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The Life of Tom Morris
Chapter XI - Tom's matches with Willie Park


IT was with Willie Park of Musselburgh that our hero played his most memorable single matches. In 1854 there appeared in the Scotsman a challenge from Willie Park, offering to play Allan Robertson, Tom Morris, or Willie Dunn. Getting no reply to his challenge, Willie turned up at the autumn meeting of the same year in St Andrews, where he met the three men he had challenged the greatest golfers of the day. Even then there seemed to be some reluctance to meet him, but eventually Tom Morris agreed to play him a match of 2 rounds of the St Andrews links, which Willie won by 5 holes. Shortly afterwards he again beat Tom at North Berwick.

In 1856 they had their first big match over 4 greens for 100 a-side. The links chosen were Musselburgh, Prestwick, North Berwick, and St Andrews. On the two former greens Willie had the advantage, and Tom not so great a one over the remaining two. Willie won by 8 and 6 to play. I subjoin this account of the day's play at St Andrews, taken from the Fife Herald of 15th May 1856, for the sake of the game itself and for the sake of Sir Hugh Lyon-Playfair's opening remarks, which might be laid to heart with advantage at the present day by those intent on witnessing golf matches.

"On Saturday at twelve o'clock Mr Morris and Mr Park met at the first hole to resume the contest in which they have for some time been engaged. The interest taken in the match by many of the citizens induced upwards of 500 to set apart the day as one of amusement, in viewing the progress of the game. A large number of golfers and other gentlemen from a distance were also present, as well as a number of ladies who stood on the terraces of the Club-House and elsewhere, viewing the commencement of the match. Before the first balls had been struck off, Provost Playfair stated to the crowd that some gentlemen had recommended that a staff of policemen should have been present to keep them back from the golfers while they played; but he thought they were rather disagreeable fellows. Others had thought a magistrate should have been in attendance, but he thought the best and most effectual plan was that everyone should be; his own policeman; he appealed to their honour to keep back from the plavers 30 or 40 yards while they were striking their balls or putting, and thus give them every fair play. This address was received with applause, and Tom immediately afterwards struck off his ball, which was followed by Park's, and away the crowd moved after the players till they had finished 2 rounds, which terminated about half-past four o'clock.

"The following is the state in which the match stood before the competitors commenced at St Andrews: At Musselburgh, Park gained 8 holes, at Prestwick, 5, and at North Berwick he lost 2, which left him 11 holes ahead.

"After the first round was completed on Saturday, Park had come down 3 holes. After playing 12 holes of the second round the match was completed. Park being 8 holes ahead, and there being only 6 to play.

"As numerous bets depended on the result of the day's play at St Andrews, without having any reference to the principal match, the round was played out, and Tom was found to be gainer of another 2 holes, which made him 5 holes ahead.

"The following shows the state of play during the first round:

Going Out.

Morris, 5 5 5 4 6 5 6 4 5
Park. 6 5 6 5 6 4 5 4 5

Coming In.

Morri, 4 3 5 6 6 6 5 4 6
Park, 4 3 5 5 7 6 7 7 6

"Thus Tom took 90 strokes to the round, and Park took 96; 9 holes were halved; 6 were taken by Tom. and 3 by Park.

Tom's Matches with Willie Park

"The following shows the state of play during the second round:

Going Out.

Morris, 6 6 5 5 6 4 5 4 5
Park, 5 7 5 5 7 5 6 3 5

Coming In.

Morris, 4 4 5 5 6 5 5 6 6
Park, 6 3 4 6 6 6 6 5 6

"Thus Tom took 92 strokes to this round, and Park took 95; 6 holes were halved; 7 taken by Tom, and 5 by Park."

But in 1862 Tom had his revenge. He won on every green, defeating his opponent by 17 holes. They did not play a great match again until 1870, this time on Tom's challenge. Park won the toss, and elected to play over his opponent's links first. The order was, St Andrews, Prestwick, North Berwick, and Musselburgh. The play therefore began at St Andrews on the 12th of April.

The links at St Andrews, says a contemporary account, presented an unusually animated appearance, a large number of gentlemen turning out to witness the performance of the two champions. Opinions were very varied as to the capabilities of the two players, many persons believing that the weight of ten years which Morris had to carry over Park gave the latter an advantage, while others maintained that the careful, steady play of the St Andrews representative would, at any rate on his own green, earn for him the victory over his redoubtable opponent. I followed the match all day. The weather was good, but a south-west wind was rather high for perfect play. The links were in what was then considered to be first-rate order, but the putting-greens were rather keen. "Daw" Anderson carried for Tom, Bob Fergusson for Willie Park. Park won the first hole in 3, Tom missing a longish down-hill putt. Tom was bunkered in the second hole, and lost it also. Park met a similar fate at the third, and Tom won the hole. The fourth hole was halved. Park won the fifth, Tom putting indifferently. Tom was in bunkers at the sixth, and was now 3 down. He, however, won the high hole. The short and ninth hole was halved. Tom won the tenth, Park the eleventh; Tom won the twelfth, Park the thirteenth. Willie was in "Hell" in the next, and lost. He was again bunkered at the fifteenth, and lost. Match all even and 3 to play in the first round. Tom was bunkered at the sixteenth and lost. He also lost the seventeenth and eighteenth. So the first round, much, I remember, to the disappointment of Tom's friends, ended with our champion 3 holes to the bad.

Starting in the afternoon, we hoped for better things, and great was our chagrin when Tom's second shot was in the burn. It was caught by the high head-wind, and in it went. Tom was now 4 down. However, he won the second and third. Park won the fourth. The fifth was halved. Here Tom holed what looked like a dead stymie, and great was the applause when he successfully negotiated it. They both, however, took 6 to the hole. The sixth was halved also, Tom's ball lying on the lip of the hole with the like. Tom won the seventh. The short hole was halved, Park holing a fine putt. The ninth was won by Tom, who now was only one down. The tenth was halved, Tom lofting a stymie and securing a half. The eleventh was also halved. Park won the twelfth, and was now 2 up and 6 to play. The thirteenth was halved, and so was the fourteenth. Tom won the fifteenth 1 down and 3 to play. He won the next. All even and 2 to play. Going to the seventeenth, Park played a magnificent cleek shot, and was on the green in 3. Tom also played well, but just a little strong, and was on the road. Park won the hole and became dormy. The last hole was halved. Park thus won the match on Tom's own green by 1 hole, and was warmly applauded by the crowd, who however, were not in the best of spirits over Tom's defeat.

A return match was also won by Park.

Going to Prestwick, both had some practice over the links there; and in the afternoon of the day previous to the match being resumed, Park and Bob Fergusson played Tom and Charlie Hunter. The latter won the first round by 1, but lost the second by 2, Willie and Bob thus winning the match by a hole.

Next day the great match was resumed, "watched with the greatest interest by a large number of ladies and gentlemen, whose sympathies were evidently mostly in favour of Morris, from the fact that he was resident in Prestwick for fourteen years. The links were in admirable playing order, with the exception of the first and last holes, where the sand and uneven putting-green made it difficult to hole out with anything like a good score. The form displayed by the two players was, curiously enough, as nearly as possible just the opposite of that shown at St Andrews on Tuesday. In the first round there was undoubtedly some excellent play, but it was not sustained, and the second round was characterised by the same uneven game. As at St Andrews, the present exhibition of golfing science was reserved for the last round. Park drove magnificently, but his putting was for a time indifferent. Tom Morris, on the other hand, while driving very well, shone most brilliantly on the putting-green."

The first round went in favour of Tom by 6 holes. After lunch Park played up. "Going to the 'Tunnel' hole, where lie had so signally come to grief in the two previous rounds, Park substituted his clock for the play club or spoon, and sent the ball safely over Sahara. Tom followed in the same direction, but more to the left. Park then took his long putter, and making the finest stroke of the day, holed out in 2. For this magnificent play the Musselburgh champion got a round of applause, and his confidence reviving, he played a brilliant game to the close." At the burn hole he had succeeded in reducing Tom's lead of 6 to 1, "which was, however, again increased to 2 at the home hole by the beautiful and steady putting of the old champion, who now stood 'dormy,' i.e., 2 holes up and 2 to play. Playing to the short hole, Park landed in the hollow at the shoulder of the 'Alps,' but 'decked' his ball in splendid style out of the hazard. Tom's first stroke took his ball within a yard of the hole, but he missed the putt, and Park doing the same, Tom got the hole with his next, making him 3 up. To the last hole of the green both drove their ball always (sic) at whistling rate. Park's next with the iron lay within four yards of the hole, while Tom, who was further down the hill, was short in his cleek shot, and his putt was too strong. Park missed his putt by six inches, and Tom's next stopped short on the lip of the hole, giving Park the chance to hole out in 4 and win the hole, which he did. The result of the 36 holes was that Morris was 2 up at Prestwick and on the match, a majority of 1 hole for Morris."

Mr E. II. Hunter acted as umpire, Charlie Hunter coached Tom Morris, and Bob Fergusson advised Willie Park.

The third day's play was at North Berwick. My Record says: "As the termination of the great match approaches, the interest in it increases, and the excitement over the result is intensified. It was supposed that the turn of the game depended upon the play over North Berwick links, and a very large and enthusiastic crowd of golfers and others interested in the national pastime assembled to witness the third section of the match. The weather was again all that could have been desired for golfing, and the green being in capital order, the sport was proceeded with under the most favourable circumstances. When scores were compared at the end of the four rounds it was found that the champions were 'all even' on the 36 holes. The play was in some respects the finest that has ever been exhibited during the match; both representatives displaying, at one part or another of the game, that brilliant form which has earned for them the fame of being the best handlers of the club of this generation. In the first round Park took a strong lead, and driving and putting in his best style was 6 holes ahead at the finish of the ninth hole, Morris securing only I hole in the round, while Park got 7, and 1 was halved. The second round was very evenly balanced, each player winning 3 holes and 3 being halved, although at one time Park was 8 holes ahead of Morris. After luncheon, however, 'the old 'un,' with the pluck and patient endurance for which he is so eminently characterised, began steadily to encroach on his adversary's large majority; and by outdriving and outputting Willie he secured 5 holes in the third round to Park's 2, the remaining 2 being halved. The Musselburgh man, notwithstanding this, started on the final round 3 ahead of the St Andrews representative, but getting a succession of 'soft' lying balls, he was overhauled by his opponent at the seventh hole and headed at the next; but Park securing the final, the game stood as at the commencement of the day's play. In the fourth round, it may be mentioned, Morris won 5 holes, Park 2, and 2 were halved. Morris still stands I hole up on the whole match; but it must be remembered that the final struggle takes place over Park's own links at Musselburgh."

On Musselburgh links, then, this great golf match was to have been fought out to a conclusion. It was the 23rd April 1870. The weather, unfortunately, was not favourable. Across the links a south-west wind blew in strong gusts, accompanied often by drenching showers of rain. Notwithstanding the unpropitious nature of the weather, it is said that between six and seven thousand spectators assembled to witness the match. A contemporary record says, "It is a matter for regret, however, that the onlookers behaved in the most disgraceful manner. Very fair order was maintained during the first 2 rounds of the links; but as the crowd increased and the excitement over the result intensified, the players were pressed in upon in a very rude manner, and were scarcely allowed room to use their clubs freely." Mr Robert Chambers appealed to the crowd from time to time to maintain better order, but in vain.

But let us follow the match up to the time the referee had to interfere. In the first round Park managed to get at one time 3 ahead, but Tom stuck to his antagonist, and the round ended with Tom 1 up, and 2 on the big match. Matters stood in exactly the same condition at the end of the second round, when an interval took place for lunch. At the sixth hole of the third round Tom was only 1 up. The hole was halved. Going to the seventh hole, Park drove a capital ball straight to the hole, while Morris kept to the right as in his previous round, but duffed his next. Willie's second stroke brought him up to thirty yards from the goal. The crowd broke the line, and it was only after great exertions on the part of a few gentlemen that the spectators were driven back to allow Morris to play up, which he did in good style, but fell short. Park's third stroke carried the ball ten yards beyond the hole, within three yards of which Tom cleeked his next. Both players missed their fourth strokes, and the hole was halved in 5. Willie drove low and to the right for the eighth hole, while Tom's ball in a straight line flew high. Another drive and a long putt brought them both up to the green, and Park, following up with a magnificent putt, holed out in 4, Morris taking 1 more. The players were now all even on the green and Morris 1 up on the match. The crowd at this point behaved in the most disgraceful manner, running in before the players and completely blocking up the entrance to the last hole. Considerable delay took place before the green was, with some difficulty, partially cleared. Park then struck off, but his ball, landing on top of the hill, rolled back, while Tom's was carried away to the rails. Park's second was fifteen yards short, and Morris's next was also short. Two putts were missed by both players, and the hole was halved in 5.

Then the fourth and last round began all square on the links, Tom i up on the match. The first hole was halved in 5. Park won the next hole, and the great match was all square. Willie, drove over the rails on to the grass towards the third hole, and Tom fell short on the new course beside the rails, and in decking out of this difficulty he landed in another a sand bunker. He, however, played a splendid cleek stroke from the hazard up to the green, while Park's second lay in a hollow just before the putting-green, and his third stroke being too strong, went past the hole. Both were over in their next putt, and Tom missing a short putt, at which the crowd set up a great cheer, Willie secured the hole in 5 making him a hole ahead on the match."

At this stage the match was broken off. A contemporary account says: "Both players then retired for refreshments. In a short time Park appeared at the teeing-ground; but the St Andrews champion not putting in an appearance, the excitement amongst the crowd became great. It was shortly ascertained that the referee had decided that the play in the remaining 6 holes of the match should be postponed till Saturday forenoon at eleven o'clock. Park protested against this, the more especially as he had not been consulted, and stated that if Morris did not come forward and finish the round he would do so by himself and claim the stakes. Morris abided by the decision of the referee, who stated that his reason for postponing the play was: 'That notwithstanding all exertions, no means were practicable for keeping back the onlookers, some of whom by their conduct rendered fair play an impossibility.' Park maintained that the referee had power only to settle disputes as to balls, that he could not postpone the play without the consent of both combatants, and that the articles under which the match was being played distinctly stated that it should be finished that day. He therefore played the remaining 6 holes himself and sent a letter to the stakeholder (Mr Robert Dudgeon) claiming the stakes. Mr Dudgeon," the report goes on to say, "we understand, refused to pay over the stakes, and the matter thus stands in this unsatisfactory position."

Meanwhile Park by himself, followed by the large crowd, played the remaining holes. This he did in line style. His score for the last 6 holes was 44345 and 2 22. On Saturday morning at eleven o'clock, the hour appointed by Mr Robert Chambers for playing oil the 6 holes left unplayed, Morris and a few spectators appeared at the end hole. Park was present, but he adhered to the view he had taken of the referee's duties, maintaining that he had played out the match on the day fixed by the articles, viz., the 22nd of April: That no man had any power to stop the play in the middle of the game. That, as Morris had refused to play out the last 11 holes when called on by him, he had done so by himself, and therefore, won the match. He accordingly refused to play the 6 holes with Morris on Saturday morning unless a new match were made.

Mr Chambers directed Morris to walk the course, which he did, holing the 6 holes from Mrs Forman's in 4 4 5 5 6 and 4 respectively 28 in all. At the conclusion Morris was loudly hissed by the partisans of the Musselburgh champion, as was the referee, who gave the following written decision in the course of the forenoon: "As referee in the match between Morris and Park on April 22, and in terms of my decision, the remaining 6 holes were played by Morris this day, Park declining to finish the game, I therefore declare Morris to be the winner. (Signed) R. Chambers, Jun., Musselburgh, April 23, 1870." The contemporary report ends: "We believe that Park has arrested the stakes in the hands of Mr Robert Dudgeon, the stakeholder, and that it is probable the matter will be carried to a law court for decision. Park, as before stated, rests his case on the articles and on the fact that he was never consulted by the referee as to the postponement of the play. The article of the match in question is as follows: 'Musselburgh, March 8, 1870. We, the undersigned, agree to commence to play our match at golf for 100 sterling a-side on Tuesday, the 12th day of April, and that on St Andrews links at 12 o'clock; on Prestwick, 15th April; North Berwick, 19th April; and on Musselburgh links, 22nd April, to play at same hour (twelve o'clock), as at St Andrews. (Signed, Tom Morris, Willie Park.'"

It is a pity, of course, that nothing was said in the articles thus signed about the powers of the referee. But most people, I should think, will admit that he had the powers, reluctantly, we may be sure, assumed by Mr Robert Chambers, jun. No better or more unbiassed referee could have been found, either as a man of strict honour and a golfer, than the winner of the St Andrews tournament at St Andrews, whose home green was Musselburgh, and I hardly think Mr A. H. Doleman is warranted in thus writing of the match in his otherwise excellent paper in Golf of August 28, 1891, on Willie Park, sen., in the "Eminent Golfers" series: "At Mrs Forman's Tom missed a short putt, which gave Willie the
hole and made him 2 up and 6 to play on the match. The excitement was intense, and Park's supporters cheered lustily. Tom went in to Mrs Forman's, as Willie thought, merely for a refreshment (did not Willie go too?), but never returned to play. After waiting nearly half an hour Willie played out the remaining 6 holes and claimed the match. The conduct of the referee on this occasion was much blamed at the time, but it is useless to refer to it now. Then I can be little doubt, had the game gone on, Willie would have won pretty easily, seeing his score for the 6 holes was 21. Tom played the holes out next day, taking 28."

I think we are safe in abiding by the decision of the referee, and in thinking that the conduct of the Musselburgh crowd on this occasion warranted his action and subsequent decision.

The combatants did not meet again in a big match until May 1882. Play began over the Musselburgh course on Tuesday the 9th. A strong wind prevailed from the west, and in the forenoon there were several showers of rain. The links were in good condition, but the greens, owing to the rain, rather sluggish. A contemporary account states that, "to prevent the possibility of a recurrence of the dispute in 1870, several men carried a rope across the green, and were successful for the most part in keeping the people from pressing too closely upon the players. The number of spectators gradually increased during the day, and while the last two rounds were in progress between 2000 and 3000 persons were following up." Mr Gillespie, advocate, Edinburgh, acted as referee. Tom Morris won the first round by one. This advantage he increased to 5 up in the second round. After luncheon Park's play much improved, lie drew all even in the third round, and Morris was only one up at the end of it. Park, however, won the next round as well, and the match at Musselburgh ended with one hole of an advantage for Park. They were even in strokes, 171 each.

On Friday, the I2th, the play was at St Andrews. Park was 1 up, and "whilst his local backers were confident of his success, the odds were against him at St Andrews 2 to 1 being offered on Tom. The weather was excellent, but the wind was a little breezy and ahead on the outward journey. The putting-greens were in fine order, but water stood in several hollows, and oftener than once it brought the players to grief." To begin with, the play was rather in favour of Park, but Tom pulled up and reached the turn 1 up, and all square on the match. This advantage he lost coming in, and the first round ended where it began Park 1 up on the match. Both men were round in 92. Starting for the second round, Tom played badly and had bad luck. Going to the Heathery hole, Park was 3 up on the round. Tom had the best of it at the Heathery hole, having given Park a stymie, which he could not surmount. A dispute took place here in consequence of its being alleged that Tom moved his ball; but Major Boothby, who acted as referee, decided against the claim for a stroke. At the turn Park was 1 up, and he retained this advantage to the end of the round. The day's play at St Andrews ended in 1 up for Park and two on the match. Park's round was 90, Morris's 91. My Record adds: 'From these scores those who know St Andrews links will observe that the piny was not equal to what was anticipated. Morris was particularly deficient in his putting, while Park played sometimes a weak quarter game."

Tom seems to have missed what was thought a dead putt on the green of the hole Across, coming home in the second round.

On Tuesday, the 16th May, the match was resumed at Prcstwick. It was, we are told, an ideal golfing day. Bright, warm sunshine, tempered by a slight north-westerly breeze, gave to the few hundred spectators who assembled on the green that maximum of comfort and enjoyment which rendered the following up of the spectators a pleasurable undertaking. There was a sprinkling of ladies among those who had assembled to witness the play, and they followed the fluctuating fortunes of the game with as much zest and eager curiosity as any of the gentlemen present who consider golfing as one of their principal pursuits. The putting-greens were in perfect condition, quick, elastic and true, and, indeed, all the conditions requisite for carrying on the play with the greatest facility, enjoyment and good scoring were present. On entering the third stage of the match, the little betting that was indulged in was even money, although Park appeared to have the more numerous admirers. At the end of the first round of 12 holes the game stood as it began. By the end of the second round, however, Tom was i up on the match, and the day's play ended with Tom 5 up at Prestwick and 3 on the match. "Of the day's play," a spectator says, "it was generally conceded that the forward play of both men was in the highest degree excellent, but their quarter game and putting was very defective." J. G. D., which I take to be the initials of the late Mr Denham, [Mr Denham left a very valuable scrap-book containing newspaper reports of famous golf matches. His daughter, Mrs. Huntly, was kind enough to put this at my disposal, and indebted to her for doing so. This I refer to as "The Record".] one of the keenest of the followers of the fortunes of the great golfers of those days, tells us that Park played a very steady game, although occasionally getting into unfortunate hazards, two of which compelled him to give up the hole. Tom's long game and approaches could not be surpassed; but he was again defective in his putting, which was such a prominent feature in his play both at Musselburgh and St Andrews.

The concluding stage of the match was reached at North Berwick on Friday, the 19th May. With three holes to the good the chances of success lay largely with Morris, who on that account no doubt found most backers; but not a few of Park's admirers were confident that the bold and fearless play of their favourite would prove equal to the occasion, notwithstanding Tom's well-earned reputation for staying powers. To some extent the players were on a level so far as acquaintance with the green was concerned the recent alterations on the course at the Shipka, which had just been opened to the public, having been tested by both men on Wednesday and Thursday. Willie Park's thorough knowledge of the old course, however, was reckoned by some a point in his favour, but really there was little to draw between the respective chances of the veterans, barring the three holes by which Tom led at the start of the game. The weather, fortunately, was in every respect favourable to the match, and the greens, thanks to the keeper, Tom Dunn, were in excellent order. Provost Broclic, previous to the match beginning, stated that Captain Suttie had been asked to act as umpire, but that owing to his unavoidable absence he had been prevented from complying with the request. In these circumstances he had agreed to discharge the duties of that official, and he trusted these would be of a light character. At the end of the first round Morris had increased his advantage by 2 holes the scores being, Morris 85, and Park (allowing an estimate for 2 holes he gave up) 91. In the afternoon Tom brought the great match to a conclusion by winning by 5 up and 3 to play. The umpire, in declaring the result, said there was one feature peculiar to both Morris and Park, viz., that they ever had the greatest respect for each other, adding that he trusted that they would live long and yet be spared to play another match. The remaining holes were played out. Tom won 2 of them, and 1 was halved. Tom's score was 85, Willie's 86. Morris had the best of the play throughout in his long game and approaches, but Park was decidedly the stronger on the putting green. I subjoin an analysis of the whole match, the work, I have no doubt, of my old friend, Mr James G. Denham. It will, I think, be interesting in itself and for the names of the holes in the respective links over which the match was played. Local names have to a large extent given place to numerical names, and a good deal of colour, picturesqueness and interest has thus been lost.

In judging of a match where the players are so equal, a great number of the holes should he halved. It will be observed that the best play took place at Prestwick, where 19 holes out of the 36 were halved, and next to it, North Berwick, where 14 was the result. It only remains to be added that nothing could have excelled the long play and approaches of old Tom, and those who remember his first encounter with Park, as far back as 1856, were of opinion that had his putting been at all up to the mark, his antagonist could not have lived, and that he would have defeated him as he did in 1862, when he won over the four greens by 17 holes. Tom was singularly deficient in being short with his long putts, which reminded one of the remark of young Tommy, "that his father would be a good putter if the hole would only meet him half-way;" while, when he got within holing distance, he has lately taken to his iron, and this has certainly not improved him in holing out. But take him all in all, he is "a grand old golfer," and one of whom the ancient guy may be justly proud.

So saith the chronicler of 1882; and, nearly a quarter of a century later, so say all of us.


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