Tom Morris known as ‘Old’ Tom Morris is a Scottish golfing legend and famous golf course designer.
In recognition of his achievements, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club House in St Andrews permanently displays his portrait. Born and bred in St Andrews, at age eighteen, Tom Morris was apprenticed to Allan Robertson (1815-1859) the greatest player of his time. Tom Morris was a golf ball and club maker before turning to professional play. In 1862 he won the British Open by 13 strokes and this margin of victory still stands as a record. He won the Open Championship four times. In 1867 Morris won his final Open.
‘Old’ Tom and his son ‘Young’ Tom became the only father and son to hold successive open titles when ‘Old’ Tom became the oldest player to win a title, aged 46 years and 99 days, in 1867. ‘Young’ Tom won in 1868 and in the following year he won again and his father finished second. ‘Old’ Tom later became custodian of the links at St Andrews. As a renowned as a club and ball maker, he established his own club-making firm and designed many famous Scottish golf courses.
‘Young’ Tom Morris (1851-75) was outright winner of the Open Golf Championship at St Andrews 1868-1870, when he claimed the Challenge Belt as his own after the hat trick. ‘Young’ Tom Morris has the distinction of being its youngest ever winner. There was no Open Championship in 1871. He won the 1872 Open and was awarded the new Claret Jug trophy. Young Tom died at the age of 24, just three months after the death of his wife. His grave is in the grounds of St Andrews Cathedral, beside that of his father, Old Tom Morris; a memorial stone is set in the old priory wall.
The origins of golf are a matter of controversy. Only from the mid 18th century, when the first golf clubs were formed, do records appear which give a more detailed account of the game. Golf was almost exclusively a sport for the Scots until the second half of the 19th century, and it was played by a limited number of people. It expanded quickly, particularly after 1880 and was taken up by the English and by women. The game became increasingly popular, leading not only to the creation of new golf courses, but also to an outpouring of golf literature. This is apparent in the appearance of books of instruction in golf, such as this, histories of clubs, anthologies of golfing prose and verse, and journals devoted entirely to the sport.
Sir Walter Simpson’s 1887 book, ‘The Art of Golf’, was the first to feature photographs and is informative as well as humorous. Discussing the mental qualities needed to be a good golfer, he famously wrote, Excessive golfing dwarfs the intellect. Nor is this to be wondered at when we consider that the more fatuously vacant the mind is, the better for play. It has been observed that absolute idiots play the steadiest!
Images © Historic Environment Scotland, National Library of Scotland, St Andrews University Library| Licensor Scran