Book Review: St. Andrews & The Open Championship: The Official History

by Roy M. Barineau, Ph. D. on December 25, 2011

Roybob’s Book on Golf: The Hucks, A Golfer’s Divine Comedy, and a Religious Philosophy of Golf

Book Review: St. Andrews & The Open Championship: The Official History

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David Joy with Photography by Ian Macfarlane Lowe, St. Andrews & The Open Championship: The Official History, St Andrews, Scotland, St. Andrews, Press, 2000.

Ken Ellis organized a four-man golf trip to Scotland in 2002, and I was fortunate enough to be invited to join him, Nick, and Jerry. Ken died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), at the age of sixty-six, just this past October (2011). Ken was a good man and a fellow lover of the game. We miss him, but we do have great memories that enable him to live on with us.

One of the many treats of my trip to Scotland in 2002 was to have dinner with Ian Macfarlane Lowe, this book’s photographer. Ken knew Mr. Lowe from his many trips to St. Andrews. We enjoyed the company of Mr. Lowe and his wife, and Mr. Lowe was generous enough to give us autographed and signed copies of this book.

As the title suggests, the book covers the Open Championship as it has been played at St. Andrews, going back to 1873, when “The Challenge Trophy” was won by Tom Kidd. There are plenty of lavish photographs, wonderful side notes, scorecards, newspaper clippings, et cetera; and, as one can imagine, there are plenty of notable stories as well.

One of the most moving stories concerns the Old and Young Tom Morrises. Each of the Morrises won the Open four times for a total of eight Open Championships in the family. All their wins, though, occurred before the Open came to St. Andrews, their home course, from the Prestwick Golf Club, in 1873.  When Young Tom won his first Open Championship in 1868, Old Tom finished second.  Old Tom is still the oldest winner of the Open Championship, at the age of forty-six, in 1867, and Young Tom is still the youngest to win, at the age of seventeen, in 1868.

In September of 1875, Young and Old Tom were playing a match at North Berwick in Scotland. Young Tom’s expectant wife, Margaret, was at the couple’s home in St. Andrews, waiting to give birth. The Morrises won their match against Willie and Mungo Parks. Near the end of the match, the Morrises were met with a telegram stating that Tommy should make his way “post haste” to St. Andrews because his wife was struggling with child. The journey by train would have been long and tedious, so one of the sponsors of the golf match loaned the Morrises his boat and crew to take them straight across the Firth of Forth to St. Andrews. Just after they left, another telegram arrived indicating that both mother and child, a son, had died. The Morrises did not learn of this until they arrived home at St. Andrews. Young Tom was inconsolable from then until his death sometime the following Christmas morning. Old Tom said,

I heard him get up on Christmas morning – when he wasn’t coming down I went to see, and there he was lying as peaceful as I’d seen him since Margaret had died.

He was dead. Because of the suddenness of it, they did an autopsy at the cottage hospital. They said he had burst an artery in his lung. People say he died of a broken heart – but if that could really happen, then I wouldn’t be here either! (p. 37)

If you want to read about the history of the Open Championship at St. Andrews, then St. Andrews & The Open Championship: The Official History is the book.  I am awarding it a full sleeve of balls.

Roybob’s Book on Golf: The Hucks, A Golfer’s Divine Comedy, and a Religious Philosophy of Golf

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