First Open victory for Harry Vardon
Harry Vardon was just eight years old when a rudimentary golf course was opened on common land in his home town of Grouville on the island of Jersey in 1878. He took easily to the game, together with other local lads, using improvised clubs and large marbles. It was to be 18 years before he captured his first Open title and a further 18 before he completed a record of six Open victories in 1914, an achievement unbeaten today.
His first triumph came at Muirfield in 1896, over a course much changed after severe criticism following its Open baptism four years earlier. More than 600 yards had been added to the length and it was rated four shots more difficult when Vardon stopped a possible hat-trick of Open victories by J.H. Taylor, who had won at Royal St George’s and St Andrews in the two previous years.
Vardon came to the 72nd hole needing four to win, but he played safely to avoid the punitive bunkers around the final green and settled for a five and a tie with Taylor on 316. In the 36-hole decider, as it was then known, he was comfortably ahead as the pair reached the last hole and Taylor gambled everything in going for a birdie. But he fell victim to the greenside bunker and finished with a six, allowing Vardon a four stroke margin of victory.