Player Feature
JH Taylor
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The first Champion Golfer at Royal St George's
JH Taylor

The Open returns to Royal St George’s next year for the first time since 2011, 126 years after the great John Henry Taylor lifted the Claret Jug in Sandwich.

Taylor won by five strokes, beating Scotland’s Douglas Rolland to win the £30 top prize in the first ever Open to be held outside of Scotland.

The win came during an extraordinary run between 1893 and 1909 in which he never finished outside the top ten at an Open and he made it consecutive triumphs in 1895 when he beat Sandy Herd by four shots.

In a spectacular career, Taylor would go on to win golf's oldest major on another three occasions, in 1900, 1909 and 1913, with the 19-year gap between his first and final Open wins still standing as a tournament record.

The extraordinary links master would also claim a remarkable fourth in 1926 at the ripe old age of 56 and his six runners-up finishes is second only to Jack Nicklaus’ tally of seven.

It is fair to say Taylor knew all there is to know about winning an Open, and he sits among fellow legends of the game in joint-second place for most victories at the Championship alongside James Braid, Peter Thomson and Tom Watson.

Humble beginnings

Taylor was born on March 19, 1871 in Northam, Devon in to a working-class family but was sadly orphaned as a child.

His first involvement in golf came aged 11 when he was a caddie at Royal North Devon Golf Club before he was hired to become caddie and houseboy for Horace Hutchinson, who went on to win back-to-back British Amateur Championships.

He turned professional in 1890, aged 19, and did not take long to start breaking new ground for himself.

His first victory at The Open came in 1894 at Royal St George’s, where he beat Rolland by five strokes.

And he followed it up with another win at St Andrew’s in 1895 to become Champion Golfer of the Year for a second time in a row when he saw off Herd.

Master of the links

Harry Vardon emerged to claim three of the next four Claret Jugs but Taylor was always in the mix and from 1893 through 1909, her never finished outside the top 10 in an Open.

There were still three more victories for Taylor to claim too with his last win coming in 1913, 19 years after his first - that gap between his first and final Open victories still a record to this day.

Taylor continued to compete at the Championship well into his 50s and in 1924, he managed a fourth-place finish before competing in his final Open in 1926, aged 55.

In 1933 he was named captain of the Ryder Cup team that beat the United States, and with his playing days behind him he remains the only captain to serve without playing in the competition himself.

Beyond playing

Taylor had a keen interest in designing courses as well as playing on them and is credited with contributing to courses across England including York Golf Club and Pinner Hill.

But perhaps his biggest success is Royal Birkdale, the Southport-based links which has played host to The Open on ten occasions.

The current routing at Royal Birkdale, which last hosted The Open in 2017, is still considered to be in the mould of Taylor’s design.

The PGA

Taylor lived and breathed the game of golf and off the course he sought ways to make it better.

He was an integral part of the establishment of the Professional Golfers Association in 1901 and, along with his fellow professionals, took part in the first ever competition organised by the PGA at The Tooting Bec Golf Club on October 15, 1901 during which Taylor was the first ever chairman to be appointed.

He was later appointed an honorary member of the R&A in 1949. He died, aged 91, in 1963.