“Old Tom Morris” often went Straight down the Middle – many times! – Pioneer Professional Golfer… Part 1…

“Old Tom Morris” often went Straight down the Middle – many times! – Pioneer Professional Golfer… Part 1…

Tom_Morris From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thomas Mitchell Morris, Sr. (16 June 1821 – 24 May 1908), otherwise known as Old Tom Morris, was a pioneer of professional golf. He was born in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, the “home of golf” and location of the St Andrews Links, and died there as well.

Morris was the son of a weaver, and began golf by age ten, by knocking wine-bottle corks pierced with nails (to serve as balls) around the streets of the town using a homemade club, in informal matches against other youths; this was known as ‘sillybodkins’.

He started caddying and playing golf from a young age, and formally was hired as an apprentice at age 14 to Allan Robertson, generally regarded as the world’s first professional golfer; Robertson ran the St Andrews Links and an equipment-making business. Morris served four years as apprentice and a further five years as journeyman under Robertson, by most accounts the world’s top player from about 1843 until his death in 1859.

From the early 1840s, Robertson often chose Morris as his partner in challenge matches, played by alternate shot format, which were the principal form of competition at that time. It was said the two never lost a team match played on even terms. The team became known as “The Invincibles”.

St Andrews History – The Old Course at St Andrews is considered by many to be the “home of golf” because the sport was first played on the Links at St Andrews in the early 1400s. Golf was becoming increasingly popular in Scotland until in 1457, when James II of Scotland banned golf because he felt that young men were playing too much golf instead of practicing their archery. The ban was upheld by the following kings of Scotland until 1502, when King James IV became a golfer himself and removed the ban.

Morris by his early 20s was the second-best player in St. Andrews, close to Robertson in golf skill, and won an informal match from him over the Old Course in 1843, but the two players rarely played seriously head-to-head. As Robertson’s employee, Morris was in somewhat of an awkward position.

Morris worked under Robertson at St Andrews until 1851, when he was fired on the spot after being caught by Robertson playing the new guttie golf ball; Robertson had a profitable business making the featherie ball, which was threatened by the emergence of the guttie. Prestwick St Nicholas Golf Club Morris was then hired by Prestwick Golf Club, which was just starting up. At Prestwick, he designed, laid out, and maintained the course, ran his own golf equipment business selling gutties and clubs, gave instruction to players, and ran events. He was influential in beginning The Open Championship in 1860, and struck the very first shot in that event.

History:  Prestwick St Nicholas Golf Club, a traditional Scottish links golf course established in 1851 and now occupying a prime position on the shores of the Firth of Clyde on Scotland’s west coast. The course and Club are steeped in history – indeed one of its founder members was Old Tom Morris who was based in Prestwick prior to returning to St Andrews and his place in golfing legend.

Morris returned to St Andrews as greenkeeper and professional in 1865, at a then-generous salary of 50 pounds per year. He was sought out by the Royal and Ancient, which formally passed a motion in 1864 calling for his rehiring. St Andrews was then in very poor condition, and his first task was to correct this. He did so by widening the fairways, enlarging the greens, applying greenkeeping techniques he had developed at Prestwick, building two new greens (on holes 1 and 18), and “managing” the hazards. He stayed in the post until 1903, a total of 39 years, and was kept on after this by the R & A at full salary.

  • Morris worked as a greenkeeper, clubmaker, ballmaker, golf instructor, and course designer, as well as playing match and tournament golf.
  • He came second in the first Open Championship in 1860, and won the following year. He followed this up with further victories in 1862, 1864 and 1867. He still holds the record as the oldest winner of The Open Championship at 46.


  • His son was Tom Morris, Jr. (died 1875), best known as “Young Tom Morris.’ Morris was part of the only father/son couple being winner and runner-up. Morris held the record for the largest margin of victory in a major championship (14 strokes in the 1862 Open Championship), which stood until Tiger Woods won the 2000 U.S. Open by 15 strokes.
  • He became the second player to break 80 over the Old Course, scoring 79; Robertson had been the first to do it. Once his son Young Tom Morris became an accomplished player in his own right by his mid-teens, in the mid-1860s, father and son formed a team for challenge matches, usually played by alternate shot (foursomes play), where they proved very successful. Their partnership, although not exclusive, would continue until the death of Young Tom in 1875.

To be continued in Part 2 – much more about “Old Tom Morris” and “Young Tom Morris.” 

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TAGS: Helping to make a difference in your lives, Motivated by the Inspiration of Others and the Love of Music, Old Tom Morris, Allan Robertson, The Old Course at St Andrews, Prestwick Golf Club, first Open Championship in 1860, Young Tom Morris

Main Source of Reference –  Wikipedia for which many thanks.

Content Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is for general information purposes only. This does not relate to specific individuals but is drawn from the writer’s knowledge gained from the internet, newspapers and the media in general.The information is provided by John Barton who endeavours to keep the information up to date and correct, Any reliance you place on this information is therefore strictly at your own risk.


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4 Responses to “Old Tom Morris” often went Straight down the Middle – many times! – Pioneer Professional Golfer… Part 1…

  1. Interesting story John! I’m not a golfer, but have to say The St Andrews course looks like a beautiful place – no wonder Old Tom Morris lived there… he did a great job of greenkeeping :)
    Jacs Henderson recently posted…Created For You by Industry Rockstar Diane Hochman … The ‘GURU’ CodeMy Profile

  2. Merle says:

    Have to agree with Jacs I am also not into golf but great story. Thanks for sharing.
    Merle recently posted…Make Money from Home Yes, Get Rich No!My Profile

  3. John says:

    Thanks Merle, very good comments for a non golfer! Please refer to Jacs comments and my reply as above.
    Cheers John :)
    John recently posted…Did you know that “Old Tom Morris” was a Pioneer of Professional Golf? – Part 2…cont’d..My Profile

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