Charles Owen Hezlet (1891 - 1965):
Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Owen Hezlet was a member of one of the most distinguished golfing families in Ulster, or indeed anywhere in Ireland.
Hezlet’s heredity was steeped in golf. His father was Richard Jackson Hezlet, who had made a distinguished military career in the Royal Artillery, retiring finally as a regimental Lieutenant-Colonel in 1892, and who captained Royal Portrush Golf Club in 1900 while his mother, Emily, served as a premier officer of the Ladies’ Branch of the same club, one year earlier.
Charles Hezlet’s prizewinning began at Royal Portrush with multiple wins in the club’s Alexander Cup, President’s Cup and Adair Shield (he would eventually win this latter prize 10 times) and in 1914 was runner-up in the British Amateur Championship, a leading national competition. He served in the First Word War with distinction, being several times mentioned in despatches, and after the war returned to the game with considerable success. His outstanding record of championship performances is listed comprehensively by Menton, but even a brief list is impressive in itself. He won the Irish Close in 1920 and throughout that decade was twice winner and twice runner-up at the Irish Amateur Open; he was twice Leading Amateur at the Open Championship of Ireland; and outside of Ireland was runner-up at the Welsh Amateur Open and winner of the Surrey Amateur Open. He played three times in the Walker Cup, the international competition for amateurs between Great Britain and Ireland against the United States. He was the first Irish player to be accorded this coveted honour. The second was Noel Martin, with whom Hezlet had a close golfing rivalry throughout the 1920s; one of their finals, the 1923 Irish Amateur Open, held at Royal County Down Golf Club, Newcastle, County Down, was described in the press at the time as the best final ever seen in Irish golf (Martin emerged the winner). Martin paid Hezlet the (perhaps backhanded) compliment when he said: “If the big man could putt he’d be a world beater”.
In 1922 he represented Wales at international level, which at that time was no bar to his representing Ireland the following year. Though due to changed eligibility requirements, this nevertheless stands as a unique record.
The great majority of his accomplishments as a player came in the 1920s but his influence on the game in other capacities reached well into the 1950s. In thirteen years he was Irish International Team Captain; seven times in Irish International Selector; Captain of the Great Britain Team on their 1952 tour of southern Africa; and was twice Club Captain at Royal Portrush for a total of eight years between 1914 and 1948.
He served on the Central Council of the Golfing Union of Ireland from 1946 until his death. He also enjoyed many years of close links to The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrew’s, one of the most prestigious, historical and important golfing institutions in the world. Hezlet was very influential on the decision of the R&A to allocate the Open Championship to Royal Portrush for 1951 (this championship, often referred to as the “British Open”, is regarded by many as the leading tournament in world golf, professional or amateur). He was a striking figure about Portrush, still in the 1950s sporting the de rigueur plus-four trousers which were for many the sartorial sign of the keen golfer. As late as 2019, he was clear in the visual memory of another Irish international winner and Portrush member, and at least one past Captain has recalls, also as late as 2019, having played with him.
Hezlet had four sisters, May, Florence, Violet and Emmie, all of whom were leading figures in the development of Ladies’ golf in Ireland. May won the Ladies’ Amateur Championship in 1899, 1902 and 1907, and won the Irish Ladies Amateur Championship in 1899, 1904, 1905, 1906 and 1908 and was elected Lady Captain of Portrush in 1905. Florence was runner-up to May in 1907 and was twice Lady Captain. Violet was also a finalist in the Ladies’ Amateur and Emmie was Lady Captain in 1920-1921.
|Born:||16 May 1891|
|Died:||22 November 1965|
JL (Ian) Bamford
William A Menton: The Golfing Union of Ireland 1891-1991, Dublin, Gill and Macmillan, 2001; JL Bamford: Royal Portrush Golf Club 1888-1988, A History, 2nd Edition, 2000; interview, Mr JL Bamford (past Captain, Royal Portrush GC) with the Dictionary of Ulster Biography, March 2019; interview, Sir Peter Froggatt (member, Royal Portrush GC) with the Dictionary of Ulster Biography, March 2019; London Gazette 30 September 1892
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