As the son of a golfing legend, Thomas Morris Jnr had a hard act to follow – but grew from a talented young prodigy to become a true giant of the game.
Tutored by his doting father, ‘Old’ Tom Morris, ‘Young’ Tom grew up surrounded by golf and started to compete as a professional during his teens.
Blessed with a sturdy, wiry build and extremely strong wrists, the youngster beat his father – the Open champion – for the first time aged 13 in a friendly game at St Andrews in 1864.
This prodigious talent saw him win the Open Championship himself in 1868 at the tender age of 17 – he remains the youngest major champion in golf history.
Further Open success followed in 1869, during which he achieved the tournament's first hole-in-one by acing the 166-yard 8th hole. When he won the tournament again in 1870, he was allowed to keep the Championship belt.
His winning streak would no doubt have continued had the golfing authorities not cancelled the 1871 tournament, deciding instead to rotate subsequent tournaments yearly between three courses, awarding a Claret Jug as the new prize.
However, the change of venue did not affect ‘Young’ Tom and he continued his monopoly of the tournament by winning The Open again in 1872. No one has repeated this feat of four straight Open Championships.
The young golfer’s amazing talent brought him great fame and he drew huge crowds as he toured Scotland and England playing exhibitions. Such was the interest in his skills that major London newspapers and magazines sent special correspondents to Scotland to cover his challenge matches in the 1870s.
However, tragedy struck when his young wife died in childbirth, along with their newborn baby, in September 1875. Young Tom never recovered from the shock and died on Christmas Day the same year aged just 24.
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