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The Life of Tom Morris
Chapter XVIII - Tom and Gold at St. Andrews in 1876

IT must have been with a heavy heart, and the consciousness of something vanished from his life, that Tom would resume his play on the links. He was never more to find in his dear boy a partner worthy of himself, of whom he was so proud, whom he loved as his own soul. There was no dear career to watch with affectionate interest no more victories to recount no wonderful play to chronicle. However, in the true spirit of the Apostle, who, after his great grief, said "I go a-fishing," Tom tackled his clubs again, and many famous matches he was still destined to play.

Next year 1876 was a great one in St Andrews, and one in which Tommy would be more than usually missed. His Royal Highness Prince Leopold was captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, and, consequently, there was a great and distinguished gathering at the Autumn Meeting. I remember the occasion well more especially as I was then minister of the Parish of Kelso, and his Royal Highness came straight from St Andrews to Floors Castle as the guest of my kind patrons and dear friends their Graces the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe. I therefore had the opportunity of seeing something of his Royal Highness, both at St Andrews and in my own parish; and I can bear my testimony to the interest he took in golf and in the subject of this memoir,, with whom he played at St Andrews.

Arriving at the Club-House with his host, Mr Whyte-Melville, Prince Leopold came down to the teeing-ground, and, amongst others, he was introduced to Tom Morris. The two shook hands and engaged in conversation. The Prince was then instructed in his duties as captain of the club. Tom teed his ball for him. The Prince struck off in a manner which showed he was no novice in the art. The crowd vigorously applauded. The cannon was fired and the opening of the meeting was an accomplished fact.

Among the professionals present were Jamie Anderson, Bob Kirk, J. O. V. Morris, Tom Kidd, and R. Martin St Andrews men; Davie Strath was there also, but was at that time stationed at North Berwick; and Mungo Park was also present, as the representative of Musselburgh professional golf. Alter the gentlemen had completed their round it was found that Mr Leslie Balfour (now Mr Leslie Balforr-Melville) had won the first position with the score of 91; and I may mention that he also won it in the previous year with 93, and he won the following year, the third in succession, with 89, thus tying with Mr Hodge's record ten years before. The second medal the gold medal given by the Club went to Mr Alexander Stuart, with 92 strokes.

I cull the following account of the meeting from the St Andrews Citizen, of September 30, 1876:-

"The members dined together at night under the presidency of the Prince. The dinner was largely attended, and the speeches, and indeed all the proceedings, were extremely interesting.

"On Thursday morning, September 28, Prince Leopold attended the meet of the Fife Fox-hounds at Mount Melville (where he stayed during the week from Monday till Friday), and then left for St Andrews, arriving at the Club-House a little alter noon." The St Andrews Citizen tells us that, subsequently, "Along with Tom Morris, the veteran custodier, his Royal Highness played a short match against Mr J. Whyte-Melville and Major Lockhart. The distinguished party were accompanied by a goodly following. The Royal golfer showed by his play that he was not a novice at the game, and made some excellent shots. The first two holes were halved, but in the third the Prince and Tom had the pull, and the first gain of the day was placed to their credit. At this point the players turned their faces homewards. Coming in, Mr Melville and the Major were unfortunate, being bunkered, and another hole was won by his Highness and the veteran, which made them 'dormy' 2 up and 2 to play, and, the 'Burn' being halved, the Prince and Tom stood victors by 2 up and 1 to play. They also got the last hole, and were thus 3 up in all on the day's play."

In view of this account of the Prince's play there seems to be as much truth as politeness in the amusing and characteristic speech of the St Andrews' caddie, "Be he Prince or deevil, he canna play gowf a d---!"

At this meeting Tom Morris and Jamie Anderson played Davie Strath and Mr Andrew Smith (Glasgow). Strath was in line form, but none of the others seemed to be playing at the top of their game. Tom and Jamie won the first hole, but lost the second. Then followed a long succession of halves, when Mr Smith and Strath won the ninth hole, and turned 1 up. At the short hole in they were all even, and eventually they were all square and 1 to play. The last hole was indifferently halved, and Mr Smith threw away the chance of a half by taking a leaf out of Tom's book during the round, and missing a short putt. Tom and Jamie thus won the match by one hole. The scores were: Morris and Anderson, 45, 47 - 92; Mr Smith and Strath, 44, 49 - 93. "Not at all discreditable," says a newspaper report, "when the unfavourable weather is taken into account."

In 1876 the contest for the championship also took place at St Andrews at the September meeting. Tom and Willie Park played together, and to their play "no little attention was paid."

Those who showed special interest in this direction had an opportunity of witnessing, if not the most brilliant, at all events a pretty steady game; Tom, indeed, if a couple of mistakes on the putting-green be excepted, was in capital form for the first 13 holes. Tom was 44 out, Park 49; in, 56 and 45; Tom 90, Park 94. In the next round, however, Park "warmed to his work" and kept Tom mostly on the higher
side of the card. The scores were: Park, out 44, in 45 - 89; Tom, out 46, in 49 - 95. Park's total for the two rounds was two lower than Tom's 183 and 185. Park, however, did not win the championship. The real struggle lay between Davie Strath and Bob Martin. And it was not decided without "a row." It is thus recorded in a contemporary account:

"By Strath and Martin some very fine practice was made. The chances of the former had all along been greatly fancied, and the expectations of his backers Davie fully justified by his powerful game. In driving, it is true, he was not always so well on the course as he might have been, notwithstanding the wind, but his short game was, on the contrary, almost uniformly deadly. In his first round the most noticeable incident occurred at the sixth hole 'in.' Here Davie had to play a ball which was lying within two or three inches of the hole, and, with a want of caution not quite unblameable, he went carelessly up to it, touched it in passing with the reverse side of his club, failed to hole it, and in this way lost a stroke. In approaching the last hole but one in the second round Strath again unfortunately got himself into grief. It having become known by this time that Martin had accomplished the first round in 86, and the second in 90, and that Davie, to win, would require to take both the remaining holes in 5, there was now the greatest excitement manifested. Every shot was watched with eagerness, and it was with the eyes of several hundreds upon him that Davie came to play his third shot for the disc in question. The distance between him and the hole was that of a full drive, and innocently enough, as at all events it appeared to us, Strath played his ball, notwithstanding that there were players on the putting-green who had not holed out. The ball, as it chanced, was helped along a good deal by the wind, and most of those who were watching its course expected that it had been carried on to the road. When, however, the putting-green was reached it was found that the drive had been stopped short by a legitimate enough 'rub on the green,' and, nothing being said of the matter, the hole was played out, 5 being taken to it. In his short game for the 'Home hole' Davie was faulty, and a total of 6 being run up, it was expected by nearly everyone that a tie would be declared. Not many minutes elapsed, however, before it was announced that one of the competitors, upon whom Davie had played as indicated above, insisted that a disqualification should follow upon what he held to be a violation of the rule providing that no one shall approach a putting-green on which there are players. To this objection there was added the contention that Strath's card had not been accurately kept by the marker one of those who had been specially provided. While these points were being deliberated upon by a committee of the Royal and Ancient Club, the result was left in doubt for some time. It was not, indeed, till about seven o'clock that it was officially stated that the tie would be played off to-day (Monday) under protest."

I have no record of the playing of the tie, but Martin must have won, as in the Golf Year-books he appears as champion.

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