Young Tom Morris

Bio of golf's first young phenom

Young Tom Morris
Young Tom Morris, pictured in 1873. James Hardie/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Tom Morris Jr., a k a Young Tom Morris, was arguably the first "rock star" in golf, a player whose fame extended beyond the game. Tragically, he died at age 24 - but not before winning the British Open four times.

Date of birth: April 20, 1851
Place of birth: St. Andrews, Scotland
Date of death: Dec. 25, 1875
Nickname: Tom Morris Jr. was called "Tommy" in his time, but is more commonly known today as "Young Tom" Morris (to differentiate him from his father, who was, naturally, "Old Tom" Morris).

Major Championships:

• British Open: 1868, 1869, 1870, 1872

Awards and Honors:

• Member, World Golf Hall of Fame

Quote, Unquote:

Old Tom Morris after his son's death: "People say he died of a broken heart; but if that was true, I wouldn't be here either."

• Inscription on memorial at Morris' gravesite: "Deeply regretted by numerous friends and all golfers, he thrice in succession won the Championship belt and held it without envy, his many amiable qualities being no less acknowledged than his golfing achievements."


  • In 1868, Young Tom Morris won the Open Championship and Old Tom Morris finished second. It is the only time a son and father have finished 1-2.
  • At the 1869 British Open, Young Tom Morris scored the first recorded hole-in-one. It happened during the first round.
  • In 2007, the book Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son, by Kevin Cook, won the Herbert Warren Wind Book Award as best golf book of the year. In 2017, the book was turned into a golf movie, also titled Tommy's Honour.

Young Tom Morris Biography:

Before there was Tiger Woods - before there was any other famous player in golf history, for that matter - there was Young Tom Morris. A prodigy of such accomplishment that he was a legend in his own time. So accomplished was Morris that he was responsible for the creation of the Claret Jug, the now-traditional trophy for the winner of the Open Championship.

But Morris' life was all too brief: He died tragically, on Christmas Day, at the age of 24.

Morris' father - Tom Morris Sr., a k a Old Tom Morris - had won four Open Championships himself, the last in 1867, one year before his son's first British Open title.

But Young Tom Morris had been winning tournaments before that. His first big win, according to the World Golf Hall of Fame, was an exhibition match in Perth at the age of 13. At 16, he won a big professional event at Carnoustie.

Morris' introduction to golf came over the Prestwick Golf Links, where his father was the greenskeeper (in fact, Old Tom had laid out the original Prestwick twelve). When he was 13, Young Tom beat Old Tom in a match for the first time - his father was the reigning British Open champion, so that was a pretty big achievement.

Young Tom played in the Open Championship for the first time in 1865, when he was just 14 years old.

When he won the British Open in 1868, he was only 17 years old. Young Tom won again in 1869 and 1870. At that time, the winner of the tournament was presented with a "championship belt," officially called the Challenge Belt. The rules stipulated that anyone winning the belt three straight years got to keep it. Morris did just that, and the belt was his permanently.

But that left the tournament organizers with a problem: They no longer had anything to present to the winner.

There was no tournament in 1871 (largely because there was no "trophy" to present), but by 1872 the now-famous "Claret Jug" was ready, and Young Tom Morris won that trophy, too, in its first year.

Three years later, Morris was playing an exhibition match when he received word that his wife and child had both died during childbirth. Morris himself died mere months later, on Christmas Day, 1875, at the age of 24. The cause is not known, but at the time most people sentimentally blamed it on a broken heart.

Young Tom Morris was outlived by his father, Old Tom Morris, by more than 30 years.