Born St Andrews, Fife (1821 to 1908). Tom Morris wanted to be a carpenter but was persuaded that the craft of making feathery balls and golf clubs had better prospects. He was apprenticed at 18 to Allan Robertson and later stayed on with him as a journeyman. They formed an unbeaten partnership in the challenge matches of the time and their recovery against the Dunns of Musselburgh in 1849, over four greens for stakes of £400, has passed into golfing legend.
A few months later they parted company when Robertson saw Morris using the new gutta-percha ball- Robertson, fearing the loss of his feathery trade, had burned any gutty he could find and spoke of the new ball with contempt. Morris set up on his own and in 1851 accepted the job as Prestwick’s first Keeper of the Green.
Morris was a steady rather than inspirational player and he managed to prosper without being long off the tee or a good short putter (an envelope addressed to ‘The Misser of Short Putts, Prestwick’ failed to trouble the postman). He won four of the first eight Opens and continued to play in the Open until he was 75; at 46 years 99 days he remains the oldest champion. Returning to St Andrews as Keeper of the Green (1864 to 1904), Old Tom set up a successful club making firm and can also be considered the first golf architect: many of our great courses (later much changed) were laid out by him, including the scene of his Open triumphs, Prestwick, and Muirfield.
Open Champions at Prestwick
Extract taken from “British Open Champions” by Michael Hobbs 1991.