Young Tommy Morris (1851-1875)
The Youngest winner of the Open Championship to this day.
Young Tommy Morris was born on the 20th April 1851 in St Andrews. He would move west to Prestwick in Ayrshire as a young boy where he grew up playing golf.
Young Tom studied at the prestigious Ayr Academy up to his early teens. The Morris family was becoming more prosperous, and hence able to afford the expensive private school fees, in the range of £15 per year (approx. £460 at today’s prices).
At the Academy, Young Tom studied with the sons of noblemen and wealthy businessmen and would put his schooling to good use in his golf game and in his personal relationships.
Young Tommy Morris – A Brief History
Cast in the Mould of a Golfer -aged 12
At 12 years of age Tommy begged his father to take him to a golf tournament held in Perth. His father Tom Morris took Tommy along, but sadly the organisers would not let him play saying he was too young.
They organised a match against the local youth champion, both boys played well but young Tommy won, all the newspapers wrote that he was ‘Cast in the Mould of a Golfer’.
First Open Championship Aged 14 – 1865
Young Tommy played in his first Open Championship in 1865 at just 14 years of age. He arrived at Prestwick three years later alongside his father and won his first Open Championship with a record score of 154 strokes.
This was eight strokes better than the previous best winning score of 162 strokes. Tommy’s father Tom Morris finished in second place which is a feat not likely to ever be repeated in any sport.
Tommy Morris was just 17 years of age and remains the Youngest winner of the Open Championship to this day.
Custodian of the Challenge Belt – 1870
Tommy Morris arrived at Prestwick in 1870 with the opportunity to create history within his grasp. Any player who won the Open Championship three years in a row got to keep the Challenge Belt as their own.
Tommy Morris began by holing his third shot at the first hole and would go onto win his third Open Championship. Following his three wins in succession, Tommy had created history and became the’ ‘Custodian of the Challenge Belt’
The Claret Jug – 1873
With no trophy in place to play for there was no Open Championship held in 1871. Tommy Morris won again at Prestwick in 1872 and received a gold medal.
A new trophy was purchased in 1873 which was named the ‘Claret Jug’ Tommy’s name was the first engraved on this trophy that is still presented to the winner of the Open Championship to this day. Tommy Morris was golf’s first superstar.
Tommy Morris The Innovator
Tommy Morris was a tremendous golf innovator who raised the playing standard significantly, and this, together with his aggressive promotion of his own skills, led to an enormous increase in the popularity of golf for spectators.
ome of his challenge matches attracted thousands of spectators from all over Scotland. Such was the interest that major London newspapers and magazines sent correspondents to Scotland, a 400-mile trip by rail, to cover his challenge matches in the 1870s.
Although Morris won a very high percentage of his matches and tournaments, he managed to minimise animosity among rivals, who had to improve their own games to stay competitive. He had a friendly personality and was widely respected.
A Bitter Sweet Day
In a team match on 11 September 1875 at North Berwick, with the Morris’s facing brothers Willie and Mungo Park, Young Tom received a telegram from home requesting his immediate return; his pregnant wife, Margaret Drinnen, had gone into a difficult labour.
Only two holes remained in the match; Old Tom and Young Tom finished the match, winning, and hurried home by ship across the Firth of Forth and up the coast, but when Young Tom got there both his wife and new-born baby were dead.
Young Tom was broken-hearted. Not quite four months later, on Christmas Day, he died at the age of 24.