Few people alive today will have seen Jimmy Bruen in his prime. One of Ireland’s greatest golfers, the 100th anniversary of his birth falls on Friday, May 8.
Bruen was a teenage prodigy and arguably never got to fulfil his enormous potential, World War II robbing him of six years of his career before a wrist injury suffered at just 27 years old eventually ended his playing days at the top level.
But his name is immortalised in the AIG Jimmy Bruen Shield, one of the Irish game’s most prestigious prizes, which is currently held by Armagh’s Tandragee GC following their thrilling win over The Island in the 2019 final at Westport.
He’ll also be forever known for his swing, the Bruen Loop, which saw him move his left knee out in a pronounced manner on the way up and down. A little unorthodox maybe, but it didn’t stop Jimmy achieving prodigious length off the tee.
It’s said that he could drive it 350 yards in the days before the type of technical advances we see today, which gives everyone a few extra yards with the big stick.
Bruen first came to national prominence when his father James senior managed to persuade the principal of Presentation College in Cork to give him some time off to try out for the Britain and Ireland team for the 1938 Walker Cup.
Just shy of his 18th birthday he equalled the course record for an amateur at St Andrews to seal his place. A few weeks later he was part of the team that beat the USA, securing Britain and Ireland’s first ever win in the competition.
He went on to win many of the amateur game’s top prizes, including the Irish Amateur Open and the Amateur Championship, otherwise known as the British Amateur Championship.
Fittingly, given the competition that bears his name is proudly sponsored by AIG, Jimmy made his living working in insurance, setting up a brokering business in Cork, where he lived with his wife Nell and children.
Despite having his best days cut short by injury, Bruen remained immersed in golf until his untimely death at 52. He never stopped playing and was president of Cork GC at the time of his death.
The Jimmy Bruen Shield was inaugurated in 1978 and there’s little doubt that the man himself would have derived great pleasure from watching some of the great contests it has thrown up since.