Old Tom Morris
Born: June 16, 1821
Died: May 24, 1908
Birthplace: St. Andrews, Scotland
If there were a shrine like Mt. Rushmore for the founding fathers of professional golf, Thomas Mitchell Morris, Sr. would most certainly be on it. “Old” Tom Morris was born and died in St. Andrews, Scotland – the home of golf.
Morris began playing golf on the streets of St. Andrews with a makeshift club as a 10-year old. He began caddying shortly after that and entered into an apprenticeship with Allan Robertson as a 14-year old. Robertson was considered the world’s best player during the mid-1800’s.
Morris’ tutelage continued until Robertson spotted him one day playing a new kind of golf ball referred to as a “guttie”. The ball was in direct competition to the “feathery” ball that Robertson made. Morris left St. Andrews and was hired to help the newly formed Prestwick Golf Club. Morris helped design Prestwick, ran the pro shop and provided golf instruction. He also was integral in creating the Open Championship (the British Open).
Morris was invited back to St. Andrews in 1865 to serve as the course superintendent and head professional. Morris had developed new innovations in greens keeping at Prestwick and St. Andrews was in dire condition when he returned.
While Morris was obviously busy running Prestwick and then St. Andrews, he was a competitive golfer. He was runner up in the inaugural Open Championship in 1860. He then went on a run and won the Open in 1861, 1862, 1864 and 1867.
Morris still holds the tournament record for oldest champion (46) and margin of victory (14 shots). In fact, Morris’ 14-shot win in 1862 was the widest margin of victory by any champion in a Major championship until Tiger Woods’ 15-shot win at the 2000 U.S. Open.
Morris’ contributions to the modern game include the maintenance of sand bunkers and yardage markers in the fairways. Morris passed away at 87 in the clubhouse of St. Andrews.