Auld Tom Morris, c. 1896
Born St Andrews, Scotland, Morris is remembered as a true pioneer and exponent of golf. He was an accomplished champion, course designer and club-maker.
Morris grew up in a time when golf was the preserve of the affluent due to the cost of hand crafted wooded clubs and "featherie" balls. Growing up in St Andrews, he would have been surrounded by golf and indeed his first job was apprentice ball maker to Allan Robertson.
In fact, Robertson and Morris played as partners and were considered formidable opposition. However, their relationship soured after the Haskell ball was introduced. Morris realised that the new ball made the "featherie" obsolete. Robertson saw the new ball as undermining his business and therefore opposed it. In the end, Morris felt obliged to set up his own workshop to produce clubs and balls.
Old Tom was instrumental in helping to launch the Open Championship in 1860 for "The Belt" (a handsome red leather belt commissioned from goldsmiths in Edinburgh at a cost of £25). Eight players entered and played 36 holes (three rounds over Prestwick's 12-hole course) and the winning professional was Willie Park of Musselburgh. Old Tom finished second, a stroke behind, but went on to win "The Open" four times in the next seven years. On returning to St. Andrews where he continued as a golf professional, Old Tom became increasingly involved in golf course design and construction. His courses include Prestwick, Royal County Down, the New Course at St. Andrews and Muirfield. His name will always be assossiated with the development of golf in the 19th and early 20th century.
Tom Morris died in 1908 at the age of 87 after sustaining injuries from falling down the stairs at the clubhouse. A measure of his popularity is that his funeral was attended by hundreds of admirers.