With the 150th Open Championship being played this summer in St. Andrews, the Fire Pit Collective had the opportunity to immerse ourselves in one of golf’s greatest destinations. As a narrative thread, and because of his layered impact on the game through agronomy, architecture, equipment and competition, our goal was to pay homage to Old Tom Morris. We asked everyone we met—a member of his family, teachers, writers, historians, local business owners and course managers—for their reflections and opinions on how and why “The Grand Old Man of Golf” mattered both then and now. We played courses he designed, we learned about the equipment he made and used to win his four Open Championships and we walked in his backyard garden, which is tended to by his great-great-granddaughter. By the end of the week, and after so many thoughtful conversations, it was clear, his spirit and everlasting legacy lives on well beyond the rock walls and cobbled streets of St. Andrews.
Journeys: St. Andrews
EP.1 BACK TO SCHOOL
In episode one of our Journey to St. Andrews, we meet William Lumsden, a steelworker who has spent a better part of the last few years creating a curriculum to teach kids about the Morris family. Lumsden introduced us to Sheila Walker, Old Tom’s great-great-granddaughter, which led to an extensive interview where Walker regaled us with information and anecdotes on the history of golf’s royal family. And we play the New Course, an Old Tom Morris design, with Roger McStravick, author of the book, St. Andrews, in the Footsteps of Old Tom Morris. As we were finding out, to be in those footsteps was giving our Journey and the show a spiritual undertone, and in many cases, chicken-skin.
EP.2 THE FAMILY TREES
As golf was being developed in and around St. Andrews, in the mid-1800’s, Old Tom the architect was emerging. We start this episode in Carnoustie, where Old Tom worked with Allan Robertson, his mentor of sorts, to design the first ten holes. And then Old Tom came back to extend the course to 18 holes. Bill Thompson, the Carnoustie Golf Club’s historian, provides some insight into Carnoustie’s place in golf history, which, thanks to the Smith family, is extensive. Especially as it relates to club making and competing. We get more time with Sheila Walker, which is to say, more stories from the great-great-granddaughter of Old Tom. We eat at Seafood Ristorante, one of St. Andrew’s best restaurants and hottest spots, which goes far beyond the fact that the restaurant itself is a glass structure that sits on the rocky coastline overlooking the water and around the corner from the first tee and 18th green of the Old Course. And we play Muirfield, another Old Tom original, which will host this year’s AIG Women’s Open, sponsored by Mastercard. We played with Lindsey Garden, the 18th female member at an old club that has recently adopted a new way of thinking. What hasn’t changed is the clubhouse display of some of golf’s most notable artifacts, which includes the game’s first trophy, The Silver Club, from 1744.
EP.3 THE OLD COURSE
Just down the road from the Old Course, we start this episode at the Crail Golfing Society where David Roy, the club’s manager, provided the history of the club and a sense of Old Tom’s impact on the design of the Balcomie Links, which he built when he was in his late-60s and early-70s. Meanwhile, on the course, wind was a factor. The crew puts down the cameras, grabs clubs and pull-carts, and we take on Old Tom’s architecture and the elements. We have similar conditions when we play the Old Course, where there’s a ricochet off the Rusack’s Hotel that leads to a birdie. And then a trip to the R&A Museum, where we get more Old Tom Morris information and eyes on the modernized display of interactive history. Sheila Walker, the great-great-great granddaughter of Old Tom Morris, is back to share details of how she’ll watch the final round of the 150th Open Championship. You know, from the same window Old Tom used to watch from, in what was his house and now is her house, which overlooks the 18th green.
EP.4 SNOW IN ST. ANDREWS
Snow in St. Andrews? What does that look like? Upon waking up to nothing but white, that’s exactly what we wanted to know. We called Gordon McKie, the superintendent, who met us in the first fairway and explained the effects of snow on the Old Course. He told us what it means to him to be the ninth caretaker of the hallowed ground since Old Tom had the job in the 1800’s. And McKie shared his story of spending time with Sheila Walker, the great-great-granddaughter of Old Tom Morris, on the day of what would’ve been Old Tom’s 200th birthday. Walker and David Fleming, the club’s professional, tell us about how and why Prestwick fits into the history of golf. Again, the crew plays the course, an original Old Tom design that hosted to first Open Championship in 1860. Old Tom, the strong favorite, finished second to Willie Park Sr. that year. But Old Tom, like his son Tommy, would go on to win four Opens. After pegging it at Prestwick, we’re back to walk Mrs. Walker to the bus station. We say our goodbyes, and before we leave town, we scurry into the St. Andrews cemetery at midnight to pay our respects to Old Tom’s gravesite and the everlasting legacy of a golfer’s life well-lived.
EP.5 PATRON'S DAY
In our latest Journey to St. Andrews in Scotland, we went back for Mastercard’s Patron’s Day at the Old Course, which was hosted by Tom Watson. The Priceless experience consisted of a chipping clinic, golf on the auld sod and access to the R&A Clubhouse.