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The Life of Tom Morris
Chapter XXI - Matches 1870-3


In regard to the St Andrews May Meeting in 1890, the record says: "The rainfall of the previous night had done the putting-greens, which stood in need of moisture, a world of good, and their condition and the condition of the course generally showed what a wonderful green-doctor Old Tom is."

Tom was again present at the Open Championship this year, which was held at Prestwick. He played with Mr Charles Hutchings (Hoylake). It was won by Mr John Ball, jun. Later, there was a professional tournament at North Berwick, in which Willie Fernie, beating Andrew Kirkaldv, had the best score. In regard to Tom's play, the record says: "Leading the van in the forenoon was the veteran professional, Tom Morris, who showed throughout form which would have done credit to a player half his age. Though he did lose his single, he gave Grant a capital game, playing his iron, both then and in his foursome, particularly well, and holing-out in exceptional style."

In the afternoon Hen Savers and Willie Ferine beat Archie Simpson and Andrew Kirkaldy by 4 up and 3 to play; and Old Tom and Davie Grant beat Crawford and White by 7 up and 6 to play.

On Friday,19th September, 1890, was published the first number of Golf, a weekly record of "Ye Royal and Ancient" game, and henceforth we have its valuable assistance in following the story of our hero's life.

In regard to the Royal and Ancient Spring Meeting in 1891 the record says: "The golfers had also to be thankful to Tom Morris that he had done all that human agency could accomplish to bring the putting-greens into satisfactory condition. At its close the Amateur Championship contest took place, and was won by Mr J. E. Laidlay."

The twelfth of the series of "Eminent Golfers" in this paper was devoted to our hero. It appeared on the 31st July 1891, and was written by his friend, Sir H. S. C. Everard. The article ends thus: 'Long may he live, this grand old golfer! All golfers may be proud of remembering Old Tom among their friends. His the native dignity which outweighs all fictitious advantages; his the pleasant demeanour, courteous without servility, independent without aggression, which affects favourably to all, and renders the possessor the master of circumstances on every occasion. We may fitly conclude with an echo of the sentiment of Tom's favourite poet, page upon page of whom he delights in quoting :

"'The rank is but the guinea stamp,
The man's the gowd for a' that."

On the 4th of September of that year appeared in Golf some excellent Latin verses by "R. Duckworth" [the Canon?], entitled "Old Tom and Jimmy Morris." Tom was present as usual at the October meeting, when Mr A. Stuart was the winner. In the end of the month Tom was in Newcastle, and laid out the new 18-hole course for the use of the members of the City of Newcastle Club. He gave it as his opinion that it would be one of the best inland greens in the country. The issue of Golf for the 4th of December contained this story: Scene: English railway station. Tom Morris has just arrived to play over neighbouring links. Enthusiastic secretary, who meets Tom, spies a member of his club at the station, and forthwith introduces him, with an intimation that Tom is going out to try their course. Innocent Golfer (loquitur): "What, do you play golf too?" Tom Morris (drily): ''On, aye; I've tried it aince or twice."

In 1891, the Open Championship was held at St Andrews on the 6th of October in ram and a gale of wind. It was won by Hugh Kirkaldy with the fine score of 166 the best that had been recorded at St Andrews in the history of the competition. Considering the adverse conditions of the weather it was most excellent. His victory was a popular one; and no one was better pleased than Old Tom, who had fancied Hugh's chances from the beginning. His brother Andrew tied with Ferule for the second place in 168; and on playing off the tie, won, so that the Kirkaldy brothers occupied the two leading positions in the Open Championship for 1891. Tom's score was 193.

In 1892, the Open Championship for the first time was held at Muirfield, to which links the Honourable Company of Edinburgh golfers had migrated from Musselburgh. The weather was all that could be desired. It was won by Mr H. H. Hilton with the fine score of 305. In the second place there was a tie between Mr John Ball, Hugh Kirkaldy and A. Herd, with 308. Tom's score was 364.

In March 1892 he visited the Cullen Links at the imitation of the local Golf Club. He suggested alterations in several holes and on the teeing-grounds, and recommended places for more hazards. Mr John Smith and he played 10 holes against Mr G. Seivwright and J. W Stuart. Tom and his partner gained 6 holes, and their opponents 1. The other three were halved. During the same visit he went over the Moray Club's course at Lossiemonth, and gave Mr Rodger, the captain of the Club, a licking. In the afternoon Mr William M'Bay and he played the captain and the treasurer (Mr M'Isaac), and won by 2 holes. Tom expressed much satisfaction with the recent alterations in the course, and gave it as his opinion that after it had been played upon a little it would be a superior course to that at North Berwick.

In April he was at the opening of the Dunblane Hydropathic golf course. It was inaugurated by Mr Leslie Balfour, and he and Mr A. Stuart played against Tom Morris and Ben Sayers, winning against the professionals by 9 up and 8 to play, in a match of 4 rounds. Messrs Balfour and Stuart, 151; Morris and Sayers, 161. "Tee-shots" said that the winners "exhibited splendid form. Although Old Tom Morris does not now play so strong a single game as he formerly did, he is still an admirable partner in a foursome, and his defeat in company with Ben Sayers says a good deal for the ability of the amateurs." A return match was played at St Andrews just before the May meeting. The report says: "On Tuesday the principal event of interest was a foursome between amateurs and professionals, the former being represented by Messrs Alexander Stuart and Leslie Balfour, while Old Tom Morris, who, like the brook, "goes on for ever" and Ben Sayers, represented the latter. It may be remembered that the professionals were badly beaten by their antagonists on a recent occasion at Dunblane, where a new green was opened.

"The present match, therefore, was the result of a laudable desire to rehabilitate their somewhat tarnished reputation. Nevertheless, public opinion was strongly in favour of the amateurs. A considerable amount of money depended on the result, the price at which speculation may be quoted being about 3 to 2. In the event the match proved a most attractive one to watch, full of incident and interest sustained almost to the end of the 36 holes. The weather, however, was such as to seriously interfere with the enjoyment of the game; a terrifically cold, strong wind, from a direction between north and east, rendered low scoring impossible, and it is questionable if a single round was played that day which did not exceed 90. The best performance for a half-round was Mr F. A. Fairlie's 42 for the first 9 holes. Mr Laidlay was well satisfied with 44 for the outward half. It may be said that when at St Andrews one encounters whin-bushes in full career across the links, at a pace exceeding that of Mr Pickwick when running across country after his deplorable immersion when one can scarcely venture to open one's eyes, by reason of the pain inflicted by the gale-driven sand when, moreover, the course is as hard as a board, the putting-greens razor-keen, and almost innocent of grass: under these circumstances the game becomes one of exceeding difficulty. But such conditions had to be faced on the Tuesday, and it was thought that they would in all probability operate prejudicially on the play of the competitors for the medal, which was to follow next day. Perhaps to some extent this was actually the case; but gallant Old Tom, notwithstanding his age and often infirmities, made a brave fight of it with the elements, and, being most ably assisted by Ben Sayers, who played an admirable game, managed to win by 3 and 1 to play, on the 36 holes. "What should you say were the chief incidents of that hole?" asked the writer of a comrade on the completion of the opening hole of the day's play. The addressee replied (we had almost written, only it was not thus meant)," The chief incidents of that hole are that Old Tom holed a short putt. So he had but, as one may say, it took him all his time. The ball twirled round in a vague and undecided sort of way, but, somehow, did manage to arrive at the bottom of the hole; wherefore the professionals, by this brilliant stroke, found themselves 1 hole up, for Mr Stuart had driven right into the burn near the road from the tee, thanks to the wind, there favourable. Three splendid putts were holed on the way out by the professionals, two by Savers and 1 by Tom, the couple completing the journey in 44, which, considering the day, was remarkably fine play. At this point they were reduced from 5 to 4 ahead, but now came a succession of reverses, which entirely altered the aspect of the match. To begin with, Mr Balfour laid an iron shot stone dead and took the hole. Shortly afterwards Mr Stuart repaid this debt in kind with a somewhat similar shot. Next, the same gentleman, from behind a hill and out of a bad place, drove an extraordinarily long shot with a driving mashie, which shot was mainly instrumental in winning the long hole home. Subsequently all four players endeavoured to get into the railway, but Old Tom was the only one who, by means of a topped ball out of the field, succeeded. The amateurs, having hit posts and wires and things which kept them in the straight and very broad course, were saved from themselves, and won the hole, the match being now all square. The last two holes were halved, but here the play was poor on both sides. The amateurs, however, had played very well since the turn; and though they finished with a 7 and 6, were only 43 to the half round, 92 to the whole considering the day a very good score. The professionals had
picked up their ball at one hole, but would have been about 94 or 95.

"Meanwhile the wind increased, and play in the afternoon became even more difficult than heretofore. The second round was remarkable for the absence of halved holes, and for the circumstance that neither side could even place more than one to its credit until just at the close of the match. In the whole match the only holes halved were the eighth and sixteenth, and in the end the professionals won by 3 and 1 to play. A good deal of bad putting took place this time, especially on the sixth and seventh greens, where the professionals were twice terribly short; but at the twelfth hole Tom made a remarkably fine iron shot from out of a small bunker a hundred yards away, right on to the green and close to the hole. About this time, indeed, he began to play a wonderfully fine game; he was usually in front of Mr Stuart from the tee, and the closer the crisis, the better he seemed to play. The amateurs this time finished in 100; the others would have been about 3 strokes better, but did not play out the last hole owing to Sayers having driven into the garden of the corner house. These scores show the force of the wind; indeed, many of the players found themselves compelled to go whither they would not by reason of it. The Bombay medallist, for instance, carried over the garden wall, which comprehended Mr Sayers within its limits, over the road, and into another garden, where he had to delve amongst the peas of Mr Jamieson, of Gibson Place. But notwithstanding these scores a great deal of very fine play was shown in this foursome, and the winners must certainly be congratulated on their plucky and well-won victory."

About this time Tom must have been playing an exceptionally fine game, for, on the 18th of July of this year (1892), Golf relates that: "Old Tom, playing with Mr Neilson, came away with the grand score of 82 strokes. The veteran seems to be playing as good a game in his seventy-first year as he did when he was a much younger man. In his game on Monday he missed 3 putts, but still came in with a score which many younger golfers would envy." His detailed score was

Out, 4 6 4 5 4 5 5 3 4 - 40
In, 4 3 4 5 6 5 5 5 5 - 42
Total. . . 82

In the summer of 1895 Tom laid out a short golf course of 9 holes for St Leonards School for Girls, St Andrrews. The green is within the large expanse of private grounds, and is of a suitable description for the game.

By this time the club-makers at St Andrews had become numerically a considerable body. Year by year, after the boom in golf commenced, they had increased, until in 1890 a handicap medal was instituted, and the competition became an annual one. That for 1893 took place towards the end of May. In a notice which, judging from internal evidence, I should say was written by Mr Everard, it is said: "Some of the scratch men are fine players, one of whom, William Auchterlonie, if he could devote sufficient time to practice, assuredly ought to make his mark in the Open Championship. Another, W. Duncan, has lately been coming to the front, and in a local competition recently returned the three grand scores of 80, 80, 83, with which he won a prize for the two best scores out of three. In these columns the exploits of the ever-popular 'Old Tom' have been ere now sufficiently noticed; but perhaps never has he performed a feat more worthy of special commendation than that which we have pleasure in recording this week. That a man who is verging on his 72nd year should defeat a field containing a goodly proportion of scratch players, all of them lusty, strong, and in the heyday of youth, is a fact unique. That he should win at all is most creditable; but he comes out, as will be seen, far in front of the throng". He is like Odysseus among the Phaeacians at the Court of Alcinous. The lover of Homer will recall the scene how Laodamas and the rest badgered the hero to 'putt' the stone; how, notwithstanding its extra weight, he put it so far that, as Athene, with fine irony, remarked 'For it is no wise lost among the throng of the others, but is far the first; even so is the 83 of the 'goodly steadfast' veteran in no wise lost among the throng of 90's, which many of the scratch men returned. Henceforward the problem will be what to do with him; it is almost uncanny that one of his age should hand in such a card. Probably he will receive no odds in future, and he should, perhaps, therefore be known as 'Old Scratch.' The 6 at the fourth last hole was due to a rather unlucky approach; with that exception the last half round is beyond reproach. The course was by the left, the weather on both days perfect; and it may be added that the veteran's 4 to the seventeenth hole was due to a couple of fine drives, which landed him well up on the green. Details: Tom Morris (first prize and medal), 83 less 5 - 78.)

Out, 6 6 5 5 5 6 5 3 3 - 44
In,  4 3 5 4 5 6 4 4 4 - 39
Total, . . 83

The highest scratch man was William Auchterlonie, 86"


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