came with a rush on Saturday and yesterday [Sunday], their 36 holes aggregate on the last two days being the lowest, but they had lost too much ground in the opening round. Australia, the holders, seemed certain to finish in second place with only three holes to go, but Thomson had an ugly six at the 16th and Nagle took five at the 17th and those two errors ruined that hope."
Before heading for St Andrews and his Open Championship debut, Palmer said: "It's the first time I played a course like this one and I've learned a lot of shots, shots I've never played before in my life."
Ireland, playing alongside England, finished fourth.
"My third round of 76 killed it for us," Drew told me. "Though 289 wasn't a bad total, pity it wasn't the 280 I had in the Dunlop Masters."
He added: "When you look at it, Christy and I weren't that far behind. Fourth was a decent finish in a field of such quality." It was indeed.
The individual title went to Belgium's Flory Van Donck, with an aggregate of 279, two strokes ahead of Snead in second place. O'Connor (286) was tied fifth.
Van Donck of the quirky, toe-in-the-air putting, began the tournament on his 48th birthday and ended it by giving himself the best possible present. It was his seventh of 17 successive appearances in the event.
Those of us viewing the Canada Cup's place in the history of golf in Ireland, cannot but be impressed by the enthusiasm and intimate civility of it all. Right down to the closing gesture in which the GUI's Dr O'Sullivan was presented with a parchment scroll signed by each competitor.
The citation read: "In recognition of your warm hospitality and that of your associates." Lending a suitably appealing finale to a tournament which transformed the game on this island.
Sunday Indo Sport