Offered here is a circa 1875 play club
make by 4-time
British Open champion Tom Morris. The head measures 5 1/2” in length, 1 7/8” in width,
and 1 3/16” in depth. The face has been fit with a leather insert to
repair a small amount of damage. This repair was made when the club was
in use, to better protect and preserve the head for continued use. Such
repairs were part of the game and clubmaking world during the 1800s. The
installation of this leather insert was beautifully executed and shows
an added dimension of the skills possessed by the 19-century clubmaker.
Measuring 42” in length, the shaft appears to be original with replacement neck whipping. The grip is original.
This play club has its original lead backweight and lead button on the
sole, which is stamped "104." This number was most likely an inventory
number stamped into the head prior to putting it on display.
A long-time collector just contacted the auctioneer and shared some information about this club and the long nose offered as lot 35: Both clubs were once part of the White Horse Whiskey collection, and are recognizable by the large numbers stamped on the sole. There were ultimately upwards of 150 clubs in this collection, assembled beginning in 1959, and they were all stamped with inventory numbers on their respective soles. This collection was built to promote White Horse Scotch Whiskey, which is blended in Edinburgh, Scotland. After the collection was assembled, each club was set in a White Horse Whiskey display case that held just 1 club and 1 ball. The displays were given to liquor stores to promote White Horse Scotch Whiskey in America. After a period of time passed, the displays were taken down and the clubs were pretty much scattered to the four winds.
The Morris name on this club is strong, the
original blond finish is all there as is the original varnish. This
club was crafted by hand and beautifully so. It was no small
accomplishment for Morris to
achieve a level of sculptural art with his efforts. Overall this is a
wonderful long nose club made in St. Andrews by one of the 19th
century's premier clubmakers and greatest historical figures.
To the world he lived in, Tom Morris was more than a gifted clubmaker, a
talented player, and a respected professional—he epitomized the game.
In print he was accorded such affectionate titles as “The high priest of
the hierarchy of golf,” “The father of golf,” “The Nestor of Golf,” and
The Grand Old Man of Golf.” Yet, through all the accolades and fame, he
remained a kind, honest, and simple man. To those with whom he worked,
golfed, and lived, he was simply “Old Tom.”
Because of his personal character, Tom
Morris changed the public perception of a professional golfer from that
of a rogue without a real occupation to someone worthy of society’s
respect. He did this while working in the world of golf during the
feather ball era, through the gutty ball era, and into the rubber core
era. When Tom Morris died in 1908 at 87 years of age, the entire town
of St. Andrews shut down on the day of his funeral.
The June 5, 1908 issue of Golf Illustrated
reported on Tom’s passing and concluded an absolutely wonderful article
with these words. “His achievements in the golfing world were great,
and will be handed down from time to time, but the great moral of his
life was that, no matter in what sphere, it is character that achieves
the greatest victories. Old Tom was great as a golfer, but greater
still as a man.“
For more on Tom Morris, see TCA2 volume 1 pages 62-65 & volume 2 pages 564-565)