From bounding Billies to a bounder called Maurice

A quirky history

David Randall
Monday 03 March 2014 05:58

1860: The Championship, now famed for climaxing on a Sunday in July and being open to all comers, starts its life on a Wednesday in October with amateurs excluded. They are allowed in next year. One man takes 21 on one hole.

1872: At 21, "Young" Tom Morris wins fourth consecutive Open, a feat which has never been equalled. Three years later his father finds him dead in bed on Christmas morning at 24, his health broken by his wife's death in childbirth a few months before.

1878: Jamie Anderson holes in one at 17th in final round, and wins by a shot. A year later he wins third consecutive title. Drink, however, claims him, and the triple champion dies a pauper in a Poor House in Perth in 1905.

1886: David Brown, a slater, is one of only two artisans to win the title. This may be because he was used to working out of doors in the cold, for the event was staged on 8 November.

1893: Willie Auchterlonie wins the second 72-hole Championship at 21, using a set of seven clubs he made himself.

1896: Four-times champion "Old" Tom Morris dies at St Andrews after falling down the clubhouse stairs.

1898: Harry Vardon wins title and signs contract with Spalding to lend his name to new ball, the Vardon Flyer, becoming first professional athlete in the world to receive money for endorsing a product.

1902: Alex Herd is first winner to use the rubber-cored ball, invented in 1898. He used the same ball for all 72 holes. So great is demand on the final day for the new "bounding Billies", as they are called, that single balls are trading at anything up to £10.

1906: R Johnstone of North Berwick competes at Muirfield using a single club – one with an adjustable head. With it, he holes in one at the 14th.

1920: George Duncan, driving terribly as he opens with a pair of 80s, wanders into exhibition tent, sees a driver, buys it, and proceeds to finish 71, 72 to make up 13 shots and win – the best ever recovery.

1921: British amateur Roger Wethered, walking backwards after studying his second shot to the 14th at St Andrews, treads on ball. This costs him a penalty shot, and the Championship, for Jock Hutchinson ties him and wins play-off. Bobby Jones tears up card in frustration on 11th in third round.

1922: Long-driving event staged before the Championship. In its five years, the longest is 290 yards, by amateur Cyril Tolley. Walter Hagen is first American winner. Banned from clubhouse along with all professionals, he hires an Austin-Daimler limousine, parks it in front of the clubhouse and changes in it.

1929: Hagen wins fourth title and gives winner's cheque to his caddie, Ernest Hargreaves. All £100 of it.

1931: The first, and so far only, one-eyed champion as Tommy Armour, wounded while grappling with Germans in the Great War, wins at Carnoustie.

1934: Winner Henry Cotton's second round 65 is only round of golf ever to be immortalised in name of a ball: the Dunlop 65. He also wins £10 off Fred Perry, having bet him that he would win Open before Perry won Wimbledon. Perry wins seven days later.

1935: Scottish professional starts first round at Muirfield 7, 10, 5, 10 and takes 65 to reach the turn. He then has another 10 at the 11th and, after unsuccessfully taking four shots to try to exit a bunker at the 12th, gives up.

1938: Gales – flags rent, exhibition tent goes down with all hands, and sporting goods scattered for miles. Last time that Britons occupy first three places.

1949: American C Rotar becomes only player to be disqualified for using an illegal club – a putter whose socket is bent over the centre of the head. Harry Bradshaw of Ireland drives into rough at Sandwich and finds his ball beside broken beer bottle. Unwilling to risk disqualification by moving glass, he uses his wedge and moves ball 30 yards. The hole costs him a six and the title, for Bobby Locke ties him and wins play-off. Rules of Golf subsequently changed.

1950: German amateur Herman Tissies finally holes out for 15 at the 125-yard eighth at Troon, having visited all three greenside bunkers.

1962: Woman enters for first time, but the R&A refuse to let Mrs E Beck of Wentworth compete on the grounds that, "the inclusion of women had never been contemplated".

1965: Walter Daniecki, 43-year-old mail sorter from Milwaukee, poses as professional and records score of 81 over par for his two qualifying rounds. Afterwards he says he is glad he was using the smaller, British ball: "If I had been using the bigger ball I would have been all over the place."

1976: A 46-year-old crane driver from Barrow-in-Furness, Maurice Flitcroft, takes 121 strokes for first qualifying round. Hardly surprising, as it is his first full round of golf. He withdraws, saying: "I haven't reached my peak yet." Part of Royal Birkdale catches fire in driest summer of century.

1983: Swiss professional Gerald Hoppy takes five putts from eight feet in pre-qualifying round on way to outward 63. An R&A official then taps him on the shoulder and he withdraws. Hoppy is none other than Maurice Flitcroft.

1991: Ian Baker-Finch is first winner with double-barrelled name. Richard Boxall breaks leg while driving at third.

1996: Tom Lehman wins at Lytham, thus continuing domination by players with that christian name. Toms have won 17 Opens, Harrys eight, and there has only been one Dick – Burton in 1939.

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