Old Tom Morris 1821 – 1908
Old Tom was born at St. Andrews in 1821 and competed in every Open championship up to and including 1896. He also won the Open four times and remains the oldest ever winner, having won in 1867 aged 46. Old Tom died at St. Andrews in 1908, and is commemorated, amongst other ways, in the name of the final hole at the Old Course.
Tom Morris was born and bred in St. Andrews, on the east coast of Scotland. He began his career as an apprentice feather ball maker with Allan Robertson with whom he worked for 12 years until 1849 when the new gutta ball took away their livelihood.
Morris was Keeper of the Greens in Prestwick from 1851 until 1864. In 1860 Old Tom Morris was instrumental in starting an annual tournament: The British Open. Old Tom won four Open Championships in the 1860s (1861, 1862, 1864, and 1867) and is still the oldest person to have won the event at the age of 46.
Old Tom was famed for his course design; his fee: “£1 a day plus expenses”. He played a part in the design of many famous courses, including Prestwick, Royal Dornoch, Muirfield, Carnoustie, Royal County Down, Nairn, and Cruden Bay. More than any man of his time, Old Tom left his imprint on the game. At the Old Course at St. Andrews he helped devise the first metal cups for firming up the hole. He also discovered how sand, scattered over bare spots, encouraged the growth of grass. He crossed the British Isles by donkey cart, train, and steamer, laying out golf courses as obscure as Askernish and as renowned as Muirfield and Royal Dornoch. He even invented the double-loop routing of nine holes to a side that is now standard.
As a player, Old Tom was known for good course management and accuracy from tee to green. His weakness was the short putt, suggesting that he patented the yips as well. A letter was once addressed to THE MISSER OF SHORT PUTTS, PRESTWICK, and the document was promptly delivered to Morris.
Old Tom’s clubmaking business was established in 1867 by the side of the 18th green of the Old Course. Old Tom Morris died in the year 1908 aged 86. Tom had gained so much respect, that his funeral procession itself spanned the length of South Street in St. Andrews.