Grand Old Man of Golf (1821-1908)
Tom Morris hit the first tee shot in the first ever Open Championship played at Prestwick on 17th October 1860.
Old Tom Morris was also responsible for laying out over 70 golf courses the length and breadth of the British Isles.
Old Tom laid out over 70 golf courses the length and breadth of the British Isles. In 1895 he designed the New course at St Andrews which in turn created the name for the Old course.
Old Tom Morris - A Brief History
Old Tom Morris – A Brief History
Thomas Mitchell Morris was born on 16th June 1821 in the town of St Andrews, Fife. At the age of five he attended school where he received a basic education in reading and writing. He attended church every Sunday with his family and would do so for the rest of his life
Playing Silly Bokins – aged 6
Tom was first introduced to golf when he was six years old. He and his friends played Silly-Bodkins, a fun game that involved hitting a wine cork filled with nails at targets around the streets of St Andrews.
Feather Ball Maker – aged 14
At 14 years of age Tom left the family home to become apprentice to feathery golf ball maker Allan Robertson. Working for “room and keep” he learned the art of making these feathery balls. Allan also introduced Tom to playing the game of golf, and when enough feathery balls had been made in the day they would head to the links and play golf.
A New Greens Keeping Technique
In 1851 Tom moved his family west to Prestwick to begin a new life, the family moved into a small two-bedroomed cottage. There was no club or course, but Tom was brought west to change that by Colonel James Ogilvy Fairlie whom he met in 1846 in St Andrews. Tom’s role as servant of the club would see him build and maintain 12 holes at Prestwick, he used the natural land such as sand dunes, undulations in the ground to create a course never seen before. He also introduced a new greens-keeping technique where sand was applied to the greens and brushed in, this stimulated the roots and improved turf growth leading to better greens
Custodian of the links at St Andrews – 1864
Tom returned to St Andrews in 1864 where he accepted the role of Custodian of the links at St Andrews. He was given control of the links and with the tools of his trade which were a barrow, spade and shovel. he would stay in this role for the next 39 years as the town of St Andrews became the golf mecca as thousand flocked to the links to play the game of golf.
The First Tee Shot in the First Ever Open Championship – 1860
Tom Morris hit the first tee shot in the first ever Open Championship played at Prestwick on 17th October 1860. Willie Park won by two shots.
1864: Toms First Victory Against Willie Parks
Tom’s first victory came the following year as he bettered Willie Parks winning score the previous year by 11 shots. He won again in 1862 and added his third victory in 1864. His last victory came in 1867 where he bettered his old foe Willie Park by two shots to win aged 46 years old, he remains the oldest winner of the Open championship
A Man of Property – 1866
In 1866 he became a man of property as he purchased 6 Pilmour links, where Tom began to sell and repair clubs.
Designed the New course at St Andrews – 1895
Tom was also responsible for laying out over 70 golf courses the length and breadth of the British Isles. In 1895 he designed the New course at St Andrews which in turn created the name for the Old course. The ladies of the town also showed an interest in playing the game but would not head out to the links. So, land was purchased, and Tom laid out the Himalaya putting green for the ladies which is still played on to this day. He designed his last course at Kirkcaldy in 1903 aged 81 years of age.
Tom Morris had many great triumphs in his life, but he also suffered many personnel tragedies, he outlived all his family, his children and all the great key-influencers who helped to shape his legacy. Allan Robertson, James Ogilvy Fairlie and Willie Park all passed away, yet Tom continued and faced his fate with fortitude. He was honoured by royalty, painted by artists and was the game of golf’s first iconic figure.
His Final Day
Sadly, on Sunday 24th of May 1908 at the age of 86 he fell down the cellar stairs in the New clubhouse and never recovered. Tom Morris lived a life we can all learn from.