Cork Ladies have been to the fore of Irish golf for close to 100 years, with many leading the way both in Ireland and abroad. Cork has produced major winners since the 1920’s and there’s every chance we’ll be adding a few more titles with the current generation. Due to the difference in the number of men’s events compared with women’s events, it wasn’t possible to do a single list.
International records from the early years are difficult to find and validate but you can be sure that French and Dwyer would have made the grade. While men’s golf has generally grabbed the majority of the headlines, the ladies have proven they can also compete at the elite level.
1 Eileen Rose Power (Skibbereen) – Irish Close (2), Irish Open, Curtis Cup, Vagliano Trophy (2), Irish International 13 years.
Eileen Rose Power leads the roll of honour. Eileen and her brother Brendan McDaid put Skibbereen on the golfing map. The West Cork native led the way by winning three major titles and representing Ireland in the Curtis Cup and the Vagliano Trophy. Eileen won the Irish Women’s Close on two occasions in 1990 and 1995, and the following year she won the Irish Women’s Open. In 1994 she helped GB&I to retain the Curtis Cup when the drew with the US in a tough away match in Tennessee. McDaid was also a prolific winner on the Irish scratch cup circuit and she represented Ireland from 1987 through to 2002. Eileen and her brother Brendan McDaid certainly helped to put Skibbereen on the golfing map. Eileen married Irish Close winner Eddie Power, and their son Mark is following in the family tradition, he’s currently in Wake Forrest and played in the Walker Cup earlier this year.
2 Claire Coughlan (Cork) – Irish Close, Irish Open, Curtis Cup (2), Vagliano Trophy, WATC, Irish International 13 years.
Claire Coughlan is another Open and Close winner, the Cork Golf Club member won her Close title in 1999 and followed that in 2003 with a win in the Open. As well as appearing for Ireland for 13 years, Claire also captured two Curtis Cup appearances in 2006 and 2006. She also featured in the 2006 Vagliano team. In 2007 she turned to the professional ranks but struggled to make an impact and was reinstated as an amateur a few years later. Coughlan, who is married to East Cork Club Professional David Ryan, moved into team management in 2017 when she captained the Junior Vagliano team. Claire hasn’t competed in too many championships in recent years but she has appeared in interclub events for Cork. She also played in the Douglas Senior Scratch Cup in September and won the title by one stroke.
3 Eavan Higgins (Douglas) – Irish Close, Irish International 13 years.
Eavan Higgin from Douglas is another major winner, winning the Irish Close in Royal Belfast in 1993. That win was well deserved, and hard earned considering she was a twice beaten finalist in the 80’s. Higgins is a three-time Munster Champions have scratch cups wins from Cork, Lahinch, Shannon and Galway. She was an Irish International for 13 years and helped Ireland to victory in the European Team Championships in 1983 and the Home Internationals in 1986. She was the non-playing captain of the Irish Junior European teams of 1994 and 1995. More recently Eavan has been involved with teams and was part of the management team behind the Munster Pennant won by the Douglas men in the Irish Junior Cup in 2015.
4 Ada O’Sullivan (Monkstown) – European Masters, Irish International 8 years.
Monkstown’s Ada O’Sullivan developed a name for herself both as a player and a team captain. In 1994 she won the Sherry Cup in the European Masters Stroke Play among a number of other titles. Ada represented Ireland firstly in the Girls Home Internationals and following that she was selected for the senior team on several occasions from 1982 through to 1997. Have played on many Munster and Irish teams, she went on to captain several teams. She also captained the GB&I Curtis Cup team twice, in 2004 she led the team in Formby and in 2006 she captained the team in Bandon Dunes, Oregan. Following a great family tradition, Ada became President of Monkstown in 2018, and she was honoured by the ILGU in 2020 when she was made an honorary life member.
5 Zellie Fallon (Douglas) – Irish Close, Irish International 6 years.
Fallon lost out to Irish star Philomena Garvey in Carlow in 1958, but she got her win in Royal Portrush in 1964. She needed 37 holes to beat 1956 champion Pat O’Sullivan in a thrilling final. Zelie was the oldest winner of the Irish Close at the time, she was 44. Fallon was an Irish international for six years and she was also closely involved with a purple period for Douglas when they won five Irish Ladies Senior Cup between 1952 and 1968.
6 Sara Byrne (Douglas) – Irish Close, Junior Vagliano, Irish International
Sara Byrne may be only 20 but she’s achieved quire a bit. She was one of the youngest winners of the Irish Close in 2018, and since then she has gone on to compete at the highest levels. Her win in Enniscrone was particularly impressive, she survived the tough weather conditions and persevered when others fell away. In the end she wrapped up the win on the 17th, claiming her first national title. The Douglas member was runner-up in the Irish Girls Close the following year and in 2019 see headed for the US to take up a golf scholarship with the University of Miami. This year Sara was selected to represent Ireland at the Europeans and at the Home Internationals. Covid had a big impact on Sara’s first year in college but in her second season she’s set to benefit from a full season and already helped the Hurricanes to 3 top three finishes in the fall series.
7 Miss Stuart French (Cork) – Irish Close, Egyptian Open.
The honour of the first national win goes to Cork’s Miss Stuart-French who won the Irish Close in the Hermitage one hundred years ago in 1921. Interestingly she also won the Egyptian Open in 1928. Little else is known about Stuart-French but given the seven year gap between her major wins it’s likely that she picked up another few wins in the interim.
8 Gillian O’Leary (Cork) – Portuguese Open, Irish International 6 years
O’Leary upstaged an international field in 2004 to win the Portuguese Women’s Open Amateur Championship over the Quinta de Cima course in the Eastern Algarve. She won the 36 hole matchplay final 5&4.
9 Mairead Martin (Kanturk) – Irish Girls Close, Irish International
Kanturk’s Mairead Martin has been playing on the national circuit for several years, but she didn’t have to travel too far for her first national win. That came in Mallow Golf Club in 2017 when she captured the Irish Girls Close title. Mairead is currently a Senior in Louisville and has spent the last four years in the US playing the ACC conference.
10 Agnes Dwyer (Cork) – Irish Close
The Dwyer family have a long association with Cork Golf Club and in 1928 Agnes Dwyer won the Irish Close when the event was held in Cork.
Honourable Mentions: Rhona Hegarty (Bandon) – Irish International 5 years, 10 Anne Heskin (Douglas) – Irish International 5 years