/
Close
Newsletters  | Mobile

Heartbreak

She was particularly eager to point out that there are no direct male descendants of Old Tom, as none of his sons had "produced any issue." There are, she told me, some distant cousins in the area who'd "dropped down" from Old Tom's brother George, but the only remaining direct relations of Old Tom were herself and her cousin, the ninety-two-year-old Sir Ian Morrow, both descended from Tom's sister, Elizabeth, and her offspring.

"So there are no Morrises from this line," she said, inhaling to make the point yet again. "That's the thing you've got to get into your head. They don't exist, they can't exist, because they can't have come down. Okay?"

I nodded. She then dutifully traced the tree down to herself, Sheila M. Mould, 57, a longtime medical librarian who would be married for the first time later in the year (when her last name would change to Walker). She inherited the shop and the house above—her childhood home—after her mother's death in 1996, making her the fifth consecutive generation of Morris descendants to live there. The shop below is currently run by her tenant, Bryan Anderson, the fourth generation of his family to manage the business, all of them descended from three-time Open champion Jamie Anderson.

"People often think the place must be haunted," she said, "but it isn't like that at all. I do feel that my ancestors are around about me, though. The spirit of them."

She showed me a familiar picture in the coffee-table book of the Links Road and the shop. I pointed to that little window where I thought I'd seen her the day before and, rather than mention that fact, remarked instead that I'd heard Old Tom liked to sit there. "And so do I," she said, laughing, "and for the same reasons Old Tom did. It's the one that opens the easiest, and from it you get the best view down the course, and the west beach shoreline."

Despite what Joy had told me about her being very protective of her great great uncle's legacy, I found her to be quite open about Young Tom and his tragic death. In fact, she became the most animated and definitive whenever I pursued the most elusive and vague aspects of Young Tom's character. That faraway look, for example.

"Oh, yes! Oh, yes!" she blurted the instant I mentioned it. "I don't know where it comes from, but my mother had it, and this one certainly had it—Elizabeth, 'Lizzie,'" she said, pointing to a photo of Young Tom's sister.

Emboldened by her response, I tried out the notion that Young Tom's distant, distracted gaze had something to do with his being a young man caught between social classes.

"I think that's very, very true," she said. "I think it was true of Old Tom as well. Because they were basically working-class people, club makers and ball makers. There is a class system in England. There's no use pretending there isn't. And there's surely a class system in St. Andrews."

As she spoke, I actually found myself engaging in the somewhat ridiculous process of scanning her features and registering her gestures for any signs of Young Tom: matching her visage up with the myriad aspects of his that I'd seen in different photographs; trying to discern in her hand or eye movements that famous sensitivity so often spoken about. In the end, of course, such concealed and perhaps conjured indications of Young Tom's essence were all I had to go on. As Mould would make very clear, not much about her famous great great uncle had filtered down to her over the years (certainly not his game—she said her handicap is well above twenty) beyond "the legend that still goes round today," that he'd died of a broken heart.

"It's quite difficult for me to absorb," she said, her jaw stiffening, "because I'm a medical librarian, and a very practical person. On the other hand . . ." She sat forward in her chair now, and as she thought carefully of what she meant to say, her eyelids went almost fully closed—and this was when the unmistakable and quite eerie appearance of Young Tom occurred, all around the area of Mould's pursed lips and narrow lower jaw, from a picture I'd seen of him lying in the grass, a club loosely clasped in his right hand, having just won his second Open Championship at Prestwick (page 108). "They are extremely sensitive people, the Morrises. This comes right down through my mother and right down to me."

After our coffee, Mould offered me a tour of Old Tom's shop and the still-existing stone passageway leading to the cottage at Six Pilmour Links, which belongs now to the R&A and will be preserved as a historical site. It was there, standing before the cottage's front door, vainly trying to guess which might have been the room that Young Tom died in, that Mould would reach out her hand and bid me a terse and proper goodbye, turning with her satchel and starting off along North Street toward the town library. As for our conversation at the hotel that morning, we would wind it up by discussing Young Tom's apparent passion for Margaret and the tendency in youth to not be able to see past the pain of any given traumatic moment.

"But who knows," she finally concluded. "Maybe he did just sort of crumple and give up. Give up the ghost. Who knows?Who knows?You do get desperately hurt by things, you know. You can take life very hard."

Young Tom never did go back to Two Playfair Terrace after Margaret and the child died that September, moving just down the road to his old room at Six Pilmour Links, thus beginning, in effect, his retreat from the world. Family and friends did their best to distract him from his grief, coaxing him into matches in hopes of reinvigorating his spirits. He'd pair up one last time with his father against David Strath and Bob Martin, longtime adversaries. Most of St. Andrews came out to see what looked for a time to be "the old" Young Tom Morris, but at four up with five to play his game completely broke down, and the Morrises lost the match.

He didn't even consider the Open that year, played again down in Prestwick and won by Willie Park. Back in St. Andrews, meanwhile, Young Tom was having to suffer through the ongoing buzz—the worst of it from his own uninvited father—about the recent R&A Ball, the highlight of that year's social season, to which Prince Leopold came, he being Queen Victoria's golf-mad fourth son, who'd be installed the following year as captain of the R&A. Young Tom would even catch a bizarrely wrenching glimpse of the proceedings on his way home from a night of drinking, stopping with friends at the corner of Queens Terrace and South Street to peer in through the windows of the St. Andrews Town Hall. There, at the very front of the hall, was the prince himself, in all probability shamelessly flirting with his longtime crush the fully grown and lovely Alice Liddell, who was in town at the time and whose by then famous fairy-tale adventures in Wonderland, as told by the Reverend Charles Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll), Young Tom had only recently imagined himself reading one day to his own child.

He would get bullied into one last challenge that autumn. It was in response to a newspaper advertisement placed in the Scottish Field by a Captain Molesworth of Westward Ho!, announcing that his son would challenge any professional to a third, meaning the young Molesworth would get a stroke every third hole. The six-day match was played on the Old Course at the end of November, and though Tommy won easily, the final rounds were played in driving sleet and bitter cold, Captain Molesworth insisting that they play on when even the referee suggested the match be suspended. Young Tom wound up with pneumonia, and that, coupled with the hard drinking he'd begun after Margaret's death, is what many believe contributed to the ruptured artery in his lung.

Advertisement

Sign Up


Connect With Travel + Leisure
  • Travel+Leisure
  • Tablet
  • Available devices

Already a subscriber?
Get FREE ACCESS to the digital edition


Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Marketplace