Life of Tom Morris Chapter VII - The most
famous foursome of olden days
OF all the many matches in
which Tom and Allan played as partners the most important and most
interesting was perhaps the great foursome of 1849, for £400 against the
brothers Dunn, of Musselburgh, over the links of Musselburgh, St Andrews and
North Berwick. There was always a considerable rivalry between St Andrews
and Musselburgh, and in this match it was at fever heat. Allan and Willie
Dunn had often played singles against one another, Allan winning at St
Andrews, Willie at Musselburgh, while on neutral ground Allan was the more
successful. Willie was a very long driver, and his style was particularly
easy and graceful. A bunker on the St Andrews links to this day commemorates
a feat of his. From the homeward Hole o'Cross green at the fifth hole, and
from the medal tee, he once drove right over the Elysian Fields into the
little crescent-shaped bunker at the end of them. To this day this bunker is
named "Dunny." The distance, as measured on the map, is 250 yards. Perhaps
the most important of these singles was the one played in 1843. It consisted
of 20 rounds, or 360 holes. In those days matches were decided by greens and
rounds, and Allan won this one by 2 rounds and I to play.
The "two Dunns," familiarly so called in those days, were twins, as their
nephew, Tom Dunn, tells us; and they were so much alike, and spoke so
similarly, that it was a very difficult matter to know the one from the
other, unless the individual was very intimately acquainted with them. Many
gentlemen were nonplussed, among them the late Lord Eglintoun, who would
say, "Well, Jamie, how are you?" "I'm not Jamie, my lord" Tom Dunn's father
would say, "I'm Willie." "Confound you fellows," his lordship would sing
out, "I never know the one from the other." And so it was. Their height,
build, voice, appearance and facial expression deceived many. They were as
like as two peas.
In the great foursome, the match at Musselburgh went altogether in favour of
the Dunns, for they won it by 13 holes up and 12 to play. At St Andrews
Allan and Tom had a slight advantage which, however, as far as greens were
concerned, left the match square. All then depended on the play at North
Berwick. The best account of the final and deciding rounds is that given by
"An Old Hand" in his "Golfing Reminiscences" (Reminiscences of Golf and
Golfers, by H. Thomas IVter, Member of the Innerlevcn and other golf clubs.
Edinburgh: James Thin). It was the finest foursome Mr Peter says he ever
saw, and it created great interest in the golfing world of that day, crowds
flocking to North Berwick to watch it. Mr Peter writes: "I crossed over from
Leven (Fife) with my brother James, and remember it well. When I woke at
five o'clock the rain was pouring, and I got up and told my brother so, and
that it would be useless to go. However, in a short time afterwards he came
to my bedroom and said, 'Man, Tom, I see a wee glint of blue sky! I think we
should gang.' 'All right,' I said, 'I'm up.' "And" "gang" they did.
On meeting Allan, Mr Peter said he had come to see him win. Allan replied he
hoped so, but Mr Peter thought from the dejected look he wore that he was
somewhat doubtful about the result. The match was one of 36 holes; Mr Peter
forgets whether that meant 5 or 7 rounds of the then North Berwick links,
and i hole more. The rain kept off, probably owing to a pretty stiff wind
from the south-west. The match started amid great excitement. Each side had
its band of supporters. Those of the Musselburgh men, however, owing to the
nearness of its links to North Berwick, preponderated, and they were led by
Gourlay, the well-known ball-maker. Mr Peter tells us he never saw a match
where such vehement party spirit was displayed. So great was the ferment and
anxiety to see whose ball had the better lie, that no sooner were the shots
played than off the whole crowd ran helter-skelter; and as one or the other
lay best so demonstrations were made by each party.
It took even Sir David Baird, with his commanding figure, all his time to
maintain merely tolerable order.
To begin with, the match went in favour of the Dunns, who played
magnificently. Their driving was notably better than that of the St Andrews
men. They went sweeping over hazards, which their opponents had to play
short of. Though the first round was halved, the Dunns won the second by 4.
The third round was halved.
During lunch, with the Mussclburgh men four to the good, long odds were
offered in their favour.
On the match being resumed they put one more hole to their credit. With 8
holes to play they remained 4 up. Odds of 20 to 1 were now freely laid upon
the Dunns. The chances of the St Andrews men looked gloomy in the extreme.
Their backs were to the wall. They must strain every nerve if they were not
to be badly defeated. Allan wanned to his work and was well backed up by
Tom. They took one hole, then another, and yet another. Captain Campbell of
Schiehallion, with a true gulling instinct, could not forbear crying out to
Mr Peter, "Gad, sir, if they take another hole they'll win the match." They
took the "other hole," and were now all square, and 2 to play. The exact
sequence of the 6 holes was this: 1 and 2, Allan and Tom; 3, halved; 4,
Allan and Tom; 5, halved; 6, Allan and Tom.
"How different the attitude of the Dunns' supporters now from their jubilant
and vaunting manner at lunch-time! Silence reigned, concern was on every
brow, the elasticity had completely gone from Gourlay's step, and the
profoundest anxiety marked every line of his countenance.
"On the other hand, Allan and Tom were serene, and their supporters as
lively as they had been depressed before. We felt victory was sure!"
The honour belonged to the St Andrews men. Amid breathless silence Tom
played a line tee shot. So did his opponent. It was a longer ball and it lay
better. Allan had a bad he and could not make much of it. The supporters of
the St Andrews men became uneasy. "Should the Dunns win this hole, they
would be dormythcy might win the match! Our revulsion of feeling was great,
and as play proceeded was intensified, for Allan and Tom had played 3 more
with their ball lying in a bunker close to, and in front of, the
putting-green! The brothers, however, by pulling their second shot off the
course lay under 'a large boulder' (Everard), 'close at the back of a curb
stone on a cart track off the green to the right' (Peter). They were in a
dilemma. What was to be done? One can well imagine how tense grew the
excitement. First of all, they wished the stone removed, and called to
someone to go for a spade; but Sir David Baird would not sanction its
removal, because it was off the course, and a fixture."
He rightly decided that the ball had to be played as it lay.
One of the Dunns Mr Peter forgets which struck at the ball with his iron,
but hit the top of the stone. His brother then had a "go" at it. He, in like
manner, went for the stone instead. Another shot with no better result. It
was "the like." "All this time," remarks Mr Peter, the barometer of our
expectation had been steadily rising, and had now about readied 'Set Fair.'"
The odd had now to be played. Different tactics were tried. The ball was
dislodged through its being struck with the back of the iron on to grass
beyond the track.
Had that been done at first the hole might have been won and the match also;
but both men by this time had lost all judgment and nerve, and played most
recklessly. The consequence was the loss of the hole and Allan and Tom dormy.
We felt the victor was now sorure, and so, in fact, it turned out, and Allan
and Tom remained the victors by 2 holes."
So Tom and Allan, up for the first time, gained the last hole, and pulled
this remarkable match out of the fire and landed the 400, to say nothing of
the 20 to 1 odds which had been laid when their condition appeared hopeless.
Well may Mr Everard say, "It would be difficult to find in the whole annals
of golf a more perfect illustration of the advantages of pluck and
But proud as I naturally am of the victory of St Andrews, and of my old
friends, Allan and Tom, I may be allowed to sympathise with the Dunns.
Without doubt they had cruelly hard luck. And they in reality won the match,
according to our modern method of counting the aggregate number of holes. So
unjust, in fact, was ielt the old method of decision by greens that it was
then and there given up. In consequence of this match the new reckoning was
The credit of winning this great match was due more to Tom Morris than to
Allan Robertson. Mr Peter, who was quite an unbiassed witness of the contest
as far as these two partners were concerned, has left this on record: "I
think it only just to say that, in my opinion, the winning of the above
match was due to Tom Morris. Allan was decidedly oil his game at the start,
and played weakly and badly for a long time, almost justifying the jeers
thrown at him, such as 'That wee body in the red jacket canna play goufe and
suchlike. Tom, on the other hand, played with pluck and determination
throughout." And here is Mr Peter's summing-up of the calibre of the members
of the greatest foursome in old-world golf:
"The quartette was one of magnificent players. Of the lot I would place
Allan, as a man, as the least powerful but the most scientific. He could not
play well on a rough green, for he used light clubs and balls, and a rough,
grassy green was too much for him; but on St Andrews, with its
unapproachable turf, he was unrivalled. He was, we then considered, alike
perfect in driving off the tee, in his play along the green, and in his
approach to, his putting towards, and into the hole. Let me note that in
putting he always took both putter and deck in his hand to be used according
to judgment. On the other hand, when hard pressed, and great prowess was
required to save a hole, Allan was the man who possessed it. As an instance,
in one of the foursomes at St Andrews, between Allan and Tom Morris and the
Dunns, when all were equal at the hole before the lulen coming in, Allan off
the tee put Tom in the bunker just facing the hole. Tom, playing the like,
took the ball out of the bunker, but just on to the edge, leaving a long
putt over sandy ground of about five yards. Allan had to hole out for a
half; he did it with his putter. I had been standing at his back, and after
play was finished, said to him, 'My man, Allan, you never had a narrower
squeak for a hole all your life.'
"'Man,' he said, 'I bid to do it. You see, I put Tom in the bunker.'
"This match was won by the St Andrews men.
"Allan was least in stature of the four, but lithe and muscular, and had a
swing of his club which was quite musical and described a perfect circle. I
have played a great deal with him, both singly (getting odds, of course),
and with him as a partner in foursomes; and can testify to his uniform
geniality, thorough earnestness to win matches, and uncomplaining temper
"Tom Morris and Willie Dunn I would class as on a par. Willie had a
particularly graceful style. He was taller than the other three, very
supple, and swung his club with great agility and power. James Dunn, I
consider, was the least formidable of the four in a single, but alongside
his brother was a most dangerous opponent.
"Tom Morris I need hardly describe. Who has handled a club and does not know
his genial countenance; dark, penetrating eye, which never failed to detect
a cunning road to the hole, imperturbable temper, unflinching courage, and
indomitable self-control under circumstances the most exasperating?"
Tom Dunn tells of a big match that his father, Willie Dunn, and Sir Robert
Hay played against Allan and Tom. The former couple finished the first round
4 up, but fell off in the second round and were beaten in the match. Tom
Dunn says, "It is only fair to add that Sir Robert was at the Fife Hunt Ball
the night before, dancing until the hours were well advanced in the morning
not a good training for a big match. It is admitted on all hands by old
golfers that Sir Robert's style was ideal. He never would take an iron club
in his hand if he could help it. Give him his baity, and to see him, as I've
watched him many a time approaching a hole, banging the shot up to the left
and the ball dozing away round, until it frequently lay dead, was 'a sicht
for sair ecu.' This shot he used to play with consummate nerve and no one
could beat him at it.'
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