Death of Paddy Skerritt

 

Paddy Skerritt, who died yesterday aged 71, after a long illness, was one of the best-loved figures in Irish golf. His popularity stemmed from a life-long obsession with a game which he was determined to make others enjoy as much as he did.

Born in Co Clare as one of eight brothers, three of whom became professional golfers, he learned golf at Lahinch, where he once caddied in a championship for Joe Carr. "Paddy was a lovely fellow and a fine golfer with a good, natural swing," said Carr yesterday. "We will miss him."

He is certain to be greatly missed at St Anne's GC on Bull Island, where he was professional since 1963. After four years there, he became a regular competitor on the European Tour and produced his best British Open performance in 1968 at Carnoustie, where he led the field after 45 holes, before finishing in a share of 18th place behind Gary Player.

As a tournament player, however, he is best remembered for the extraordinary scenes at Portmarnock in September 1970, when he captured the Alcan International Tournament, while Bruce Devlin won the concurrent Alcan Golfer of the Year event. Indeed it was an extremely fruitful year for Skerritt given that in May he beat Hugh Jackson at Mullingar to capture the Carrolls Irish Matchplay title.

After a decidedly moderate opening round of 74 in the Alcan, Skerritt swept into the halfway lead with a sparkling 68. And when victory was sealed, I can recall him being carried shoulder high by delighted St Anne's supporters, led by former soccer international Tommy Eglington.

By that stage, comparisons became inevitable with Christy O'Connor Snr. And Paddy later recalled when the pair of them "let their hair down and had a bit of a sing-song, Christy always wanted me to belt out a few bars of How are Things in Glocca Morra. That was his favourite."

He succeeded O'Connor as British PGA Seniors champion in 1978 and again in 1980. And he went on to produce sparkling form on the home circuit, winning 18 pro-ams between 1986 and 1990.

Paddy Skerritt was an absolute delight to be around.

Ar dheis DΘ go raibh a anam.

- DG