The R&A - Working for Golf

Uncovering Open History in St Andrews

The rich history of The Open at St Andrews and the stories behind the first three Champion Golfers to win in the town is chronicled in a special feature with broadcaster Iona Stephen.

While famous names such as Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Seve Ballesteros and Sir Nick Faldo have all won The Open in St Andrews, the first winners over the Old Course are perhaps not as familiar to golf fans.

Presenter Stephen goes on a journey of discovery to find out all about the early days of The Open and learn of the first victories in St Andrews from Tom Kidd in 1873, Bob Martin in 1876 and Jamie Anderson in 1879.

The special film offers unique insight into golf in the town, complimenting The Open For The Ages coverage which concluded on Sunday (19 July).

Open dream

“To lift the Claret Jug on the Old Course is every golfer’s dream,” says Stephen. “But just how did this wee town on the east coast of Scotland become the one when it comes to The Open?”

During the 20-minute feature, Stephen visits the British Golf Museum and talks to Hannah Fleming, Learning & Access Curator, on how The Open first came to St Andrews. They browse early items from the first Champions, including the equipment they used, and discuss the history of the Claret Jug.

Anderson’s win was particularly notable, winning in his hometown in 1879 and living just across from the 18th green. Stephen visits his former home at ‘9 The Links’, offering glorious views across the Old Course.

Local history

With her appetite whetted, Stephen meets Roger McStravick, a local golf historian and author, to learn more about what life was like for a professional when The Open first came to St Andrews.

Kidd, who hailed from the town, beat Anderson and other great players such as Old Tom Morris, to win The Open that year in 1873.

“St Andrews has so many rich stories,” confirms McStravick. “Tom would have been the hero, a St Andrews boy winning The Open Championship. He won in horrendous weather so after all the torrential rain they would have all piled into Golf Inn on Golf Place and had a great, great time, toasting the champion. Not quite the scale of Shane Lowry (in 2019 at Royal Portrush) but similar in its own way.”

The lesser known story of Martin is also detailed, a player who worked for Old Tom Morris.

Special celebration

Stephen adds, “Golf runs through the veins of the locals of this town and the atmosphere you will find here is tough to match.”

The Open For The Ages is an exclusive celebration featuring the greatest Champions of the last 50 years. The innovative project culminated in a three-hour broadcast production on Sunday that showed many of the best players battling it out for the Claret Jug at St Andrews.

Real footage from past Championships at the Old Course has been expertly edited and woven together with modern graphics and new commentary to produce a compelling narrative, designed to recreate the drama of an Open final round.

Find out who was crowned Champion and watch the highlights from The Open For The Ages here.