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The Life of Tom Morris
Chapter XXIII - Play 1894-9


IN May 1894 Tom was in the Isle of Man, and laid out a course on Duchess Head, Douglas Hay. In June he was in Ireland. The members of the Royal Dublin Golf Club gave him a warm welcome as he came to Dollymount, brisk and hale, from Lahinch, in the county of Clare (where he had just laid out a capital links of 18 holes), and from Killarncy Lakes. Playing on the evening of his arrival at Dollymount, with Brown, the professional, Tom went round in 88 an excellent score, and one that, with knowledge of the links, might easily have been under So. On Wednesday the veteran golfer and Mr Kilroy (the captain of the club) played Brown and Mr Petrie. The match was halved; and on Thursday a return match was played, which ended in a win for the captain and the visitor by i hole. "Is there need to add," says a report, "that all the members of the Club gave a hearty welcome to the grand old champion, that we look forward to another visit from him soon, and that he departed with good wishes for his success at Sandwich during the Championship Meeting?"

In Golf, for July 3, 1891, the following letter from Tom appears on the question ought the "stymie" to be abolished? "To the Editor of Golf : In reply to yours of June 15, anent stymies, I beg to state that I have always been in favour of stymies being abolished. I think a modification could easily be made. A motion was proposed by Captain Burn at a meeting of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club that a rule as follows should be made:-' A player may, on the putting-green, remove his opponent's ball, but such act of removal should be equivalent to the opponent having played his stroke and holed.' This would do for one, but, of course, the Royal and Ancient would have many suggestions brought before them if the subject was put to them by other Clubs."

In August Tom paid a visit to Luffness, and had a round of the new green at Saltcoats with the Rev. Mr Proudfoot, one of the ministers at Haddington. Subsequently, with a large stall of workmen, he made a considerable number of improvements on it, especially in the way of bunkers.

On the 2ist September he was at Port Errol on the Great North of Scotland Railway, in regard to a golf course which the directors wished to establish. He was met on the ground by the Earl of Errol, Mr Fergusson, the chairman of the railway, and a number of those interested in the movement. He had a round with Mr C. E. Stephens, Uxbridge.

On the 22nd September 1894 Tom went to the opening of the new course of the Alyth Golf Club, in which his old friend, Dr Gordon M'Pherson, had much interested himself. His duties were light. They consisted of teeing the ball with which Miss Ross of Balloch played the first shot on the new links. Thereafter he and Provost Orchar played the Rev. Dr M'Pherson and the Rev. J. R. M'Laren, parish minister of Alyth. They won their match by 2 and 1 to play.

In "Tee Shots," Golf, December 28, 1894, there appeared this pleasant and interesting paragraph:

"An enthusiastic golfer in the Midlands, whose letters are always interesting (and who never forgets the old country and its heroes, for he is a Scotchman, and his wife, as Pat would say, is 'another', in writing us lately says: 'We had old Tom Morris staying with us a couple of nights last week. He is as fresh as a daisy, and had just been laying out a new course at Northampton. I took Tom to a ladies' school six miles from here, and in the evening we had some music, which Tom enjoyed very much so much so that he went to the lady principal, who played, and said: "Miss B., if I could handle the clubs as you handle that piano I wouldna be feared for any o' them, auld as I am. . . ."One of the governesses also sang. She had a sweet voice; but Tom whispered to me: 'Doctor, her pronunciation is very bad, for I canna mak oot a word she's sayin'." No wonder. The song was French! The old man was highly amused when he heard this, and afterwards had to bear a good deal of chaffing about his French.``

Early in the year 1895 Tom appeared on the stage! albeit a local one. The occasion was an entertainment given by Mr and Mrs T. T. Oliphant, in the Town Hall, St Andrews, on the 23rd and 25th of February. In the tableaux vivants there were two golf scenes. The scenery, which represented the links, the sea and the city, was well painted. The first scene was "The Stymie." "Old Tom" had just played the ''like," leaving his opponent, Mr Everard, in his scarlet golfing jacket, a dead stymie. Mr Everard is carefully studying his putt, considering whether it would be better to try and loft his ball over the other or to screw round it. Old Tom is looking on with evident satisfaction, though he does not believe in stymies, and feeling fully confident that his opponent will be unable to negotiate the difficulty, and that the hole is as good as his. The second scene is "The Short Putt." Mr Everard has holed his ball, and it now remains for Tom to hole his short putt. He is seen in the act of addressing his ball. In the third scene it is evident that he has missed! His attitude is one of characteristic annoyance and astonishment, and a wild and wicked triumphant elation is on Mr Everard's features. In July 1895 a Committee of the members of the Royal and Ancient Club was appointed to report as to the best means for carrying out a proposal to present Tom Morris with a testimonial. Accordingly an Extraordinary General Meeting was called, at which the following resolution was unanimously adopted, "That the sum of 100 be voted from the funds of the Club towards the Tom Morris Testimonial Fund," and the Committee were instructed to issue a fresh appeal for subscriptions and to notify the adoption of the resolution.

In Golf of May 8, 1896, there occurs the following paragraph: 'The Tom Morris Testimonial is to close on May 15. It now amounts to 1240, and the committee in charge, having taken the advice of an eminent accountant, recommend that 500 of this sum be set apart to purchase an annuity of 80, and that the balance be invested in the names of the Trustees of the Royal and Ancient Club, the interest of which is to be paid to Tom Morris during his life, thus giving him an income of over 100 a year, in addition to that which he receives as green-keeper of St Andrews links and from other sources, and that thereafter the capital or interest thereon shall be applied for the benefit of Mrs Hunter, daughter of Tom Morris, and her children, in such manner as the said trustees may decide. The committee further recommend that the Club at a general meeting have power to modify the last recommendation if they see fit and pay the whole or any portion of the sum to Tom Morris during his life."

In the spring of 1896 Tom superintended the laying-out of the line course in the island of Islay. In May he played in a professional tournament at Aberdeen.

In May 1896 Tom went to Edinburgh to attend the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland as one of the representative elders of the Presbytery of St Andrews. It was a graceful recognition of his high qualities as a man and a Churchman, and the golfers among the members of the General Assembly extended to him a warm welcome. Tom, in his capacity as elder, would attend the sittings of the General Assembly day by day, and at night, on the occasion of the Synod of Fife dining at the Palace, would dine with his Grace the Lord High Commissioner, who this year was the Marquis of Tweeddale. He would also attend the levee, and the receptions and "At Homes" of the Marchioness. While dining at Holyrood he was remonstrated with, by a clerical golfer who sat beside him, on not partaking more freely and generally of the numerous dishes. He remarked that he had had "a gude denner at the recht time o' day, and couldna eat at this time o' nicht dinner at 7.30 p.m."

In September 1896 Mr A. J. Balfour, M.P., was in St Andrews, on his way to Balmoral, and was the guest of Mr and Mrs Asquith. Mrs Asquith and Mr Balfour played Old Tom and Mr Asquith. At the turn the M.P. and Tom were 3 up, and eventually won by 4 and 3 to play. Mr Asquith was not playing his usual game, while Old Tom was in capital form. He was playing a very good game all this season, and "Tee Shots" of Golf (October 23, 1896) says: "Old Tom Morris is said to have made a record in the medal week at the end of last month. He engaged in 8 matches over the St Andrews course, and was successful in them all."

In November of this year a number of the members of the Kettering Golf Club, learning that Tom Morris was in the neighbourhood, conceived the happy idea of showing their appreciation of the old veteran by entertaining him to dinner. Dr Allison took the chair, with Tom on his right, and his grandson, Mr Bruce Hunter, on his left. In proposing the toast of the evening, Dr Allison said they all knew that they had with them that evening the Father of the Game the Nestor of golf. It was almost impossible to believe that Tom Morris was now in his seventy-sixth year. It was in the year 1861 that he was champion of Great Britain, and again in 1862 and 1864; but, unfortunately, he missed in 1863. However, he won it again in 1867, and was thus four times champion. If that was not enough to stamp him as one of the finest golfers they had, he might further state that Tom was the parent of one of the finest golfers that ever breathed, and who also was champion several times. Although it was thirty-five years since Tom was champion, he could still play a wonderfully good game. If any of them went to the ancient city of St Andrews they would find that Tom was the absolute Pope of the place. When the history of Scotland for the century came to be written he was convinced that the name of Tom Morris would take a prominent place. Everyone wished him long life and happiness. Tom Morris was loudly cheered on rising to reply. He said he hoped they would not expect him to reply to all the grand things which the chairman had said about him. His best playing days were done, and he only played now for the good of his health. Many beginners at the game said to him that they supposed golf was a good healthy game, and he. usually pointed to himself as a good example.

In regard to Tom's wonderfully good health, we may here add what "Rockwood," a well-known sporting writer, says of him in his ``Reminiscences of West Country Golf``: "Old Tom Morris was green-keeper at Prestwick during the early 'sixties, and many will recollect his little shop on the High Road, almost facing the old Red Lion Inn. Self-preservation and the art generally of taking care of Number One too rare among the golfing professionals of these days had much to do with his best successes, until the yearly contests resolved themselves literally into matches between Willie Park the elder and himself. We recollect a gentleman staying in a cottage adjoining that of the late Bailie Wilson, the wealthy President of the St Nicholas, shouting out one cold, frosty morning that there was 'a man on the beach trying hard to drown himself.' It was only Tom Morris breaking the ice to enjoy his usual morning dip in the sea, for he made a practice of bathing all the year round, notwithstanding the state of the atmosphere. To this and his practice (still maintained) of sleeping with his window down a foot at the top, and the natural exercise of his calling, his wonderful state of preservation is no doubt attributable." But Tom's bedroom window, in St Andrews at least, and in a room facing the north-east, was open more than a foot when I used to see it. It was open quite half way down. And I remember him telling me on one occasion that he awoke to find himself lying with a coverlet of snow over his bedspread. It had snowed through the night, and the nor'-easter had blown the flakes right in upon his bed, as it well might do, as the room is a tiny one off his sitting-room. He kept up his bathing habits at St Andrews, and I was fortunate enough for a short time each summer to be one along with him of a happy and healthy party of before-breakfast bathers.

Golf of March 26, 1897, contained the following: "At St Andrews, in a match among the members of the St Andrews Golf Club, played in foursomes, a large crowd followed a match between Old Tom Morris and Andrew Kirkaldy against Mr James Kirk and Willie Auchterlonie. Old Tom and Kirkaldy had the worst of the play during the out-going journey, and turned 4 holes down. Homeward, they held their own better; but their opponents got the match by 4 holes. The veteran is evidently still able to play a good game, and it is more than likely that he will again enter for the Championship at Hoylake."

The Amateur Championship Match was held this year at Muirfield. The final was between Dr Allan and Mr J. Robb. At the end of the first round Dr Allan was 1 up. During the luncheon hour the chances of the finalists were much discussed. A difference of 1 hole was not of much account. Old Tom, backed up by numerous St Andrews representatives, had still faith in Mr Robb, though he had not played quite up to expectation in the forenoon. The old veteran's reply to the question, "Who's going to be champion? " was the laconic, "Robb, deid shure." On the other hand, Dr Allan had won golden opinions by his coolness and precision, and it was felt that he had the better of Mr Robb in these respects as well as in play, for the old enemy "funk" was decidedly affecting the St Andrews youth and at times winnowing his hand. As the golfing world knows, Dr Allan became champion for 1897 4 up and 3 to play. Of the runner-up, it was said that he only succumbed in the final after playing brilliantly throughout the tournament. Then a clerk in the Clydesdale Bank at St Andrews, and but nineteen years of age, he had secured fame as a player in several tournaments, with a record of 74 at St Andrews. He is a thick-set, sturdy, healthy-looking fellow, and, though not taking a full swing, he is a good representative of the orthodox St Andrews style, and a worthy pupil of Old Tom, who thinks him able to hold his own with any amateur or professional going. From his brilliant appearance at Muirfield it was thought much might yet be expected of him in important contests. We know how well the amateur champion of 1906 has fulfilled the expectations of his friends.

In 1894 the Open Championship was held for the first time at Sandwich. It was won by J. H. Taylor with a score of 326. Rolland being second with 331 and Andrew Kirkaldy third with 333. Tom was present, playing the first day with Captain Tattersall, but he retired on the second day after scoring on in his round with J. Ross. Next year (1895), the same fine English player won at St Andrews with the excellent score of 322, with Alex. Herd second with 326, and Andrew Kirkaldy third with 332. Old Tom competed for the thirty-fifth time and, notwithstanding a very bad first round 107, persevered and was rewarded with a 92, 96 and 97, making a total of 392. He was the first to congratulate the winner, and in Mr Scott Duncan's Golfing Annual it is said, "Perhaps the old man's thoughts flew back over the long years to the invincible 'Tommy who, like Taylor, could always be trusted to rise to the occasion``.

Tom again played next year (1896), at Muirfield, when the Championship was won by Harry Vardon, after a tie with J. H Taylor with 316. Vardon's two rounds in playing for the tie were 157 against Taylor's, 161 Mr F. D. Tait was third with 310,. Tom retired after playing three rounds, 101, 103, 105.

In the competition in 1897, at Hoylake, Tom did not enter. The Championship was won by H. H. Hilton with 314. He was closely followed by Braid with 315 and by Mr F. G. Tait with 317. Nor was he present in 1898, when it was again won and at Prestwick, by Harry Vardon in 307, with W. Park 308 and H H Hilton 309, as second and third. And he was a "notable absentee" at Sandwich in 1899, when Vardon won.

In Golf for July 2, 1897, here is a "Tee Shot": "Old Tom Morris entered upon his seventy-sixth year on Wednesday, June 16. For several years past he has been in the habit of counting his score on his birthday, but Wednesday being exceptional!y stormy it was impossible to play. On Thursday, however, he had a round with Mr Everard, and, despite the heavy wind which prevailed from the west, achieved the round in 94. He was out in 52, but came home with the very creditable score of 42." Later on, he went North to improve the course at Newtonmore.

In April 1898 we find it chronicled that "Old Tom Morris, who is seventy-seven next June, has recently returned scores of 87 and 88 at St Andrews; so that the veteran has evidently not lost the power of his elbow."

This year, at Hoylake, St Andrews made a great show for the Amateur Championship. All the semi-finalists were St Andrews men, and Old Tom was heard to mutter: "They'll no' be savin' Puir St Andrews ' the day "; they were Mr F. G. Tait, Mr John L. Low, Mr Mure Fergusson, and Mr Robb. A reporter of the scene at the final says: "It was easy to single out the most venerable of the professionals. Old Tom, who keenly followed the fate of his St Andrews men, and had that happy twinkle in his eye which makes his face perfect when the semi-finalists were declared."

Alas, the light of satisfaction in his eye was soon to give place to sorrow and tears. His only daughter, Mrs Hunter, who was loved and respected by all who knew her, died very suddenly early in June, at St Andrews. He had intended this hero of thirty-live Championships to be at Prestwick for the sake of auld lang syne and as an onlooker, but on the morning of the meeting tidings came of his great bereavement the worst he could have had. Since the death of her husband Mrs Hunter had lived with him as his solace and stay. Needless to say he received many marks of sympathy from all quarters, as was also the case when his only remaining son, J. O. F. Morris, died in 1906.

Mr A. J. Robertson resigned his duties as Editor of Golf, and said some words of farewell to his readers and contributors in the issue of July 1, 1898. Every golfer knows how much the literature of the game is indebted to Mr. Robertson, and how much he has done and still does for its intelligent appreciation, with his clever and facile pen. The new Editor, Mr Garden G. Smith, who happily succeeded him, made his bow in the next number, and in it (No. 417, Vol. XVI., July 8, 1898), Mr D. D. Whigham, Prestwick, has the following letter: ``In your very kindly notice of my old golfing friend, Bob Andrews, of Perth, in your last issue, in the terms of which I most cordially concur, you say inter alia that at the Prestwick meeting of 1863 a match was played between Mr D. D. Whigham and Tom Morris (getting a third), against Bob Andrews and Andrew Strath, and that the latter two won by 2 holes. May I, as the only consolation I have in old age, correct your informant. The match was played at the odds mentioned, and Tom and I won by 5 or 6 holes. So elated were we by the victory that we challenged the two to play us level the following day. The match was played, and we won again, and to this day 'Old Tom ' has often a pleasant joke with me as to the days 'when you and I beat the two professionals.' Charlie Hunter well remembers the match, and with him and Old Tom and myself as witnesses I am sure you will give us credit for facts. That was in 1863, and now, when muscles and nerves are apt to fail, it is the only resource we have as old golfers to think back upon what once could be done."

In June Tom was at Cleveland superintending the extending of the links and playing over the course.

In the autumn of 1898 Messrs Dickenson & Foster published a reproduction of their picture Medal Day at St Andrews. Grouped in front of the Royal and Ancient Club-House and on the green, are no fewer than 191 golfers. In the foreground Old Tom Morris is represented as stooping down in the attitude of teeing a ball for W. A. J. Balfour.

Golf Illustrated of June 23, 1899, contained the following congratulations to Tom on attaining his seventy-eighth birthday: "Our hearty congratulations to Old Tom Morris on his seventy-eighth birthday. The anniversary occurred on Thursday last, and all golfers will join in wishing the grand old golfer many happy returns of the day. In accordance with his usual custom the veteran celebrated the event by playing a match over St Andrews links. This year it took the form of a three-ball match, in which his opponents were Mr Everard and Mr Stanhope.``

Mr Andrew Lang, during this summer, had an article on golf in the North American Review, and in the course of many learned and leisurely witty remarks on the game had this on the spread of golf: "Golf is now established near Rome, and the learned archaeologist, Signor Lanciani, is a golfer. With the purpose of improving his style he means to take lessons at St Andrews from Old Tom or Auchterlonie in winter (I cannot wish him better or more courteous and agreeable instructors), and incidentally he will deliver the St Andrews Gilford lectures on 'Revealed Religion.' If he could introduce a lecture on the Roman game of 'Cambuca' and its relations to golf, I daresay Tom Morris would attend the lectures. As a rule, Tom is content with revealed religion, and gives the lectures a wide berth. I do not condemn this conduct in a man who has played golf for some seventy years, and whose natural bent (as displayed in his attitude towards the abolition of the stymie) is favourable to new or revolutionary ideas."

In a note about the novelist, Mr S. R. Crockett, Golf says: "He alludes with pride to a strong friendship for Old Tom Morris, extending over many years, and quotes a remark of the veteran's relative to his taking up the game late in life: ' Eh! Mr Crockett, what an awfu' heap of yer life hae ye no wasted.``

In a most excellent paper, "An Interesting Picture of Scottish Professional Golfers in the Open Tournament at Leith, 1867," Mr W. Dalrymple gives some of the opinions Tom held in regard to his rival great players and vice versa. Tom describes Willie Dow as "playing a great game," and remembers how Major Bethune spoke to him many a year ago about Willie, and asked Tom if he thought he could tackle this formidable Musselburgh man. Tom cautiously replied that he could try, anyway. He did, and
won. It is a curious fact that Old Tom and Auld Willie Park never won a match in partnership.

As Park put it to Mr Dalrymple, "I aye likit best to play against Old Tom." This, of course, was said from no feeling of unfriendliness, far less enmity. On the contrary, it was rather conceived in the light of a compliment. At Perth, in 1864, they lost to Kirk and Strath by 1, and next year, at St Andrews, Dow and Strath beat them by 3 up and 1 to play. Tom speaks of Dunn as a splendid golfer and superb driver
of about the same calibre as Park, and recalls one foursome with a smile and twinkle in his eye. Tom was playing with Bob Anderson for his partner against Dunn and Allan Robertson. Bob was a mason by trade, but a brilliant driver and a fine golfer generally. As Dunn was also a very long driver Tom feared that his partner might be led to press, and succeeded in persuading him to drive against Allan, whom, of course, he could easily out-drive; just as, on the other hand, Dunn could easily out-drive him. The ``little act of generalship," the tactics of which were worthy of the redoubtable Allan himself, saved the match. "We came," says Tom, ``to the last hole square and 1 to play. Probably Allan pressed. At any rate, he hooked his tee-shot. He was even accused of selling the match, but, of course, that was all nonsense. Allan was not that sort of chap."

Of a very good partner of his, Bob Kirk, Tom said, "I remember him very well, he was a club-maker and a very fine player none better, and used to keep the Blackheath green."

And this may be a suitable opportunity to give Tom's ideas on the subject of the laying-out of links as embodied in a letter to the Editor of Golf, written at the end of a gelling season some years ago:

"SIR, I see in your last issue that a gentleman (by name Mr Stevens) is anxious to get a little information regarding laying out a golf links. I hope you will allow me space in your valuable golfing paper to answer his questions as far as possible.

"1. As to the length and breadth of links. If you have so many miles of ground, you can put holes down at, say, from 100 to 550 yards, varying them accordingly. The breadth may be from 50 to 100 yards.

"2. Regarding the probable cost of preparing it. If the putting-greens had to be laid out it would require 5 for each green. Then, if the course had to be cleared of gorse bushes or whins, it would likely cost about 200.

"3. Regarding the third question, the best way to form a Club would be to get as many of your friends together as possible and form a Club; then advertise that such a Club had been instituted. As to subscriptions, the scale of Club entry money runs from 2s. 6d. to 10.

"4. There is no necessity to have trees on a golf course; large sand-pits dug in the course, called bunkers, or a whin or two to serve as a hazard to all players.

"5. With reference to the last inquiry, it would entirely depend upon what the rental of the ground was and whether it was depriving the landlord or tenant of any privilege which he may have let.

I may state in conclusion that if the putting-greens require to be laid with turf this is the best time of year to lay them. But you can safely lay turf at any time of the year, provided the ground is moist to let the turf get a hold.

I am, Yours, etc., TOM MORRIS."

In the end of July this year the famous lady golfer, Miss Rhona Adair, visited St Andrews and played a 36-hole match with Tom, who, evidently determined "no' to be licket by a lassie," put his best foot foremost. He got the lead at the first hole, and managed to retain it, being doriny at "the Dyke`` and winning the first round by 1 hole. In the afternoon he was 1 up at the turn; but the clever young lady succeeded in reducing him to 2 in the homeward journey. Eventually he won the match only by 1 hole.

On another day of this visit Mr Everard played the best ball of the lady and Old Tom, and won by 5 and 4 to play. In the afternoon Tom and his fair partner showed much better form, and won by 3 and 2.

Towards the end of this year, Mr John L. Low's Memoir of Freddy Tait was published. Here is a story told in it in regard to the fine young player and Old Tom: 'In 1888 Tait played a lot of golf: more than 120 matches are recorded in his match-book. On 31st July we find the record of a match with Mr Norman Playfair, which Tait lost by 7. 'Driving very poor; put a ball through a man's hat, and had to pay five shillings.' In the afternoon Tait seems to have kept the fine better, for he beat his opponent by 5 holes; and no further casualties are reported. The moment Freddy made the almost fatal shot just recorded, Norman Playfair shouted out, ' You've got him! ' and so he had. Freddy was somewhat annoyed at having to part with the five shillings, and took that king of kindly counsellors, Old Tom, into his confidence, in the hope that he would gain from his old friend some consolation. But Tom could not be persuaded that Freddy was the injured party: his thought was rather one of gladness that the feat had been accomplished without any real injury. He saw that ' Freddy's ' driving needed more 'control,' so he replied: 'Ah, Master Freddy, ye may be verra thankfu' that it's only a hat and no' an oak coffin ye hae to pay for.``


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