Old Tom Morris got his revenge on Willie Park from the previous year and won The Open for the first of four times at Prestwick in 1861.
This time it was was an “open” tournament with eight amateurs boosting the field. Colonial James Fairlie, who helped to organise the event, ended as the best of them.
But the theory that the gentlemen were a match for the professionals was scotched as Fairlie finished 21 strokes behind the winner. Similarly adrift from the sharp end of The Championship were Willie and Jamie Dunn, Scots who had made the two-day trip back from their post at Blackheath to take part for the first time.
Both Morris, the greenkeeper at Prestwick, and Musselburgh’s Park opened with scores of 54 on the 12-hole course. Park then went two ahead with another 54 in the second round. But his lead did not last long.
At the 2nd hole in the final round, Park’s ambitious attempt to carry the ‘Alps’ in two landed him in a hazard and cost him three strokes.
Playing the same hole more conservatively, Morris forged ahead by a stroke and went two ahead at the fourth. But he gave strokes back at the fifth and sixth holes but, from the eighth, Morris gained a stroke a hole through to the 11th, where he had a 2.
Park had finished with a 59 but there was drama at the last when Morris’ tee shot landed in long grass by a pool of water which had accumulated in the recent heavy rain.
Many expected Morris to take a penalty drop, but he elected to play the very difficult shot and succeeded.
He was home in 53 and his total of 163 was not only four strokes better than Park, but 11 strokes lower than Park’s winning score the previous year.