Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Tom Morris Golf Shop Reopens in St Andrews

The oldest golf shop in the world reopened last Friday22nd of April at the birthplace of the game in St Andrews, Scotland and features a display of some original pieces of furniture which belonged to Tom Morris.

The Tom Morris Golf Shop was opened in St Andrews in 1866 by the four-time Open champion who is widely regarded as the father of the modern game. His ball and clubmaking business was originally founded in 1848.

Tom Morris Ltd was acquired last year by St Andrews Links Trust, which manages the seven public courses at the Home of Golf. The shop was closed over the winter for renovation and reopened yesterday with a completely new look and feel. It will stock apparel and merchandise bearing an updated Tom Morris crest from the 1880s and the sign on the front of the building will once again be styled with the name ‘T. Morris’ as it was in his time.

Several artefacts belonging to Morris himself were discovered during the renovation including his original workbench in the shop window where he made golf clubs and balls, the fireplace where he heated and shaped gutta percha balls and what is believed to be his locker where he stored his clubs.

These items form part of a display area in the shop celebrating the achievements of Morris as a golf champion, a pioneering greenkeeper and course architect, a club and ball maker, a family man and a businessman.

Morris was a hugely influential figure in the development of golf, The Open Championship and the Old Course and St Andrews Links in particular. Morris’ high profile series of money matches against Willie Park in the 1860s to 1880s brought the game, through national newspaper coverage, to a wider audience and helped to establish golf as a popular sport. He was employed by The Royal and Ancient as Keeper of the Green in St Andrews for nearly forty years and made many improvements to the Old Course. These included building the 1st and 18th greens, enlarging many to the famed double greens and clearing gorse which made the current anti-clockwise routing used today possible. He also laid out the New Course which opened in 1895. He was the first to begin applying sand to the Old Course which is now a technique accepted as commonplace among greenkeepers around the world. Morris was also involved in creating the original layouts of some of Britain’s most famous courses including Carnoustie, Prestwick, Muirfield and Royal North Devon (Westward Ho!).

His son Tommy became the youngest Open champion in 1868 at the age of 17, beating his father into second place, the only time this has happened in the 150-year history of the championship and a feat unlikely to be repeated. Tommy won The Open three consecutive times and then again in 1872. He died tragically at the age of 24.

Euan Loudon, chief executive of St Andrews Links Trust, said, “This is another chapter in the long and proud history of the Tom Morris name in St Andrews and his close association with the Old Course and St Andrews Links. When the previous owners approached us regarding the business we felt it was very important that Tom’s rich heritage was preserved and that ownership remained in St Andrews. That has been achieved and I think the new shop will be a fitting celebration of his remarkable career and achievements.”

Peter Crabtree, the co-author with David Malcolm of ‘Tom Morris of St Andrews, The Colossus of Golf, 1821-1908’, published in 2008, said, “There is no doubt that Tom Morris was the central figure in the greatest period of the development of golf in the mid to late 19th Century. His achievements as a golfer and as the man who shaped and transformed the Links of St Andrews were extraordinary. He was a skilled ball and clubmaker and developed a thriving business in his workshop overlooking the 18th green that he created. It is a testimony to the man that his business has survived to this day and will continue to prosper in years to come.”

Sheila Walker, a direct descendant of Tom Morris who still lives above the shop, added, “Our family has always been tremendously proud of Tom’s life and work. He dedicated himself to his family and to golf and his legacy is all around us here in St Andrews and, indeed, wherever golf is played. His workshop and business were extremely important to him and it is exciting to see some of his furniture being preserved and put on display in the shop. This will help to ensure that future generations continue to revere Tom Morris and his contribution to golf.”

A new website has been created about the Tom Morris Golf Shop at www.tommorris.com.

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