Thomas Mitchell Morris was one of golf’s founding fathers, a legend of the game and still the oldest winner of the Open Championship.
Born in St Andrews in 1821, he was already proficient by the age of 10, knocking wine-bottle corks pierced with nails around the streets with a homemade club. He then began caddying and playing under the watchful eye of the world’s top player, Allan Robertson.
By the time he was in his early 20s, Tom was second only to his mentor, before emerging from his shadow to become a renowned greenkeeper, club and ball maker, instructor and course designer, as well as playing peerless match and tournament golf.
Fiercely competitive and blessed with a slow, smooth swing, his only flaw was a curious difficulty with short putts. But it didn’t seem to hold him back as, having come second in the first Open Championship in 1860, he claimed the title the following year and followed it up with further victories in 1862 and 1864.
His fourth and final Open title came in 1867, when he was aged 46 years and 99 days.
He also held the record for the largest margin of victory in a major championship – 14 strokes in the 1862 Open Championship – until Tiger Woods went one better in 2000. And Tom became only the second player to break 80 over the Old Course at St Andrews, scoring 79.
‘Old’ Tom had a hand in the design of 75 courses – including Prestwick, Royal Dornoch, Muirfield and Carnoustie – and fathered a son, ‘Young’ Tom, who remains the youngest winner of a major championship after his first of four consecutive Open victories aged 17 in 1868.
Old Tom kept working as a greenkeeper and shop owner until his death in 1908 when, shortly before his 87th birthday, he fell down a flight of stairs in the clubhouse at St Andrews.
Honour your hero