The Father of Golf – The Story Behind Old Man Tom Morris

When most golfers think of the home of golf, St. Andrews is pretty much the first track that comes to mind.
But if St. Andrews is the home of golf, who is the father of golf? 
Is it Jack Nicklaus? Tiger Woods? Arnold Palmer?
Or someone else…
Surprisingly enough, it’s not actually any of these legends but instead, Old Man Tom Morris. Not to be confused with Young Tom Morris, his son, who was also a legendary Scottish professional golfer.
In his life, he made a tremendous impact on the game and is still known as the Father of Golf today. Keep reading to learn more about this legend of the game and why he is loved by golfers worldwide.

Who is Tom Morris?

It’s only right that the father of golf was born at the home of golf, St. Andrews. From an early age, Tom was obsessed with the sport, even though it was relatively new at the time.
By the time he was 14 years old, he was caddying and became an apprentice for Allan Robertson. If this name isn’t familiar, it should be, as he is known as the first professional golfer ever!
The two men became great friends and played as a team in alternate shot formats, never losing when paired together. In fact, they were even nicknamed “The Invincibles.”
Sadly, the relationship ended on a sour note after Tom was fired by Allan for playing a different type of golf ball (Allan was the manufacturer of the main competition). After getting fired in 1851, he temporarily left St. Andrews and started a business at Prestwick Golf Club.

The Open Championship

After joining the Prestwick Golf Club, he helped start The Open Championship. In fact, he hit the very first shot ever in the now iconic event!
During the inaugural event, he went on to place second and won the following year in 1860. Maybe the craziest thing about Tom is that he only played with five clubs in the bag!
Yet, he continued to dominate the Open Championship and won three more times (1862, 1864, and 1867). What’s even more impressive is that he won his last Open at 46 years old. The same year, his son came in second place, making it an epic finish for the family.

Young Tom Morris

Speaking of his son, commonly referred to as “Young Tom Morris” was also an incredible golfer as well. By the time he was 13, he first beat his father for the first time, who was the Open champion.
Young Tom and his dad played tougher in challenge matches and found a ton of success as a team. During one match, Young Tom got a telegram to come home as his wife was having birth complications.
After winning their match, they came back but sadly, his wife and child had passed away unexpectedly. Unfortunately, young Tom Morris also died very young at only 24 years old in 1875.

Return to St. Andrews

After his success at the Open Championship, he was hired back to his home club, St. Andrews in 1864 as the course was in bad condition. He brought the course back to its glory with new greenskeeping techniques and became a major golf course architect. He came back to work there for 39 years as both a head professional and greenskeeper.
Eventually, he passed away just before he turned 87 after living a long and prosperous life. His grave is located close to his sons and is a must-see attraction for anyone who visits St. Andrews. Players from around the world love to pay their respects to this legend of the game.

Old Tom Morris – 10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know

Want to learn more about Old Tom Morris? 
Check out these 10 awesome facts about the life of this golf icon:
1. Tom started golfing at the age of 10 but not with traditional balls and clubs. Instead, he used wine bottle corks pierced with nails before working in the golf industry.
2. In 2017, a movie titled “Tommy’s Honour” was released based on the complex relationship between Old Man Tom and Young Tom Morris.
3. He played competitive golf until he was 74 years old (could you imagine if PGA Tour players did that in today’s world?)
4. Tom competed in 36 consecutive British Open championships.
5. Between him and his son, they have a combined eight Open championships.
6. Tom also designed golf clubs too. Not to mention built golf courses, worked as a head professional, and a world-class greenskeeper.
7. He also did redesigns of courses and worked on over 75 courses in his life. Some of his most significant redesign projects were Muirfield and Carnoustie Golf Links.
8. Tom served as a mentor to Donald Ross, the famous golf course architect who is responsible for Pinehurst No. 2.
9. He was just the second player ever to break 80 on the Old Course at St. Andrews.
10. Tom was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1976. His son was also awarded the prestigious honor as well.
Let’s never forget the Father of Golf and all that he did for the sport we love!
Written By Michael Leonard

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