GREATEST OF GOLF DYNASTIES
The Robertson, Morris and Anderson Families and My Life in Golf
I’m Very Proud of My Golfing Ancestors. My Grandmother Margaret Alexander Anderson is My Link.
GREATEST OF GOLF DYNASTIES
That is the way St. Andrew’s golf historian Roger McStravick describes the three golfing clans of Robertson, Morris and Anderson. Remarkably the dynasty is derived from just one marriage. David Robertson I (c1660) married Margaret Fisher (c1660) in St. Andrews on the 2nd of December 1680. They had one daughter and six sons. The Robertson and Anderson clans derive from their son David II (1686) The Morris clan from their son Patrick (1684).
The link between the Morris and Robertson Families came about in 1744 when John Morris (1722) married Janet Robertson (1719-1794). Their great grandson was “Old Tom” Morris and their great grand grandson was “Young Tom” Morris.
The link between the Anderson and Robertson families came about in 1798 with the marriage of Matthew Alexander (1779-1845) to Elspeth Robertson (1778-1833). Their daughter Margaret (1808-1877) married David “Auld Daw” Anderson (1819-1901) in 1845.
Family trees can be a very hard reading, so without laying out all the over the years history and marriages, here is a summation of the most influential people of the era. From that 1680 marriage came the decedents, Allan Robertson (1815-1859), Jamie Anderson (1842-1905), Tom Morris (1821-1908) and Tommy Morris (1851-1875). From those men and other family members would come a multitude of golf course records, British “Open Championship” wins, the management and layout of the St. Andrews Links, ball and club makers, double greens, tin cups in holes and much much more. What a dynasty.
Allan Robertson: (1815-1859) is my 1st cousin 4 times 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 rare and prized collector’s item today. Playing matches with Old Tom Morris, it’s said they never lost a match played against another two players. Because of that they became known as “The Invincibles”.
Thomas Mitchell “Old Tom Morris” (1821-1908) is my 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. Old Tom Morris is considered the first to have a modern approach to greenkeeping. Also he was one of the first great course designers. Some of those world class courses are Prestwick, Royal Dornoch and Muirfield.
There are many historical books about this great golfing legend. Perhaps the best is the five stars rated: “St. Andrews In the Footsteps of Old Tom Morris”. Written by golf historian Roger McStravick.
Thomas “Young Tom” Morris (1851-1875) son of “Old Tom” is my 5th cousin 3x removed.
He was often referred to as “Young Tommy”. Today he is regarded as the first “rock star” of golf.
Throughout his career he was a player whose fame extended far beyond the game of golf. He won four consecutive titles in the “Open Championship”, doing this before the age of twenty-four, an unmatched feat.
In 1875 while he was away from St. Andrews playing a golf match with Old Tom, he received a message to hurry home. On arrival both his wife Janet and newborn baby were dead. “Young Tom” was broken-hearted and died soon after on Christmas Day 1875. A blood clot on the lung was the cause of death. Old Tom Morris after his son’s death said: “People say he died of a broken heart; but if that was true, I wouldn’t be here either.”
The book about his life “Tommy’s Honor” and the movie with the same title are both interesting, if somewhat sad. For a golfer fascinated with the game’s history, they’re well worth the read and a watch.
THE ANDERSON FAMILY LINE
My Anderson family history in golf goes back five generations, starting in St. Andrews, Scotland, with:
David “Auld Daw” Anderson (1819-1901) my great great grandfather.
He was a clubmaker, feathery ball maker, caddy and keeper of the greens at the Old Course in St. Andrews. History shows and attributes the creation of the famous “double greens” on that historic course to Auld Daw. To speed up play was his innovative objective. In his retirement years he was often seen on the Old Course with his wicker basket cart, selling drinks to the passing players. The 4th hole is named the “Ginger Beer“ in his honor. He is a true St. Andrews legend. “Auld Daw” had three sons, Jamie, David and William (Willie). All of whom share a place in golf history. The oldest was:
Jamie Anderson (1842-1905) my great great uncle.
Jamie is the most famous of the Anderson clan as he won the “Open Championship” three years in succession, 1877-1878-1879. He was also a club maker of considerable skill. Today his beautifully crafted long-nose woods are highly sort after. He’s still ranks in the top one hundred golfers of all time.
David Anderson. (1848-1912) my great grandfather.
The second son of “Auld Daw”. He was a golfer of championship status. Playing in many “Open Championships”. As a skilled clubmaker, in 1893 along with his five sons and my grandmother Margaret, the family company of D. Anderson & Sons was established. Not only did their company make golf clubs, they also manufactured their own “St. Andrews” golf balls. Walking sticks were also part of their production. The company was one of the first to supply the booming golf market in America in the 1890s and through into the 20th century.
William (Willie) Anderson, my great great uncle.
The third son of “Auld Daw”. With his brother David he established the company of D & W Anderson, making golf clubs for a number of years until David’s five sons joined him to form D. Anderson & Sons in 1893. Willie then went to work in the Forgan factory. Like his two older brothers Willie is said to be a very good golfer, having placed high in several “Open Championships” between 1888 and 1893.
David Anderson. (1867-1919) my great uncle.
He was the oldest son of David Anderson (1848-1912). And was the foreman at his family’s business. He was also a fine golfer and tied for second place in the “Open Championship” of 1888. Another player was found to have added his score up incorrectly and was given first place. This couldn’t happen today as this man would have been disqualified and David would have won, So sad, so close.
Walter Anderson (1869-1944) my great uncle.
He was the second son of David Anderson. A clubmaker of great skill and also a professional golfer. He played many exhibition games throughout Great Britain. In 1939, he was made an honorary member of the St. Andrews Golf Club. His quote then was: “Golf club making nowadays is not an art, it’s not a craftsman’s job and it has become mass production”. What would he think today in the 21st century?
Margaret Alexander Melvin (born Anderson) (1876-1955) my grandmother.
In 1926 along with her two sons, my Uncles Gerald and Jack and her daughter Helen (my Mother), they made the decision to move to New Zealand, (the Scotland of the South Pacific, but with much better weather). There, the Anderson clubmaking tradition continued with:
Gerald “Gerry” Melvin (1905-1990) my uncle.
Gerry learned his clubmaking skills in his grandfather David’s factory, D. Anderson and Sons. In 1934 he became the professional at the St. Andrews Golf Club in the North Island city of Hamilton. It was there he set up his clubmaking factory. With his staff he produced handmade golf clubs for twenty years until 1954. That’s where I served my apprenticeship.
My Own Story
From 1950 until 1954, I served my five year apprenticeship with Uncle Gerry, becoming the last member in five generations of the Anderson family clubmakers.
From 1966 until I immigrated to the United States in 1982, I opened and operated a very successful sporting goods retail store in Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand. In 1976 being elected President of the New Zealand Sports Dealers’ Federation was an honor. In 1969 I became a member of the Professional Golfers’ Association of New Zealand, playing some professional tournaments on the New Zealand Tour until 1971. In all the years I’ve been a professional, many golfers have given me the pleasure of allowing me to be their swing coach.
From 1993 until 2007 I was the Golf Tournament Director at Braemar Country Club in Tarzana, California, a ClubCorp Inc. facility. During that time our tournament team assisted dozens of charities raise millions of dollars. Along with Lynne LaFond DeLuca, (a nationally renowned private club speaker and educator), we created and ran many seminars, taking charities and corporations through the steps required in planning, running and hosting successful charity golf fundraiser tournaments. Those seminars had such an impact that ClubCorp made it mandatory for all their over two hundred clubs nationwide to hold at least one seminar every year, based on our presentations. In 2004 ClubCorp presented me with their “Super Star” award.
In the years before retiring and now in writing “Golf Tournaments 101 Second Edition” I hope I’m paying forward in some small way by continuing to show and helping charities and nonprofit groups raise money by holding one-day fundraiser golf events.