Tom Morris – The Grand Old Man of Golf
Some of golf’s most iconic characters are represented in the British Golf Museum’s collections, none more so than Old Tom Morris (1821-1908).
Born in St Andrews, Morris was one of the most talented and respected players of his generation. He served as apprentice club and feather ballmaker under Allan Robertson, a golfer of such skill that he is regarded as the first golf professional. When Robertson discovered that Morris had played with the newly introduced gutta percha ball in 1846, their working relationship ended. They nevertheless continued to partner one another in foursomes money matches.
Robertson died before The Open Championship began, so it was down to Tom Morris to carry on his legacy. The golfing world was shocked when the first Open was won, not by Morris, but by Willie Park Senior from Musselburgh. Morris got his revenge in 1861 and went on to win the Championship a further three times (1862, 1864, 1867). All were won over the course he helped to lay out at Prestwick, where he worked as Greenkeeper from 1851.
In 1864, Morris was lured back to St Andrews to take charge of the links. As Keeper of the Green, he earned £50 a year and he remained in this post until 1903.
The museum holds a number of important artefacts relating to Tom Morris, including clubs and balls he made or used to win The Open Championship. Visitors are greeted by a larger than life bronze statue of Morris as they enter the galleries.
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.