The Open Championship: 750 Years In The Making

There you are, finishing up your 72nd hole, amidst cheers and applause-the Claret Jug at last in your hand.  Sorry to disrupt the daydream, let us open your eyes to the 143rd Open Championship, beginning on Thursday, July 17th at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, Wirral, United Kingdom.

2014 will mark the 12th time The Open will be contested at Royal Liverpool, and again administered by the R&A (the organization governing golf outside the U.S.A. and Mexico), The Open Championship has not always been the tournament as we know it today. From 1966 to 1979 it was a Wednesday to Saturday format. From 1927 to 1966, the final two rounds were played on Friday, but, before 1926, all four rounds were played in just two days. In the event of a tie, and unlike the U.S. Open, it features a four-hole playoff and then sudden death.

The Open was inaugurated on October 17th, 1860 at the Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland (where the first ten tournaments were held). It was open only to professional golfers: eight men who played three rounds of a twelve-hole course (36 holes) in one day. In an unexpected turn of events, Willie Park Sr. defeated Old Tom Morris, the Keeper of the Greens at Prestwick, by two strokes. For his victory, and because there was no prize money in the first three Championships, Park was awarded the Challenge Belt.

The Claret JugBecause there was not an available prize in 1871, the tournament was cancelled. The following year, Young Tom Morris won his fourth consecutive (and still unmatched) Championship. The Golf Champion Trophy, better known as The Claret Jug, was created but incomplete, so Morris was presented with a medal in its place—a tradition that still takes place today. 

The Charter of 1552In an event 750 years in the making, St. Andrews was the second course to host the Open Championship in 1873. In 1123, King David I ratified a charter proclaiming the Links to be common land belonging to the townspeople of St. Andrews. In 1552, another charter recognized the right of the people to play golf on the Links. In 1754, 22 noblemen, professors, and landowners founded the Society of St. Andrews Golfers, later known as The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. A decade later, the 22-hole course was reduced to just 18. And no, contrary to popular belief, the choice of 18 does not come from the number of shots in a fifth of Scotch.

It wasn’t until 1890 that a non-Scot, John Ball from England, hoisted the Claret Jug. A couple of years later, the event increased to 72 holes. Former Scotsman turned naturalized U.S. citizen Jack Hutchinson won in 1920, but Walter Hagen was the first true American to win in 1922 at Royal St. George’s Golf Club.

Royal Liverpool Golf ClubIn the current active rotation, there are nine courses (five in Scotland and four in England): Old Course at St. Andrews, Carnoustie Golf Links, Muirfield, Turnberry Resort, Royal Troon, Royal St. Georges Golf Club, Royal Birkdale Golf Club, Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s Golf Club, Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake, and Royal Portrush Golf Club.

Old Tom and Young Tom MorrisThe diversity of winners contrasts the traditionalism of an event with over a century and a half of history. The oldest winner was Old Tom Morris, at 46 years and 99 days in 1867, and the youngest winner was just a teenager, his son, Young Tom Morris, at 17 years and 156 days in 1868. Harry Vardon is the current record-holder for the most victories with six medals. Tom Watson has five Open's to his credit and was just recently granted an exemption by the R&A to play in the 2015 Open at St. Andrews.  In 2000 at the Old Course, Tiger Woods finished with the lowest 72-hole score in relation to par (-19), a record for all major championships. Tiger won his last Open Championship at this year’s host site, Royal Liverpool, in 2006.

As the first Open Championship was only open to professionals, do you wish you could feel like Willie Park Sr., Young Tom Morris, or Tiger Woods? Let Lost Golf Balls open the door to the world of the Claret Jug for you with our affordable yet professional golf balls. 

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