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History of The Open

Amateur winners of The Open


An elite trio

Three-time Champion Golfer Bobby Jones

Since it was established in 1860, The Open has been almost entirely dominated by professional victors.

Only three amateur golfers have managed to upset the professional circuit and emerge victorious, although the feat has not been repeated for over 90 years.

The last non-professional to take The Open crown was Bobby Jones in 1930 and, as the sport continued to thrive in USA and Europe, professional golf boomed and produced a long historic line of Champion Golfers.

The professional circuit reached every corner of the globe, delivering England’s Sir Henry Cotton, South Africa’s Bobby Locke and Gary Player, Australia’s Peter Thomson, the USA’s Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, and Seve Ballesteros of Spain, who each won a minimum of three Opens apiece across their career.

However, in the first 70 years of the Championship, three amateurs showed it was possible to clinch the Open crown, starting with John Ball Jnr in 1890.


John Ball Jnr

Winning The Open was an undoubted highlight of Ball’s illustrious career, alongside the eight Amateur Championships he accrued between 1888 and 1912.

He was inducted posthumously into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1977 for becoming the first amateur and Englishman to win the Championship, and a blue plaque was fitted at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club in 2018 to commemorate his achievements.

John Ball Jnr, the first amateur to win The Open

John Ball Jnr, the first amateur to win The Open

During his youth, Ball frequently visited the Merseyside club to play golf and practice, as his father owned the Royal Hotel nearby in Hoylake.

Thanks to his regular attendance at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Ball made a fast start to his amateur career, finishing fifth in The Open when he was only 16 years old.

When he won The Open in 1890, Ball shrugged off stiff competition from Champion Golfers Willie Fernie and Willie Park Jnr to finish with a total of 164 and clinch the Claret Jug by three strokes.


Harold Hilton

Another of Royal Liverpool's most famous sons, Harold Hilton won The Open in 1892 and 1897 to become the second ever amateur Champion Golfer.

Incredibly, he almost never made the trip to Muirfield for The Open in 1892, only getting the train up from the Wirral the day before. It was Muirfield’s maiden Open and the first to be played over 72 holes and two days.

Ball was the leader after three rounds, but Hilton overtook him with a closing 74 to win by three from Ball, defending Champion Golfer Hugh Kirkaldy and Sandy Herd.

Five years later Royal Liverpool hosted its first Open and appropriately a club member won, with Hilton securing the Claret Jug for the second time, by a shot from James Braid.

A four-time winner of The Amateur Championship and one-time U.S. Amateur champion, Hilton had plenty of memories to fuel his golf writing career and he was also welcomed into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1978.

Harold Hilton, who won The Open in 1892 and 1897

Harold Hilton lifted the Claret Jug in 1892 and 1897

The non-professional was the co-author of The Royal and Ancient Game of Golf, which followed his autobiography My Golfing Reminiscences published in 1907.

Hilton also played a major role in the design of Ferndown Golf Club in Dorset, which later became a qualifying course for The Open.


Bobby Jones

The only American amateur to win The Open, Jones ended his career as the most decorated non-professional of all-time, winning three Opens (1926, 1927, 1930) and four U.S. Opens (1923, 1926, 1929, 1930) amongst a host of amateur prizes.

The Atlanta-born golfer clinched a famous Grand Slam in 1930, winning all four of the major golf championships that existed at the time - The Open, The Amateur Championship, the US Open and the US Amateur Championship.

Following his retirement in 1930, Jones founded both the Augusta National Golf Club and the inaugural Masters tournament, staged for the first time in 1934.

He sits alongside Ball Jnr and Hilton in the World Golf Hall of Fame following his induction in 1974 and also holds a spot in the Georgia Tech Engineering Hall of Fame thanks to his on and off course achievements.

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