Old Tom

When golf first made its appearance in America, in the Early Ninety’s, we pioneers in this country spoke almost in muted tones of reverence when the name of Old Tom Morris, of St. Andrews, Scotland, was mentioned.  To us he was nothing less than the patron saint of golf.  As a matter of fact Old Tom was so regarded in the old country.  Consequently when I soon after came in contact with him, face to face in his wee shop, just off the home green in the City, Auld and Gray, I really felt that I was standing in the presence of the high priest in the Holy of Holies.  This was about 1896 and I had not been so long in the game.  Here was a man, in his eighty’s who for a generation had been held in veneration throughout Golfdom.  At that time I made the photograph of him, standing by the door of his clubshop, and it appears on this page.  The original negative was slightly broken when my belongings were moved to California from the East but fortunately its damage was confined to the edges and that very capable master photographer, David Scot Chisholm, with rare skill, completely restored it and has made some magnificent enlargements for framing.  One of these would make a particularly appropriate addition to the walls of any clubhouse or golfer’s den and I suggest that you get in touch with “Scotty,” care of this office, (or e-mail Bob Trebus at trebus@optonline.net) if you would like to have one.  As they say over the Radio, --”Do it today.”

Tom had in his shop a grand clubmaker by the name of Davie Walker.  Oh! but he was a rare one in fashioning the Beach heads and the Hickory shafts of that day.  It so happened that I had broken my favorite Bulger Face driver and I was desperately anxious to have it copied.  In addition to the ten shillings ($2.50) that was the price of the best hand made club (Just imagine that!), most ill-advisedly I had promised Davie an unbroken bottle of Scotch whisky, which could be procured without any difficulty whatever from the nearby “Pub” --that is, provided you had the necessary four shillings, which I had at the time.  The club was gloriously finished, Davie got his Scotch and immediately proceeded to get plastered -- to such an extent that he was A.W.O.L for two days.  When Old Tom found out that it was I, who had contributed to Davie’s delinquency, he was grieved -- so sore as a matter of fact that he refused to speak to me until I returned to St. Andrews the next year, when apparently the incident had been wiped from mind.  We even had several together “oor ainsel’s”  (Chisholm please note the pure dialect.)

While Old Tom had won the British Open title in his own right, years before, he regarded his chief claim to distinction to the fact that he was the father of Young Tommy (who had won the title easily, four times, before he died in his twenty-fifth year on Christmas day, 1875.  He grieved to death over the untimely passing of his young wife.  “She was a bonnie lassie,” Old Tom told me.  I got to know the old man very well indeed in succeeding years, and I spent many happy hours with him in his little sitting-room over his shop.  It was there that I handled the Champion’s Belt won by his son, as Old Tom got it out reverently and his eyes filled with tears as he told me many things about his boy.

Young Tom