The Journey Every True Golfer Should Take
In June of 2010 with my brother Ash, I took the journey that every true golfer should take – to St. Andrews, Scotland, “The Mecca of Golf”. With eleven “Open Championship” medals hanging on our family tree, making the trip had been on our “Bucket Lists” for years.
For us, it was very special. We went in search of our golfing ancestors and were not disappointed. We found references to them on street signs, on the 1914-1918 WWI Memorial and in the Cathedral Church yard. We found them on the “Old Course” where our Great Grand Uncle Jamie Anderson won the 1879 Open Championships. And also at the 4th hole, named the “Ginger Beer Hole” in honor of Great, Great Grandfather “Auld Daw” Anderson. And again at the 17th hole, where the famous D. Anderson and Sons Company, “Black Shed” once stood. The place where Great Grandfather David Anderson stored the persimmon, hickory and texa ash woods used in his company’s golf club production. We wanted to find 5 Ellice Place, the address where the Anderson clubs and golf balls had been produced but initially had little success. Then one evening while having dinner and drinks at the Greyfriars Hotel, our server pointed out the window at a building across the courtyard saying “That’s the building, that’s 5 Ellice Place”.
We walked the streets and found many of the homes where our families had lived. We visited the Cathedral Church yard and paid our respects at the grave sites of those members we were able to locate.
So here’s just a little about some of our famous ancestors.
Allan Robertson (1815-1859). Our 1st cousin 4x removed.
Golfers who have an interest in the history of the Royal and Ancient game will know the name Allan Robertson. He is reputedly one of the first, if not the very first golf professional. He was considered the premier ball maker of his time. A feathery golf ball with his stamp “Allan” is a very prizes collector’s item today.
His epitaph reads: “Allan Robertson – who died 1st Sept. 1859 aged 44 years old. He was greatly esteemed for his personal worth and for many years was esteemed as the champion golfer of Scotland.”
The “Open Championship”
This tournament in golf came about as a result of Robertson’s death. Because he was recognized as the best player during much of his lifetime, the Prestwick Golf Club formed a competition in 1860, to decide who would succeed him as the “Champion Golfer”. And so the “Open Championship” was born. It has been played annually ever since with the except for the war years of WWI and WWII. It’s the longest-running golf championship and therefore the oldest of the four major championships.
Note: Where the “Open Championship” was first played
The “Open Championship was played at the Prestwick Golf Club until 1872, the first change of venue was in 1873 when it was played on the “Old Course” at St. Andrew. Both Old Tom and Young Tom Morris won all their championships at Prestwick.
Thomas Mitchell “Old Tom Morris” (1821-1908). Our 4th cousin 4x removed.
He was a four times winner of the “Open Championship” 1861 – 62 – 64 – 1867. In his earlier days he served his apprenticeship under Allan Robertson. He is truly one of the greatest legends of the game. Playing matches with Allan Robertson, it’s said they never lost a match played against another two players.
Thomas “Young Tom” Morris (1851-1875) son of “Old Tom”. Our 5th cousin 3x removed.
He won his first “Open Championship” at the young age of seventeen. His title years were 1868-69-70-1872. This was four consecutive titles as the tournament was not held in 1871. His feat is unmatched and he achieved it by the age of twenty-one.
Young Tom’s family life ended tragically. While he was away from St. Andrews playing a golf match, he received a message to hurry home. On arrival, both his wife and newborn baby were dead. “Young Tom” was broken-hearted and died about four months later on Christmas Day 1875. He was only twenty-four. A blood clot on the lung was said to be the cause of death.
Note: A Recommend Read. “Tommy’s Honor”
With the sub-title: “The story of Old Tom and Young Tom Morris. Golf’s Founding Father and Son”. A wonderful and beautifully written book by Kevin Cook first published in 2007. Amazon has it in both soft cover and Kindle.
David “Auld Daw” Anderson (1819-1901). Our great grand grandfather.
He was a caddie, ball maker, club maker, working out of his own golf shop at 9 The Links. He was also the “Keeper of the Greens” on the “Old Course”. The story goes that he was responsible for the establishment of the famous “double greens” on that links course. He is also known because of the refreshments he sold on course in his retirement days. The 4th hole is named the “Ginger Beer” in his honor. He is truly a St. Andrews legend.
James “Jamie” Anderson (1842-1905) the oldest son of “Auld Daw” is our great grand uncle.
Jamie is the most famous of the Anderson clan as he won the British “Open Championship” three years in succession, 1877-78 – 1879. It is said that he was a player who was very consistent, hit the ball very straight and played at a no-nonsense fast pace. He was also a club maker of considerable skill. Today his beautifully crafted long-nose woods are rare and highly sort after. Jamie is perhaps the least known of the greatest golfers of all time.
David Anderson (1848-1912) the second son of “Auld Daw” is our great grandfather.
He was a club maker and along with his five sons and his daughter Margaret (our grandmother), ran the family company of D. Anderson & Sons. Not only did their company make golf clubs, they also manufactured their own “St. Andrews” model golf ball. Walking sticks were also part of their production. His company was one of the first to supply the booming golf market in America with thousands of clubs and golf balls from the 1890s until post WWI.
A Special Moment
A special moment was finding our second cousin Bryan Anderson, the Managing Director at the Tom Morris Golf Shop, beside the “Old Course”. His grandfather David Jr., and our grandmother, Margaret Anderson, were siblings who worked together in the Anderson factory.
Walking the “Old Course”
On a day when the Old Course was closed to golfers in preparation for the 2010 Open Championship, we were given permission to walk the course. Without wanting to sound too “unbalanced”, for Ash and I it was truly a spiritual experience, being on the ground that had so often been walked by our ancestors.
The Ancient Town
The town with historic buildings, churches, homes and the “Old Course” with the “Swilcan Bridge”, all make St. Andrews a truly beautiful and magical place. The friendly people truly impressed us with their warm demeanor and amazing knowledge of golf history. My brother and I will always be especially grateful to some of the people who certainly made our visit unforgettable:
Gordon Moir The Links Director of Greenkeeping
Gordon McKie Course Manager – Old Course
Robert Thorp Caddie Manager – Old Course
Alison Perry Anderson House – Bed and Breakfast
Gillian Nairn Genealogy Centre, St. Andrews Local Services
Colin Hunter Caddie – Old Course
Jimmy “Wee Man” Brown Course Ranger-Players’ Assistant – Old Course
And When You Go To St. Andrews, Make Sure You Visit the British Golf Museum
As of September 2014, Roger McStavick of St. Andrews, a golf historian and author is in the process of seeking council permission to have a plaque placed on 9 The Links (right next door to the Tom Morris shop and facing the 18th green) honoring both Jamie and Auld Daw Anderson. It will read:
James “Jamie’ Anderson” (1842 – 1905), Champion Golfer, lived here at 9 The Links, when he won three Open Championships in a row in 1877, 1878 and 1879. His father, Auld Daw Anderson (1821-1901), known as the ‘ginger beer seller,’ ran a golf shop on the ground level and was Keeper of the Green at St Andrews from 1851-55.