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The Irish Funeral Director Who Beat Tiger Woods

Picture credits: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile and Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Darragh Small
By Darragh Small
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683 weeks at world number one, 15 Majors and the most noteworthy name in modern day golf, Tiger Woods would transcend sport.

But this was September 1995 and Royal Porthcawl was the scene as a star-studded US team turned up in Wales looking to reclaim the Walker Cup.

They were completely dominant up to that point, winning 10 of the previous 11, indeed a match dating back to 1922 had only been won on three occasions by the Great Britain & Ireland team.

jody fanagan tiger woods 1995 walker cup

The successful Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team in 1995.

This renewal was illuminated by one man, a young California golfer was making history across the pond, Woods had already played in his first PGA Tour event when he was just 16.

He had won six Junior World Golf Championships and three US Junior Amateurs, along with his inaugural US Amateur. At Stanford he took the William Tucker and Jerry Pate Invitationals the previous year, and later in September 1995 he would back up his US Amateur success.


But in the meantime, a young Milltown golfer had his chance and took it – he humbled the great Woods, beating him in the Walker Cup.

Jody Fanagan, and a certain Padraig Harrington, had become a fearsome partnership and they teamed up to beat Woods and John Harris 2&1. GB&I went on to secure a memorable 14-10 win.

19 September 2002; Padraig Harrington pictured with Tiger Woods on the 3rd tee box during day one of the WGC-American Express Championship at Mount Juliet Golf Course in Thomastown, Kilkenny. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

“In those days you wouldn’t have seen the US Amateurs, they weren’t live on TV. So you wouldn’t have seen much footage of Tiger,” said Fanagan.

You read the magazines writing about it and his feats. Winning his matchplay quarter-final, semi-final and final of the US Ams. He hadn’t been beaten in five years. He won the Junior US Ams, and then two US Ams and was unbeaten for five years in singles. That is extraordinary stuff, unbelievable.

The press was hyping him up. He was clearly their number one guy. We hadn’t really seen footage of him but we had obviously heard about him. He was such a big star, he had done things people hadn’t done before.

You could see in the practice round, only snippets. He had some serious game, he just hit it in the air, the distances, it was very impressive. He looked technically very good, really good. But you just never know in golf, who is going to make it or not.

He had all the attributes. It was exciting that he was there, good for the tournament and the Walker Cup. It was live on TV, BBC had it on the Saturday and Sunday. It was all big stuff.

Gordon Sherry was the big draw for the GB&I team, he had just claimed the Amateur Championship. While Harrington was another experienced amateur with a massive future ahead of him in the professional ranks.

Fanagan, who had beaten Harrington in the South of Ireland that year, picked up form at just the right time and together with his fellow Dubliner they formed a formidable duo in the foursomes.

There was a big travelling support over from Milltown that weekend and the dream scenario presented itself.


“There was a huge roar when Padraig and I were drawn to play Tiger and John Harris but I’m not sure we were as excited,” joked Fanagan.

“But we had a very good match. We played Tiger and it was a really wet day. They didn’t love it and they didn’t play brilliantly.

“We played very solid in the rain. Tiger had just won the US Amateur so he was a serious player. He hit the ball like no one else did really.

“You could see his talent was extraordinary. But we played well and we won 2&1 in the end. It was a tight game and we loved it, we had a great time.”

jody fanagan tiger woods 1995 walker cup

Jody Fanagan pictured after his Irish Senior Men's Amateur Open win last year. Photo: Fran Caffrey / Golffile.

On the flipside, a young Tiger hadn’t experienced losing like this, it was a sharp dose of reality for the future phenom and he found it difficult to contemplate what it was like to come out on the wrong side of a result.

However, having been shaped under the watchful eye of the domineering Earl Woods up to this point, a great talent was already showing his teeth on and off the course.


“Typical Tiger, no, there was no interaction on the course,” said Fanagan.

“Not a word was spoken, a very competitive guy. His partner John Harris didn’t play great so he probably didn’t say much to him either. When we won he didn’t come down for dinner. He wasn’t happy, wasn’t in a good space. He said he had the flu or something, I don’t know.

“Losing wasn’t really on his mantra, he hadn’t seen that one coming. I did have a drink with him in one of the social meetings that the teams had that week before the golf on the weekend. We had a chat, very briefly for about five minutes, just a natter about college and golf and stuff like that, nothing memorable.

“Nice guy but on the golf course, like most golfers would have said over the last 30 years, hardly would have said a word to anyone when he had his game face on.”

'I haven’t met Tiger Woods since'

The killer mindset worked just fine in the years that followed and Woods went on to break more records and make more history throughout his illustrious career.

jody fanagan tiger woods 1995 walker cup

Pictured from (L to R) are the Fanagan family: Steph, Alison, Hugo, Harry (seated), and Jody Fanagan.

Fanagan never turned professional, although he also watched former teammate and great friend Harrington go on to do great things on the Tour and in Majors alike.

For the Rathgar man he continued to fire in the amateur ranks before he raised a family and placed all of his focus behind the family business, Fanagan Funeral Directors.

“I haven’t met Tiger since. Padraig would say he said over the years, 'Is that fella still an undertaker?'” said Fanagan.

After his sons Hugo (24), Harry (22) and Steph (20) grew up, he found some time to get out on the golf course more often and play competitively again.

And this morning he tees it up alongside Jim Carvill and Mark Collins in Hermitage at 8am. Fanagan will be defending his Irish Senior Men’s Amateur Open Championship on the challenging Lucan golf course.

“In seniors there are only about six or seven events a year, it’s a smaller circuit and it’s very enjoyable,” said Fanagan.

“It’s not a massive commitment, you are not doing it through nine or ten months. It’s very focused, you pretty much have two events every month from April to September.

“The Irish Seniors Open is a big one for us in our calendar. A number of people from overseas come and play. It was great for me, I won in Douglas last year and it was only my third seniors event.

“It put me back on the map as being relevant and playing well enough to compete. Going into it I didn’t know would I be competitive again, losing that knack of winning or the scoring having not done it for so long.

“I have loved it and there is a great bunch of people on the mini tour that we have. We have had great fun, met lots of guys who I wouldn’t have met in the old days and then some guys who were from the old days.

“It’s been a great mix and it’s lovely to go in having won a championship. I haven’t done it in a long time. Defending is nice and once you have won one or two the pressure is off and I’m enjoying it.

“Every time I tee it up I am enjoying it.”

See Also: Another Major, Another Rollercoaster Ride For Rory McIlroy


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