References identifying the location of Tom Morris’ first shop have been discovered in manuscripts from the Golf Collection in The University of St. Andrews Special Collections Department.
Local golf history writer Roger McStravick, who was carrying out research for a book on the man known as the ‘Grand Old Man of Golf,’ discovered a statement known as a precognition given by Tom Morris himself around 1878 detailing how he built in that same year his own shop beside the St. Andrews Links at what is today 15 The Links.
Dr. Anthony Parker, Curator of the Golf Collection at The University of St. Andrews, stated, “We are all very excited by this find. The University has a vast golf collection going back centuries and this news of Tom Morris’ first shop is very likely to be the first of many new findings to come out of the collection.”
“There has always been a gap in Old Tom’s story from 1848 to 1851, before he left St. Andrews to create the course at Prestwick,” McStravick said. “In a pile of very old papers, I noticed a statement from Tom amongst the precognitions taken at the time of the Road Wars, when the town was trying to decide whether to have a road along the side the 18th hole of the St. Andrews Links.”
“In his statement talking about his life around 1848, Tom says that he built his own shop and through statements by others at the time, including the father of the R&A John Whyte-Melville and club maker Robert Forgan, I was able to identify the exact location for this little shop at what is today 15 The Links. I was also delighted to discover from the same precognitions that Daw Anderson, who is known as the ginger beer seller, had his own golf shop at 9 The Links with his son and three time Open champion Jamie Anderson living upstairs for almost 10 years during his Open winning days. Daw was so much more than just a ginger beer seller and thanks to the University’s archives his true story is beginning to emerge.”
Mrs. Sheila Walker, a great-granddaughter to Tom Morris, welcomed the news saying, “There has been a lot of study around my great-grandfather and it is always very exciting when new finds are discovered. Roger is to be commended for his work and, importantly, this highlights just how essential the University’s golf collection is to golf historians and to the field of golf research. I understand the University has ambitions to create a dedicated centre for golf-related materials in St. Andrews and this recent finding is proof, if proof were needed, how vital and appropriate it is to have the centre of all golf knowledge in St. Andrews. If there was ever a logical place to establish an academic centre for golf in the world, then it is surely here.”
Mr. Peter Crabtree, co-author of Tom Morris of St. Andrews: The Colossus of Golf, 1821-1908, also heralded the find saying, “I am always delighted when new research reveals more about Tom Morris. He was a rare character who in addition to being a four time Open champion, helped create the Old Course in St. Andrews as we know it today. The front nine is virtually his own work under the auspices of the R&A Green Committee. We owe so much to Tom Morris and I am delighted the location for his very first shop, at what was a crucial moment in his life, has been discovered.”
“My book would not have been written or the research carried out, if it wasn’t for Peter Crabtree and the late Dr. David Malcolm’s inspirational book on Old Tom, plus the work of David Joy and in particular his portrayal of the great man,” commented McStravick. “It was his re-telling of Tommy’s story during a performance of Old Tom Morris at The Byre Theatre that struck a chord with me and ultimately led me to this finding. Without their work, I would not have made this discovery.”
Regarding the Centre for Golf Collections, Dr. Anthony Parker added, “This new research by Roger is a shining example of what can be achieved from the University’s collection. The University’s hopes for a purpose built Special Collections facility to host its golf collection has caught on with many of the greatest golf collectors and organisations around the world donating rare books, photos and written material already. We are currently engaging in consultation with a wide number of bodies about our aspirations.’