16th June 1821

Muirfield golf course designer Old Tom Morris is born

Thomas Mitchell Morris was born in St Andrews in 1821 and won the Golf Open Championship in 1861, 1862, 1864 and 1867. This is perhaps not surprising. Not only had he been born in a town now inextricably linked with the sport: he had also been playing a variation of the game since childhood. He demonstrated such skill in the game that from his mid-teens onwards he was apprenticed by, and often played alongside, Allan Robertson, who was considered the best player of his age.

Old Tom Morris's house in St Andrews
Old Tom Morris’s house in St Andrews

Dispute over balls

The two fell out when Robertson caught Morris playing with an innovative golf ball that threatened to usurp the type of ball produced by Robertson himself as the official ball of golf. The guttie, as the innovative ball was known, did indeed win out, and is used to this day.

Morris therefore moved from the course at St Andrews to Prestwick, were he designed and maintained the club’s new course and, in 1860, founded The Open Championship. By 1865, he was back at St Andrews, where he instituted a thorough revamp. He spent almost the next 40 years maintaining the course while simultaneously designing courses at several other locations around the British Isles.

He died, aged 87, after falling down some stairs, and is buried at St Andrew’s Cathedral.

Old Tom Morris

Thomas Mitchell Morris was better known as Old Tom Morris, which distinguished him from his son, Young Tom Morris – Thomas – who was born in 1851 and won the Open Championship four times before the age of 21. His first win was when he was aged just 17.

Young Tom Morris died a young man, having been widowed when his wife died when giving birth to his stillborn son. Four months later, on Christmas Day 1875, Young Tom Morris died of a pulmonary haemorrhage.

Unexpected death

The Dundee Courier and Argus of 27 December 1875 reported that “it appears that he had gone to his bed the previous night in his usual health about eleven o’clock and had exhibited no symptom of illness. He not rising at his usual time, the servant was sent to call him. She observed that something was wrong, and having called his father, it was found that life was extinct. The medical gentleman who examined the body stated that death had resulted from the bursting of a blood-vessel in the right lung… much sympathy is felt for his sorrowing parents.”

Old Tom Morris's grave and memorial at St Andrew's Cathedral
Old Tom Morris’s grave and memorial at St Andrew’s Cathedral



Other events that occured in June

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