John Ball

John Ball JR was the first great amateur golfer. He was both the first Englishman and the first amateur to win The Open.
  • Ball finished fifth in The Open when he was aged 16

    Did you know?

  • 164

    Open winning total

  • He grew up playing golf as a youth at Royal Liverpool

    Fun fact

John Ball JR was the first great amateur golfer. He was both the first Englishman and the first amateur to win The Open at Prestwick in 1890.

The son of the manager of the Royal Hotel at Hoylake, he grew up playing on the links of Royal Liverpool. Aged 16 he finished joint fourth in The Open in 1878 and received ten shillings.

When Royal Liverpool instituted the first Amateur Championship in 1885, there was doubt whether their star player could compete but a statute of limitations was applied.

He would win the Amateur eight times between 1888 and 1912. In 1890 he won the title at Hoylake and then completed the double at Prestwick – only Bobby Jones in 1930 has repeated the feat of winning the Amateur and The Open in the same year.

Ball beat a strong field at Prestwick, winning by two three from former Champion Willie Fernie and Archie Simpson, with Willie Park Jnr, who had won two of the previous three Opens, and Andrew Kirkaldy in fourth place.

Two years later at Muirfield, Ball led going into the last round but was beaten by his fellow club member, Harold Hilton, the only other British amateur to win The Open. Ball possessed a remarkably beautiful swing and was able to regulate the height he hit the ball depending on the conditions.

He was such a good striker, and so accurate, that he regularly aiming directly at the target, rather than being happy to find the green. Hilton said of Ball that he was “looked upon as a phenomenon whose play could only be admired, not imitated”.

He spent three years fighting in the Boer War and aged 60 still reached the last 16 of the Amateur. He was made an honorary member of the R&A and retired to a farm in North Wales.

Venue
Finish
R1
R2
R3
R4
Total
Par
Royal St George's 1911
M/C
80
83
-
-
-
M/C
St Andrews 1910
19
79
75
78
82
314
-
Prestwick 1908
13
74
78
78
81
311
-
Royal Liverpool 1907
15
88
83
79
77
327
-
Muirfield 1906
35
80
82
77
82
321
-
Royal St George's 1904
18
83
78
79
78
318
-
Royal Liverpool 1902
15
79
79
84
81
323
-
Royal St George's 1899
25
81
82
90
86
339
-
Royal Liverpool 1897
17
78
81
88
87
334
-
St Andrews 1895
18
85
85
88
86
344
-
Royal St George's 1894
13
84
89
87
84
344
-
Prestwick 1893
8
83
79
84
86
332
-
Muirfield 1892
2
75
80
74
79
308
-
St Andrews 1891
12
94
83
-
-
177
M/C
Prestwick 1890
1
82
82
-
-
164
M/C
St Andrews 1885
47
-
-
-
-
-
M/C
Prestwick 1878
4
53
57
55
-
165
-

Latest on John Ball