Who Is the Founder of Modern Golf?
As far as modern golf is concerned, nobody compares to Tom Morris Senior. Tom came up with the ideas and changes that make up modern golf in St. Andrews, Scotland, where it was first played. Hence, he’s regarded as the father of modern golf.
As PrimePutt golf enthusiasts, we'll reflect on the life of the legendary golfer from back in his heyday. Here's what we will discuss:
- Who is Tom Morris?
- Tom Morris Early Career and Rise to Fame
- Tom Morris Later Career and Transition to Businessman
- What Can We Learn from Tom Morris's Achievements?
Who is Tom Morris?
Tom Morris Sr. was born June 16, 1821, in St. Andrews, Scotland. He's known as "Old Tom Morris," "Old Tom," or "the grand old man of golf" for his role in golf's history.
During his lifetime, Morris was a champion golfer, ballmaker, clubmaker, greenkeeper, and golf course designer. Young Tom, his son, was one of the most successful 19th-century golfers and the youngest British champion to win an Open Championship at Prestwick in 1868.
Tom Morris dedicated his life to his love of golf, eventually standardizing the rules and equipment. He popularized many modern golf practices, including using gutta balls instead of wooden golf balls and metal cleats in shoes for stability.
Old Tom also designed the courses at North Berwick, Royal Liverpool Golf Club (Royal Birkdale), Prestwick, and Royal Troon (Old Course).
Tom Morris Early Career and Rise to Fame
Tom Morris attended Madras College in St. Andrews, Fife. He started playing golf with other kids at age 10, using homemade equipment.
Following an early career caddying and playing golf, Tom was hired by Allan Robertson, the world’s first professional golfer, at 14. He then joined the St. Andrews Golf Club at an early age with the help of his boss.
Both men formed a formidable team, remaining unbeaten in all their matches. They are dubbed “The Invincibles” of the 1840s.
Old Tom's golfing prowess at age 20 was second only to that of his boss, Allan Robertson. Sadly, the successful partnership between Allan Robertson and Tom Morris at St. Andrews ended when Allan Robertson fired Tom for business reasons.
Following his time at St. Andrews, Tom Morris found work at Prestwick Golf Club. At Prestwick, Old Tom designed golf courses and manufactured golfing equipment. In 1860, Morris and James Failery established The Open Championship at Prestwick Golf Club, where he struck the first shot and was the runner-up.
The Royal and Ancient Golf community invited Tom back to St. Andrews in 1864. After seeing how rundown St. Andrews was, he set to work on fixing it. Old Tom improved the St. Andrews greens and fairways and added two additional greens. He also switched to a feathered ball.
After several victories at St. Andrews, Tom Morris retired in 1903.
Tom Morris: Later Career and Transition to Businessman
Morris's time at St. Andrews, when he helped Allan Robertson lay out a new course (Carnoustines) in 1842, was a pivotal moment in his development as a businessman.
Old Tom created more than a hundred golf courses for various golf clubs. Some famous courses he designed include Prestwick, Westward Ho, and Balcomie. In 1905, he showed off his last masterpiece, the Glasgow Golf Club Course.
On his return to St. Andrews, Morris pioneered new approaches to maintaining the greens and fairways as a golf course keeper. This earned him a reputation as the pioneer greenskeeper.
The Old Tom Morris management approach focuses on hazard assessment and mitigation. In 1895, Old Tom was a pioneer in the design of a new course at St. Andrews, and the Jubilee golf course opened the following year.
Highlights of Achievements
With all his achievements, Tom Morris proves that he was an accomplished golfer, a capable manager and instructor, a prosperous businessman, and a great father.
- Tom Morris was a man of many talents: a greenkeeper, course designer, clubmaker, golf maker, and golf instructor, in addition to his fame as a professional golfer.
- Tom competed in and won four Open Championships between 1861 and 1867, becoming the oldest winner of an Open Championship. When the first Open Championship was held in 1860, Old Tom finished as runner-up.
- Old Tom's son, Young Tom Morris, is golf's most accomplished player. At the tender age of three, Old Tom taught his son, Tommy, the basics of golf.
- Young Tom Morris won a friendly duel against his father when he was only 13 years old. After being rejected a year earlier, at age 14, Young Tom Morris made his debut as an open champion. He won four Open Championships consecutively (between 1968 to 1972), among other competitive highlights.
- Before Young Tom Morris's demise in 1875 at age 21, he and his father, formed a formidable partnership that recorded a string of successes at the Open Championship.
The Grand Old Man Of Golf’s Legacy Lives On
In 1905, Old Tom Morris died at 86 on Christmas day, but he forever immortalized the Morris family in golf. His layout, technique, and play style helped modernize the game.
Tom Morris greatly influenced golf's growth and acceptance. The father-and-son golf team's success was commemorated in many books. Tommy’s Honour, a 2016 film about the Morris family's bravery, was also released.
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