Harold Hilton, born in West Kirby, close to Hoylake, was not even the best player at his club, Royal Liverpool – John Ball was the first amateur to win The Open in 1890 and won eight Amateur Championships
Hilton won the Amateur only four times but he did one better than Ball at The Open, winning in both 1892 and 1897. He was not sure about entering the 1892 Open at Muirfield and only got the train up from the Wirral the day before.
It was Muirfield’s first 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 Hugh Kirkaldy and Sandy Herd.
Five years later Hoylake hosted its first Open and appropriate a club member won. Hilton again trailed going into the final round but after posting a 75 he played billiards in the clubhouse waiting to see if James Braid could beat him.
Braid almost holed his second at the last but two-putted to lose by one. No British amateur has won The Open since. Hilton was a small man who would jump onto his toes and throw himself at the ball “with almost frenetic abandon,” Bernard Darwin wrote.
Often his cap would be dislodged in the process, though the ever-present cigarette remained in place. He was a great striker of long approach shots with wooden clubs and had marvellous touch around the greens.
He won the first two of his Amateur titles back-to-back in 1900 and 1901 and in 1911, at the age of 42 and having already won the British Amateur for a third time, he won the US Amateur at Apawamis. He was the founding editor of Golf Monthly and later edited Golf Illustrated.