The Leading Amateurs
The museum’s collections have a strong focus on amateur golf, featuring many of the most prominent players from the late 19th century to the present day.
The Amateur Championship was introduced in 1885 and its magnificent trophy signifies the importance of the amateur game at that time. Medals and trophies won by John E. Laidlay, John Ball and Allan Macfie represent the great amateurs from this era, when amateur golfers were regarded as gentlemen, as distinct from professionals.
The greatest amateur of all time, Bobby Jones, held his own against the best professionals by winning The Open Championship in 1926, 1927 and 1930. In 1930 he also won the Amateur Championship and the US Open and Amateur Championships. This feat remains unbeaten to this day. Fellow American Mildred “Babe” Zaharias also won both the 1947 British and US amateur titles. Zaharias only took up golf after winning Olympic gold in hurdles and javelin at the 1932 Games.
Amateur golf has proven to be the cornerstone of many a flourishing professional career. Ryder Cup stalwarts Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia both won the Boys Amateur and Amateur Championships. In 2009 Catriona Matthew became the first Scot to win a women’s Major, having already won the Ladies’ Amateur title. Claiming the Silver Medal as the leading amateur in The Open Championship remains a challenging and outstanding achievement. Winners include Major champions Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.
‘Career Amateurs’ are also well represented. Names such as Sir Michael Bonallack, Jessie Valentine, Peter McEvoy and Carol Semple Thompson all raised the standard of amateur golf on the international stage.
The Collections: 1860 to the present day
Did you know?
During and just after World War II, golf ball supplies reached crisis point, due to a shortage of rubber. In 1942 the Government forbid the remoulding of old balls. Following R&A intervention, the ban was lifted. One of the arguments used was that the Army Medical Council encouraged golf as a remedial exercise for wounded personnel.