Born Musselburgh, Midlothian (1834 to 1903). The first great player to come from the caddie ranks, rather than a background in club and ball making (which he took to later), Park first appeared on the golfing scene in 1854. In this year, for stakes of £100, he challenged Allan Robertson (the greatest player of his time), Tom Morris or Willie Dunn. George Morris played instead and was beaten by many holes, causing Robertson to say: ‘Willie frichtens us wi’ his long driving.’ Brother Tom then took up the challenge over 36 holes and lost by five holes.
This was the first of many matches between Park and Morris when such events were far more keenly followed than the Open Championship. When this began in 1860, after Robertson’s death, Park got home by a couple of strokes from Morris and the pair dominated the event until the arrival of Young Tom Morris. Besides his victories, Park was also second four times.
Park learned to play the game with one club, a curved stick, and with it became a long and straight driver and excellent putter. How it would have served him in bunkers we cannot know as it is said that he always managed to avoid them. Such was his flair for the game that he would often play club golfers using only one hand and standing on one leg. He lost only once. On another occasion, he accepted a challenge to play a round playing all his tee shots from a watch face. The watch was unscathed at the end.
Open Champions at Prestwick
Extract taken from “British Open Champions” by Michael Hobbs 1991.