10 Great Irish Golfers

Although many Americans treat St. Patrick’s Day like a national holiday, it isn’t. Don’t let all the green, shamrocks and Guinness beer fool you! It is a public holiday, however, in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

To celebrate with them, we take a look at 10 great Irish professional golfers over the years. 

Rory McIlroy

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Hailing from Northern Ireland, McIlroy at 27 years old is already the greatest Irish golfer ever, considering his 13 PGA Tour and 13 European Tour victories, which include four majors. He captured both the 2011 U.S. Open and the 2012 PGA Championship by eight-stroke margins. Those wins helped move him to No. 1 in the world to close out 2012 and start 2013. In all, he has been the top-ranked golfer in the world for 95 total weeks. He also went on to win the 2014 Open Championship and 2014 PGA Championship. He is just one Masters win away from the career grand slam. McIlroy has also helped the European Ryder Cup team to wins in 2010, 2012 and 2014, and he tied for second at the 2009 World Cup of Golf with Graeme McDowell. 

Padraig Harrington

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The 47-year-old Irishman has won three major championships, the second-most of anyone from the Emerald Isle. Included in his six career PGA Tour wins and 15 career European Tour victories are Harrington’s three majors: the 2007 and ’08 Open Championships, and 2008 PGA Championship. He’s also won Ireland’s oldest tournament, the Irish PGA Championship, six times, competed for Europe six times in the Ryder Cup, and has been named Captain for Team Europe in 2020.

Christy O’Connor Sr.

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Inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2009, O’Connor starred in an age that didn’t have the fame today’s golfers know. He took the Irish PGA Championship 10 times (tied for No. 1; his last came in 1978), the Irish Open four times (the most ever), and made 10 Ryder Cup appearances (tied for second all-time among Europeans).

Graeme McDowell

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The second Northern Irish major winner after Fred Daly was McDowell, who claimed the 2010 U.S. Open and finished the 2012 U.S. Open one stroke back. The victory is one of three on the PGA Tour for the 37-year-old, and one of 10 wins on the European Tour. He’s starred for Europe on four Ryder Cup teams and was runner-up in the 2009 World Cup with McIlroy. 

Paul McGinley

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McGinley became the first Irishman to captain a Ryder Cup squad during the 2014 matches at Gleneagles. Among his career highlights is a 10-foot putt on No. 18 at the 2002 Ryder Cup, which defeated Jim Furyk and gave the Europeans the decisive point needed to clinch that year’s title. McGinley owns four European Tour victories and a 1997 World Cup win when he teamed with Padraig Harrington.

Darren Clarke

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Another notable Nothern Irish golfer is Darren Clarke. Since turning pro in 1990, he’s won a total of 22 times including 14 European Tour events and 3 PGA Tour events. He also was the Champion Golfer of the Year in 2011 when he won the Open Championship at Royal St. Georges. He’s played on five consecutive European Ryder Cup teams and was named the captain in 2016.

Fred Daly

Yet another Northern Irish golfer, Fred Daly was a force in the late 1930s-50s. He is credited with 24 professional wins, including the 1947 Open Championship. Daly has the distinction of being the first Irishman to win a professional major. He also had four other top-four finishes at the Open. 

Des Smyth

Ireland’s Des Smyth first joined the European Tour back in 1974 and picked up eight wins that spanned four decades, the first of which was in 1979. He won the 2001 Madeira Island Open at age 48, which at the time was the record for the oldest winner on the Euro Tour. After he turned 50, he’s racked up several wins on the senior circuits. Smyth also won the Irish National PGA Championship six times and played in two Ryder Cups.

Harry Bradshaw 

Harry Bradshaw was one of the best Irish professional golfers around in the 1940s and 1950s, claiming a pair of British Masters and a pair of Irish Opens. He also won a staggering 10 Irish PGA Championships, which is tied for the most ever with Christy O’Connor Sr. He represented the European team at the Ryder Cup three times. He’s most famous for not taking relief during the 1949 Open Championship when his ball came to rest next to a broken beer bottle in a bunker. He went on to lose in a playoff with Bobby Locke.

Ronan Rafferty

Another Northern Irish product, Ronan Rafferty turned pro in 1981 and has seven European Tour victories to his name. He also has won five times on the Australasian Tour and was a member of the 1989 European Ryder Cup team. That same year he led the European Tour money list.