14 Jun 18
When John McDonald retired as professional at Blainroe Golf Club last year, Irish golf lost a direct link to the late, great Harry Bradshaw.
In 1975, the 15-year-old embarked on a career in golf working as Bradshaw's assistant at Portmarnock. It was an experience that left some lasting memories.
John grew up beside Delgany Golf Club in Co Wicklow. His father, who passed away in 1971, was a fine amateur while John's older brother was a contemporary of Eamonn Darcy.
The Bradshaw's were also Delgany natives, Jimmy Bradshaw [Harry's brother], was the professional at Delgany at the time and took John under his wing after his father passed away.
Bradshaw was 64 when he appointed John, long past his playing peak, but his fame ensured that members and guests continued to beat a path to his door.
John added: “Harry was still playing two or three rounds a day. The Americans used to fly in just to play with him. I remember one American millionaire, he was a member of Winged Foot, jetting in every August to play golf with Harry for a week.
“So he was out playing most of the time which meant that I was looking after the shop, often by myself.
“I got to meet so many people. The Irish Open was resurrected at that time so we had Nick Faldo and Seve dropping in to the shop to say hello.”
John continued: “It was a great start to my career but working for Harry wasn't easy. He had come up the hard way, so he didn't give me anything. But I was pretty easy going and because he knew my family from Delgany we got on fine.
“He did come round a bit and helped me with my game, particularly my short game, he was an artist when it came to pitching and putting, he was absolutely wonderful.
“You'll not believe this, I was in the shop one day when he burst in through the doors, he was a like a little kid.
“He had been out playing with a member and he had 19 putts for 18 holes, the member confirmed it later. He was convinced that had Jack Nicklaus had been playing his long game he would have broken 60!”
In March 1983, John became the first full-time professional appointed at Blainroe GC, a post he held until last year when he retired to spend time with his late wife Sharon who was coping with cancer. As he contemplates retirement he has a wealth of Harry Bradshaw tales to recount.
He said; “I used to love listening to him because he was a great story teller. He would tell me about all the great players he had come against. He had an unbelievable memory and could recall the shots that he had played right back to the Ryder Cup.
“The Americans would come in and ask him to tell them about the bottle incident at the 1949 Open Championship and he would always finish the tale with the line – 'and sir, I have been drinking milk ever since!'.”