I was visiting back home a few weeks ago and while driving around Lawrence, Kansas, I came across a monument of Old Tom Morris. Being new to golf, I had no idea who this person was and why he rated a bronze statue in front of the Golf Course Superintendents Association, so I did some research on him. Come to find out, he was a pretty interesting fellow!
Tom Mitchell Morris (16June1821-24May1908) is one of the most iconic people in the history of golf. He was born in St. Andrews, Scotland and learned to play golf on the infamous St. Andrews course where golf is reported to originate in the fourteenth century. (Mary, Queen of Scots was the first woman known to play golf in 1568, by the way.) Here are some other interesting tidbits about Old Tom Morris:
- He won four Open Championships (better known as the British Open today) during the 1860s.
- He holds the record as the oldest winner of the Open Championships at age 46.
- He held the record for the largest margin of victory in a major championship (14 strokes in the 1862 Open Championship) until Tiger Woods won the US Open in 2000 by 15 strokes.
- He carried five clubs in his bag: four irons and one wood.
- He was known as the “Keeper of the Green” at St. Andrews and pioneered many grounds-keeping practices that are still used today. (Early golf courses looked more like pastures than the modern greens of today.)
- Morris was a Christian man who brought honor and integrity to the game, and was instrumental in elevating golf to a “gentleman’s game.” (Prior to Old Tom’s influence, golf was made up of more “sketchy” characters.)
- Heart ache and trouble were not foreign to Old Tom. He endured great tragedy during his lifetime, yet was known far and wide for his kindness, generosity and resiliency.
- Old Tom Morris built the first “18th” hole over an old graveyard, making it 60 yards longer than all the other holes on the course.
- Besides being a professional golfer and grounds-keeper, Old Tom also built a thriving golf club and ball business that still operates in St. Andrews.
Tom Morris Ltd was acquired by St Andrews Links Trust. The Tom Morris Ltd golf shop is currently run by Sheila Walker, a direct descendant. If you visit the shop, you will have an opportunity to view several artifacts that belonged to Old Tom Morris including furniture, an original workbench and a locker where he stored his clubs. If you wish to learn more, or visit the shop, you can do so at their new website: www.tommorris.com
The depth and breadth of golf is amazing to me, and I learn something new about it every day. I hope that you enjoyed these little facts as much as I did in discovering them.