Old Tom Morris (Tom Mitchell Morris Sr.) (16 June 1821 – 24 May 1908)
1889 – Royal County Down Golf Club (“RCDGC”) – 16-17 July 1889 Exhibition Match against Alec Day, the Belfast professional. Old Tom scored an easy victory over his younger opponent.
The RCDGC commissioned Old Tom Morris to travel over from St. Andrews “for a sum not to exceed £4” to inspect what existed and advise on a second nine. Tom Morris had suggested that the course had the potential to be of the best in the Kingdom. The outcome of this munificence was that Old Tom spent two days at Royal County Down in July 1889; three new holes were added immediately and a further six between the autumn of 1889 and the spring of 1890. The fact that the full course was ready for play in July 1890 is proof that golf course design in those days was most unlike the modern methodology and that, like most great links courses, Royal County Down was created from the wonderful natural dune-land which was already there, without the need to indulge in any major earth-moving.
1889 – Royal Portrush Golf Club – 25-26 July 2014 Exhibition Match against Alec Day, the Belfast professional. Well over 100 spectators turned out the see the match. Day was to prove too consistent against his sixty-eight year old opponent and eventually won the match by three and one. Old Tom was advising the County Club on the layout of the course and he took a steamer from Portrush back to Scotland.
1891 – as a guest of Lord Leitrim at his nearby estate…
Old Tom Morris of St. Andrews, a winner of four British Opens in the 1860’s, took a drive to enjoy the Donegal scenery. Morris was quick to see the golfing potential of this fine stretch of Donegal coast line and before returning to the home of golf he had staked-out the first Rosapenna Links, incorporating wide rolling fairways amidst the undulating terrain and of course those delightful greens.
Back at St. Andrews, Old Tom was quick to tell of his discovery and, so it was, that Rosapenna became a place of pilgrimage for golfers at the turn of the century. Amongst those to follow were two other great golfing champions Harry Vardon and James Braid who won 11 British Open titles between them. They added length and more detailed bunkering but were wise enough to leave those wonderful natural greens.
1894 – In June 1894 Old Tom Morris visited Dollymount. Petrie teamed up with Anthony Brown, the local professional, to play against Thomas Gilroy and Old Tom Morris but the honours were shared as Old Tom’s approaches to the green in the back nine helped the Morris/Gilroy partnership get back on level terms. In the book, The Life of Tom Morris, the following day (Thursday) a return match was played, which ended in a win for the captain (Gilroy) and the visitor by 1 hole. “Is there need to add,” says a report, “that all the members of the Club gave a hearty welcome to the grand old champion, that we look forward to another visit from him soon, and that he departed with good wishes for his success at Sandwich during the Championship Meeting?”. It had been proposed by Mr Petrie that Old Tom Morris be engaged to lay out the course at Dollymount but in the end it was John Lumsden who took on task.
Playing on the evening of his arrival at Dollymount, with Brown, the professional, Tom went round in 88 —an excellent score, and one that, with knowledge of the links, might easily have been under 80. On Wednesday the veteran golfer and Mr Gilroy (the captain of the club) played Brown and Mr Petrie. The match was halved; and on Thursday a return match was played, which ended in a win for the captain and the visitor by I hole. ” Is there need to add,” says a report, “that all the members of the Club gave a hearty welcome to the grand old champion, that we look forward to another visit from him soon, and that he departed with good wishes for his success at Sandwich during the Championship Meeting?
1894 – Old Tom was greeted by a “brisk and hale, from Lahinch, in the county of Clare (where he had just laid out a capital links of 18 holes), and from Killarney Lakes.” Alexander Shaw had, at his own expense, invited Old Tom to look over Lahinch to suggest improvements. James McKenna was the professional at Lahinch and it was likely his graft that brought Morris’s suggestions to fruition. Lahinch has been referred to as the St. Andrew’s of Ireland whether through it connection with Old Tom Morris or the love of golf within the community.
1903 – “In the autumn of 1903 Tom, feeling the infirmities of age, and thinking that a younger man would be able to give a greater amount of strength and energy to the task, gave up the custodianship of the links (St. Andrews) for which he had so long cared. According to Golf Illustrated it was “an event which may be said to mark the close of an epoch in the history of golf.” The Club arranged that his salary should be continued. His successor was appointed at the October meeting. The choice of the club fell on Hugh Hamilton, late of North Berwick, and at the date of his appointment green-keeper at Portmarnock, Ireland.”
W. W. Tulloch: The Life of Tom Morris With Glimpses of St Andrew’s and its Golfing Celebrities
Harry McCaw and Brum Henderson: Royal County Down Golf Club – The First Century
Enda Glynn: A Century of Golf at Lahinch 1892 – 1992
Pat Ruddy: Beyond His Lordship’s Wildest Dream – Rosapenna