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The 150th Open

Decades of The Open


The 1860s

Decades of The Open | The 1860s

Everything has led to this.

The 150th Open, at St Andrews in July 2022, promises to be a magical sporting occasion, as golf’s original Championship reaches a significant milestone.

Over the coming months, we will celebrate The Open’s rich history with a look back at every decade since the Championship was first played in 1860.

We begin by examining the first 10 editions of The Open, which were all played at Prestwick and dominated by three men.

For a long read on one of those three players, Old Tom Morris, click here.


Park makes lasting mark

The 1st Open was organised by the members of Prestwick Golf Club following the death of Allan Robertson the previous year.

Robertson was widely renowned as the finest player in Scotland and the new Championship was created to find his successor as the Champion Golfer.

Old Tom Morris, Robertson’s long-time partner in challenge matches and the keeper of the greens at Prestwick, was the favourite to claim the Challenge Belt.

However, Morris had to settle for second as Willie Park Snr of Musselburgh prevailed with a total of 174 for three 12-hole rounds.

Park would go on to win The Open again in 1863 and 1866, yet another name proved even more prolific during the decade.

The Claret Jug and Challenge Belt at Prestwick, the venue for The 1st Open

The Claret Jug and Challenge Belt at Prestwick, the venue for The 1st Open

Like father, like son

Old Tom may not have won The 1st Open, but the man who would become known as the 'Grand Old Man of Golf' would soon put together a phenomenal record in the Championship.

After taking the title from Park in 1861, Old Tom was at his brilliant best the following year as he stormed to victory by an astonishing 13 strokes – a record winning margin that he retains to this day.

A third success came his way in 1864 and he secured a fourth three years later at the age of 46, earning another place in the history books as The Open’s oldest Champion.

Remarkably, Old Tom’s final victory in The Open would be immediately followed by a stunning run of success from his son, Young Tom Morris, who claimed the final two Championships of the decade as a teenager.

Young Tom’s first victory came at the age of 17 years and 156 days, and he is still The Open’s youngest ever winner.


Strath’s sole triumph

The only Open of the decade not to be won by a man named Morris or Park took place in 1865, when Andrew Strath prevailed on home soil.

Strath had succeeded Old Tom as the greenkeeper at Prestwick when Morris returned to St Andrews. After finishing second to Old Tom in 1864, Strath went one better in The 6th Open, edging out Willie Park Snr by two strokes as the defending Champion dropped out of contention with a poor second round.

Tragically, Strath died at the age of 32 just three years after his success. His brother Davie almost won The Open at St Andrews in 1876, but he refused to participate in a play-off and Bob Martin was therefore declared the Champion Golfer.

Young Tom Morris

Young Tom Morris, the youngest ever Champion Golfer

The Champion Golfers of the 1860s

1860, Prestwick – Willie Park Snr

1861, Prestwick – Old Tom Morris

1862, Prestwick – Old Tom Morris

1863, Prestwick – Willie Park Snr

1864, Prestwick – Old Tom Morris

1865, Prestwick – Andrew Strath

1866, Prestwick – Willie Park Snr

1867, Prestwick – Old Tom Morris

1868, Prestwick – Young Tom Morris

1869, Prestwick – Young Tom Morris


Did You Know?

In addition to becoming the youngest Champion Golfer in 1868, Young Tom Morris claimed another slice of history at Prestwick the following year.

His hole-in-one at the eighth hole was the first in the Championship’s history and helped Young Tom to a second successive Open triumph.


Average age of Champion Golfers in the 1860s: 32


Nationalities of Champion Golfers in the 1860s: All Scottish

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