Shortly before noon on the morning of Wednesday, 17 October 1860, a small group of eight roughly dressed individuals made their way towards the wind-strewn sand hills of Prestwick.
Under his arm each carries a strange assortment of wooden implements. They march, like prisoners under guard, accompanied by four members of the gentry, whose role it is to ensure that none among them shall transgress.
They are about to make history by playing the first ever round of The Open Championship. It was in the Red Lion Inn that the Open Championship was conceived. Used in 1860 as the clubhouse for the Prestwick links, it was from here that the historic eight would have made that famous march before each striking a ball in turn and thus beginning a championship which has become one of the leading events in the world’s sporting calendar.
The inaugural Open Championship was contested among only these eight entrants, all of whom were professionals of sorts, either caddies or club or ball makers. The Prestwick Club recognised the gathering’s importance to professional golf and proposed that the tournament be held over 36 holes of medal play. It would be open to professional golfers from all clubs. Ironically, the idea was greeted with little enthusiasm by the other clubs concerned and, in the end; Prestwick decided to go it alone.
The first players teed off at 12 noon and the entire field had completed the 36 holes before dark. This is in marked contrast to the modern Championship, which now takes four days to complete. Willie Park won that first Open with a score of 174, which gave him a two stroke lead over Tom Morris, who had moved to Prestwick from St Andrews to be Keeper of the Green in 1851.
And the rest truly is, as they say, history. Prestwick went on to host the Open Championship a total of 24 times before being retired after the 1925 event.
SIGTOA - Scottish Incoming Golf Tour Operators Association