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The Life of Tom Morris
Chapter XVII - Young Tommy's matches, Bereavement, Death and Memorial


IN the summer and autumn of this year (1875) father and son had a busy time of it with matches. A series of professional matches was inaugurated at Burntisland for small money prizes. Tommy came in first, followed hard by Bob Fergusson, and not so hard by Davie Strath, T. Cosgrove, Jamie Anderson, G. Low, G. Paxton, Mungo Park, and Tommy's younger brother, J. O. F. Morris. At the conclusion of this little tournament, Mr Robert Clark, the compiler of the original book of Golf which I am glad to see in a new and cheaper edition got up a match between the brothers and Fergusson and Paxton. The brothers won it by two holes.

Tommy was again first in a professional tournament on the 3rd of September at North Berwick doing the three rounds in 131. Willie Park was second with 132, Davie Strath third with 133, Cosgrove fourth with 134, and Old Tom fifth with 135. There must have been several big golf matches that season at North Berwick. Some of them I have no records of, and I should be glad to hear from any reader who could supply them. Judging from a contemporary account of a great match between Tommy and Willie Park, I conclude that the St Andrews men had encountered some reverses. This match took place on the 12th. It is thus introduced: "North Berwick links were again enlivened on Saturday by the throng of spectators and the appearance of bustling animation, which are always noticeable when any match of more than usual interest between professionals is being engaged in over a golfing green. There not having been a tussle between Tom Morris, jun., and Willie Park for the last six or seven years never, in fact, since the former gained the first championship belt it was a matter of congratulation among golfers
when it became known late on Friday afternoon that arrangements had been made to have the Musselburgh and St Andrews 'cracks' pitted against each other for 25 a side. To the friends of Willie Park this was all the more satisfactory, as their favourite had already given a good account of himself in two made lies which were brought to a termination on Friday. By the supporters of the St Andrews man, on the other hand, it was confidently hoped that the superior staying powers of this youngster would give him an advantage over his older opponent, whose energies had been kept on the stretch for a couple of days previously, and would thus enable him to gather up the 'spilt milk' over which, according to rumour, the players at St Andrews had taken to crying when it became known that the representatives of Musselburgh had walked away from their rivals in the former matches. As matters turned out, it was apparent that the calculations of neither party had been very wide of the mark, although the play, on the whole, could not be compared with that of Wednesday. Willie indeed, for the first round, was in capital form, but his scoring after that was somewhat high; while Young Tom, until near the conclusion of the match, handled his clubs somewhat loosely. An opportunity was, however, afforded for an enjoyable day's outing, and the interest manifested in the play was as keen as on any former occasion." Tommy was 1 up at the sixth hole, but the round ended with Park 2 up; the scores being 39 and 43. In the second round, Tommy knocked off these 2 holes, and the game was all even both taking 44 strokes.

"With the barkers somewhat at a loss to know which man the result would favour, a start was made on the third and deciding round with every prospect of the play being, at any rate, pretty close for the remainder of the match. As if too cautious, both men repeated their former by no means uncommon game by halving the first hole in 5, the same figures as were placed against this hole in the second round. Park, taking his honour in going for the second hole, for the first time during his three days' play missed his 'tee shot,' and gave the youngster a fine opportunity of placing the chances of the game in his favour. Tommy, however, apparently quite regardless of his experience in the previous round, took a much too narrow line, and lost a stroke by sending his ball down to the beach, and having to play on to the green with his niblick. Notwithstanding that luck seemed thus determined to favour him, Willie rendered his hopes for the hole exceedingly shaky by using for a second time a spoon where an iron would have been the safest game, and leaving himself in sand, from which he had to play the 'like' to Tommy's fifth shot, which was we'll within sight of the hole. Willie's prospects brightened, however, when, by a smart iron shot, he laid his 'like' nicely on the green, and followed up this by a really beautiful 'putt,' which drew from the spectators a round of applause; he halved the hole in 6. The next hole was also halved, but Tommy lost the fourth in being short with his iron when approaching the hole. Both carried their balls into sand to the left, in driving for the wall hole, but Willie got over the bunker nicely with odds, while Tommy was strong with the 'like,' and the lead of the veteran was thus increased to 2 up and 4 to play. Willie, however, was again bunkered by his 'tee shot' for the sixth hole, and, failing to clear the hazard with his niblick when playing the 'odds' he threw up the hole. Game -  Park, 1 up. The match being now greatly dependent on every single stroke of the game, the players watched each other's progress with apparent anxiety, while the crowd of followers did not allow a single whisper or movement of any kind to disturb the work being made either in the long or the short game. Both men played cleverly and cautiously for the seventh hole, getting on to the green in 3, and holing out in 5 a half being, in this way, all that was gained by each. In the game for the eighth hole, the youngster had, by a long way, the best of it, as Willie took a dangerous road for the hole, bunkered himself with his third, was short on the putting-green, and only holed out in 7, against Tommy's 5. Game all even. And now came the tug-of-war in real earnest. Tommy, settling down to his work with characteristic coolness, had played an admirable losing game, and it was not likely that he would fail when he had revived the hopes of his supporters. Willie, however, had proved himself particularly deadly with his putter, and there being no bunker which, when the course is kept, at all interferes with the play for the 'home hole,' many thought the veteran would either secure himself by a 'draw' or win the match by one of those beautiful steals on the putting-green which so often stand him in good stead. As it was, Tommy took a very good road for the hole by keeping well on the green to the right, but Park expecting, in all likelihood, to get the better of his opponent by driving nearer to the putting-green took the narrow course, and had his ball caught by the sandy ridge skirting the green, near the bathing-houses. To get out of this difficulty cost Park a stroke, and Tommy, taking care to avoid all mistakes, gained the match by holing out in .4, against the other's 5. The following were the scores in the third round:

Park, 5 6 4 4 4 5 5 7 5 - 45
Morris, 5 6 4 5 5 4 5 5 4 - 43

"A match of 3 rounds of the green was played in the afternoon between Tom Morris, sen., and Mungo Park, for 10 a side. Both men were in better form than the players in the forenoon, and a very interesting game was the result. At the end of the first two rounds neither had got in advance of the other, but in the last round the St Andrews man failed in a couple of holes going out, and allowed Mungo to place the game 3 up in his favour with 5 to play. Old Tom, however, took the wall hole in 2, the next hole in 3 both in one less than his opponent, and, alter halving the seventh, squared the game at the eighth hole, in approaching which Mungo did not do himself justice. As in the other match, the result thus came very much to depend upon the swiping for the last hole. Tom, desirous at all risks to be safe, played a good deal to the right, while Mungo, not profiting by the ill-luck which attended his brother, took the narrow course, and was badly caught in the bunker. This settled the match, as Old Tom was not slow to follow up the advantage given to him by his opponent's mistake, and holed when playing the 'like' to Mungo's fourth, which only lay 'dead.' The scores were: Morris: 1st round, 40; 2nd round, 43; 3rd round, 41. Park: 1st round, 40; 2nd round, 43; 3rd round, 43."

Alas! those pleasant autumn days and matches were to have a sad ending. The father and son had just finished a very close match with the brothers Park, whom they beat by one hole, when a telegram was handed to Tommy, announcing that his wife was dangerously ill, and requiring his immediate return. Let my dear and revered friend, the author of The Recreations of a Country Parson, tell the pathetic story in his Twenty-five Years of St Andrews, 1865 to September 1890 (London: Longmans, Green & Co.):

"There was a pathetic event here at the beginning of September in this year. The grand Old Tom Morris (always so called, in respect and affection great golfer, and best of men) had a son called, for distinction's sake, Tommy Morris, who was a greater golfer than himself. At an early age Tommy won the dignity of Champion of the World, and bore it well and meekly. On Thursday, September 2, father and son went together to North Berwick, to play a great match on the links there. Tommy left his wife perfectly well. She was a remarkably handsome and healthy young woman: most lovable in every way. Her brother was a great manager and speaker in the Trade Union world. But on Saturday afternoon, that fine girl (she was no more) had her first child, and at once ran down, and died. A telegram was sent to Tom, who told his son that they must leave at once; a line yacht was put at their disposal, and, without the weary railway journey by Edinburgh, they were brought across the Firth of Forth. Tom did not tell his son that all was over till they were walking up from the harbour. I was in the house when they arrived. What can one: say in such an hour? I never forget the poor young man's stony look: stricken was not the word; and how, all of a sudden, he started up and cried, 'It's not true! I have seen many sorrowful things; but not like that Saturday night."

It was indeed a terrible bolt out of the blue, and a most sad and pathetic home-coming, both for the young lad-husband and the father who loved him and the poor young girl, with whom he hoped his son would be happy for long years.

Young Tommy never really recovered from this shock and grief. He had been married less than a year, and he was devotedly attached to his wife. And now he had lost her in the saddest, and, to a young husband, in the most pathetic and appealing manner. He went about like one who had received a mortal blow. Even his beloved game failed to rouse him. He lived as if in some trance all his light-hearted buoyancy gone. He played well as of old in the few matches in which he was engaged, but it was evident that his heart was not in his work as of old. At the close of the October meeting at St Andrews he and his father played Davie Strath and Bob Martin. They were 4 up and 5 to play. The match seemed to be finished, when Tommy broke down in the most complete, though, perhaps, one cannot add in the most unexpected and unaccountable, manner. They lost every one of the remaining 5 holes, and, consequently, also the match.

Only one more important match was he destined to play. At this time there was a great golfing family from Westward Ho! playing splendid golf, and winning great victories wherever they went. This was the famous Captain Molesworth, who lately figured in the octogenarian foursome, and his three sons. They were all magnificent players. Their calibre may be judged from the fact that the Captain let it be understood at St Andrews and Prestwick that he and his sons were willing to play Mr W. H. Houldsworth and any three he chose to name from St Andrews and Prestwick. At St Andrews Mr Houldsworth chose as his three coadjutors, Mr J. Ogilvie Fairlie, Dr Argyll Robertson, and Mr L. Bal four-Melville, and these four played against the Captain and his sons, Reginald, George and Arthur. The Captain beat Mr Houldsworth by 9 holes; M. Reginald Molesworth beat Mr J. Ogilvie Fairlie by 2 holes, and Mr Arthur Molesworth beat Mr Balfour-Melville by 2 holes. The only member of the St Andrews team who won his match was Dr Argyll Robertson, who beat Mr George Molesworth by 7 holes. The Molesworths thus won the match by 6 holes. At Prestwick, the Rev. Mr Syme, the. parish minister of Dundonald and an old St Andrews student, and Mr Alexander Stuart took Dr Argyll Robertson's and Mr Balfour-Melville's places. Mr Syme beat Mr George Molesworth by 2 holes, but Mr Arthur Molesworth beat Mr Alexander Stuart by 6 holes. Mr Ogilvie Fairlie beat M. Reginald Molesworth by 7 holes, but the Captain beat Mr Houldsworth by no less than 10 holes. On the whole match the Molesworths had a
majority of 7 holes. It will be seen that, of the young men, Mr Arthur Molesworth was the only one who won both his matches, as the father did.

So well was Mr Arthur Molesworth playing that he felt justified in backing himself to play any professional with the receipt of a third. To this challenge Young Tommy, rather against his will, was induced to respond. The first match was played on the 30th of November (St Andrew's Day) and the 1st and 3rd of December over St Andrews links two rounds each day. The weather was fine for the season of the year. I am able to give the details of every hole in this great match, owing to having the good fortune to possess the careful analysis made by my friend, the late Mr J. G. Denham.

Here is a summary of the strokes:

It will thus be seen that as far as strokes go, Tommy won by 51 strokes, which, with the 36 he conceded, gave him an advantage of 15.

As far as holes were concerned, Tommy won 36; Mr Molesworth won 24, and 48 were halved. Of the holes at which Mr Molesworth had a stroke, he won 10, halved 15, and lost 8; and 3 he won without requiring his stroke. Again we find that Tommy did 10 holes in 3, 16 in 4, 51 in 5, 19 in 6, 7 in 7, and i in 8. Mr Molesworth did 3 in 3, 17 in 4, 40 in 5, 29 in 6, 13 in 7, 4 in 8, and 2 in 9. The issue, then, of the first three days' play was that Tommy won by 12 holes.

The next three days' play took place in snow and frost. So thick was the snow on the links that the umpire thought the match should be postponed. But to this Mr Molesworth would not agree, and, accordingly, the greens were swept. And perhaps I may as well state that when use the term "greens" I mean the putting-greens. It is necessary for me to mention this, as in some quarters a practice has crept in of calling the links greens. Here is a summary of the play:

It will again be seen that, as far as strokes go, Tommy won by 45 strokes, which, with the 36 he conceded, gave him an advantage of 9. So far as holes were concerned, Tommy won 35; Mr Molesworth 33, and 40 were halved. Of the holes at which Mr Molesworth had a stroke he won 9, halved 8, and lost 8. Of those, without needing his stroke, he won 11. Then we find that Tommy did 7 holes in 3, 14 in 4, 29 in 5, 29 in 6, 19 in 7, 7 in 8, and 5 in 9. Mr Molesworth had 3 in 3, 14 in 4, 18 in 5, 31 in 6, 21 in 7, 11 in 8, 9 in 9, and 1 in 10. On the second three days' play, Tommy won by 7 holes, and thus gained the match on the six days' play by 19 holes.*

Especially during the last three days' play the conditions of the weather were adverse to scoring. But, besides this, it was evident to all that Tommy was in no condition to play a great match. His play lacked all its old characteristics of spirit and determination. His heart was not in the game. It was, indeed, not very far away in the snow-clad grave in the old cathedral churchyard, where his wife and baby had been so lately laid. During the progress of the match he repeatedly said to his friend, Mr Denham, that but for the interest of his friends and backers he would not have continued it.

After the match was over he continued to be seen on the links and in his old haunts, looking ill and depressed. Then he went from home for a few days. He returned for the Christmas week. On Christmas Eve he supped with a private party of a few friends. Returning home about eleven o'clock, he conversed with his mother, who was by this time an invalid, for a little while, and then retired to rest, bidding his father "Good-night" as he went to his room. He did not appear at the usual hour for breakfast, and, on his being called, there was no response. When they entered his room to see what was the matter, he was found lying as if asleep, but alas! it was the sleep of death. Examination proved that his death had been caused by the bursting of an artery in the right lung.

The news spread like wild-fire over the links and in the city. Consternation prevailed everywhere. Christmas greetings were checked on the lips by the question, "Have you heard the news? Young Tommy is dead! " or the whispered, "It can't be true, is it, that Tommy was found dead in bed this morning? 'Everywhere there was genuine grief for so great a loss the loss of one who had been the joy and pride of the whole golfing world; everywhere the sympathy with the bereaved father and mother was keen and great. The telegraph conveyed the news to the evening papers, and next morning to some of us among our belated Christmas cards and greetings came this:

OBITUARY NOTICE.

Thomas Morris, jun., died here this morning at ten o'clock.
at Pilmour Links, St Andrews, Dec. 25, 1875.

"Tommy Morris was champion golf player of the world. Reared at St Andrews, the Scottish headquarters of the national game, he early evinced a talent for golf, doubtless inherited from his father, the much-respected custodian of the links, and during the latter years of his career he on three successive occasions carried oft ' The Belt ' against all comers. He died on Christmas Day, 1875, at the early age of twenty-four."

Mr C. E. S. Chambers, in publishing this notice in his Golfiana, says, under date, Edinburgh, 1893: "Had Young Tom been spared to golf in our own times he would, I feel certain, have well maintained his great reputation. He had, at least, the advantage of dying in the zenith of his fame, at a time when golf was really golf, and such modern rubbish as hammer=headed drivers, handicap trophies, and endless other doubtless 'improvements' were happily unknown."

He was laid to his rest on one of the last days of a year that had seen some of his best play, but which had dealt him such a cruel blow beside his young wife and child, in the presence of a very large and sincere company of true mourners the revered parish minister, the genial and able A.K.H.B., reading the prayers at the grave, after doing what he could to soothe and comfort the sorrowful ones at home.

The following verses appeared in a paper which must have been published abroad, I think, judging from the note appended to it:

A GOLFER'S ELEGY

Beneath the sod poor Tommy's laid,
Now bunkered fast for good and all:
A better golfer never played
A further or a surer ball.

Among the monarchs of the green
For long he held imperial sway;
And none the start and end between
Could match with Tommy in his clay!

A triple laurel round his brow,
The light of triumph in his eye,
He stands before us even now,
As in the hour of victory.

Thrice belted knight of peerless skill!
Again we see him head the fray;
And memory loves to reckon still
The feats of Tommy in his day.

In vain to trap his flying sphere
The greedy sand yawned deep and wide.
Far overhead it circled clear,
Nor dropped but on the safer side.

In vain along the narrow course,
Entangling whin-; in ambush lay;
But never hazard was the source
Of grief to Tomm in his day.

Who could like him with Fortune deal,
And from the fire undaunted snatch,
With steadfast heart and nerve of steel,
The desperate hole that won the match 5

To him alike were tee and rut,
From both he found his certain way;
And who could predicate a putt
Too long for Tommy in his day.

"For all in all our Tommy take,"
The verdict of the links will say,
"We ne'er shall look on one who'd make
A match for Tommy in his dav!"

Soon after his death a movement was set on foot to erect a memorial to the gifted young golfer. Mr J. G. Denham, to whose careful and accurate golfing statistics I have often had occasion to refer in the course of the latter part of this memoir, was the life and soul of it. He acted as hon. secretary, and spared neither time nor trouble in making it a success. The notice sent out to golf clubs and those likely to be interested in the matter ran as follows:

"A very general wish having been expressed that a memorial should be erected to the memory of the late Tom Morris, junr., by placing a suitable monument over his last resting-place, and as he was widely known and universally admired for his honest and manly exertions by which he rose to the first place in the golfing world, and for his frank and courteous conduct towards all classes, which made him respected wherever golf was played, it has been thought desirable that an opportunity should be afforded to all who knew him and have witnessed his extraordinary golfing powers, of joining in this tribute to his memory."

The names of those who consented to receive subscriptions, and of the hon. secretaries of the various Golf Clubs of thirty years ago, will no doubt bring back once familiar figures to golfers of that time in various parts of the world.

St Andrews. Major R. Bethune, Union Club, treasurer to the fund; Mr G. Murray, Post Office.

Musselburgh. Captain Kinloch, Honourable Company of Golfers; James Miller, Esq., Musselburgh Golf Club.

North Berwick. Provost Brodie.

Prestwick. Henry Hart, Esq., Prestwick Golf Club.

Glasgow. Mr A. W. Smith, Glasgow Golf Club.

Lcven. Charles Anderson, Esq., Leven Golf Club.

Carnoustie. Jas. G. Archer, Esq., Dalhousie Golf Club.

Perth. Hon. Secretary, King James Golf Club.

Montrose. Hon. Secretary, Royal Albert Golf Club.

Aberdeen. Hon. Secretary, Aberdeen Golf Club.

Blackhcath. George Glennie, Esq., Blackheath Golf Club.

Westward Ho! Captain Molesworth, Royal North Devon and West of England Golf Club.

Wimbledon. David I. Lamb, Esq., Wimbledon Golf Club.

Liverpool. James Tweedie, Esq., Royal Liverpool Golf Club.

Only four English clubs! even in 1876! How different it would be to-day were a memorial started to any of our great golfers !

The Committee accepted designs furnished by Mr John Rhind, sculptor, Edinburgh, and in course of time a monumental tombstone was erected by the grave in the old Cathedral burying-ground. The design is worked out in Binny freestone. In bas-relief a figure of "Tommy," about three-quarters of the size of life, is shown in a well-chosen and characteristic position. Wearing a golfing-jacket, with the Scottish Glengarry, which was such a well-known headmark on all links, the player is represented bending over an "iron;" as if about to play a wrist shot to the hole. The pose is admirable, and the action of the golfer is well caught. The likeness is capital. The inscription was written by the Very Rev. Principal Tulloch, Dean of the Thistle and Vice-Chancellor of the University of St Andrews: "In memory of "Tommy" son of Thomas Morris, who died 25th December 1875, aged twenty-four years. Deeply regretted by numerous friends and all golfers. He thrice in succession won the Champion belt and held it without rivalry, and yet without envy, his many amiable qualities being no less acknowledged than his golfing achievements. This monument has been erected by contributions from sixty golfing societies."

On the afternoon of the 25th September 1878 the memorial was unveiled in the presence of several hundred ladies and gentlemen and representatives from various golfing clubs.

In performing the ceremony, the Lord Justice-General (the Right Hon. John Inglis), standing on a platform in front of the monument, spoke as follows:

"The monument which we are met to unveil is dedicated to the memory of the late Tom Morris, the younger. It is a simple, modest, and characteristic erection, and I think it adequately expresses the sentiments of the members of not less than sixty golfing clubs, by whose contributions the requisite funds have been obtained. It is inscribed with the familiar name of "Tommy" a name by which he was best known to all his numerous friends and admirers. There is something in these familiar names of great significance, and in this case I think the name expresses a kindly regard which he secured from all who knew him by his amiable disposition, by his simple; and unaffected manner, and by his manly independence. It would be idle, to an audience such as that around me, to speak in detail of his golfing achievements, for these were known to you all. But I think I will not be accused of extravagance if I say he was the greatest golfer of his day. In the year 1860, if I am not incorrectly informed, the Prestwick Club instituted a Champion belt, which was competed for annually for a good number of years, and always changed hands every year. But at length Tommy succeeded in gaining the belt for three years in succession, and thus, according to the rules of the competition, he was entitled to it in absolute property. And I have no doubt it remains in the hands of his family as a most treasured possession. It is also recorded of him that he went round the links of St Andrews on one occasion with the unparalleled score of 77 37 out and .40 coining home. Evry true golfer mourned his loss most sincerely, for he was not only a prime golfer, but he was a very fine young man cut on in the prime of his life. But the time of grief is now gone by, and all that remains of Tommy is a pleasant memory. But I think you will allow me to say that we have some consolation still, for, although we have lost him, we have still a Tom Morris, Old Tom. And I think I may venture to say that there is a great deal of life in that old dog yet. Long may he live to maintain his reputation! I have nothing further to say, except to ask you to give a vote of thanks to two gentlemen who have been mainly instrumental in having this monument erected I mean Major Bethune, the honorary treasurer, and Mr J. G. Denham, honorary secretary, to whose exertions we owe a great deal. I now desire the monument to be unveiled."

Miss Phelps, on behalf of Mrs Hunter, "Tommy's" sister, then unveiled the monument, and it was afterwards inspected with interest by the large crowd who had congregated in the old churchyard.

The Lord Justice-General's aspiration for old Tom has been heard. He is still with us. There is still "life in the old dog," close on thirty years after the unveiling of this monument to his son, the proceedings in connection with which gratified him so much.

It is to the years that he has spent since then that we must now turn, and rapidly glance at the chief points of interest in his long and honourable career since he lost the son who was so much to him, and of whose golfing achievements he was so proud.


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