Happy birthday, professional golf

Willie Park Sr.
PGA of America
In this photo dated back to the 1850s, Willie Park Sr. is the one in the center. Park would go on to win the first professional golf tournament in 1860.
By Andrew Prezioso
PGA.com

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Friday, October 17, 2014 | 10:15 a.m.

Today's an important date in golf history. The professional part of the game is turning 154 years old today. 

While not played for the Claret Jug at the time, that tournament is the precursor to the Open Championship. In fact, the first Claret Jug would not be presented to the winner until 1873. 

So what was golf like back then? Here's the description of the event, which was won by Willie Park Sr., from the Open Championship website: 

opened his bid for the first championship at Prestwick in 1860 with a tremendous tee shot that was described by one onlooker as “sounding as if it had been shot from some rocket apparatus” and after three rounds of the 12-hole course he came to the final hole with a one shot lead over his great rival Old Tom Morris. Two putts from 10 yards would have secured him victory, but in his usual fashion he gave the ball a firm rap and it bumped and bobbled across the uneven surface before diving into the hole. He was the first champion golfer by two clear shots.

And who was this Park? Here's how the Open Championship website describes him: 

Willie Park, winner of the first Open Championship in 1860, was the Arnold Palmer of his day. "He goes bold at everything," was the generally held view, "especially with his long putts." It was felt that his aggressive style of play, so often successful in match play, would let him down over 36 holes of stroke-play in the first championship, but he was emphatically to prove his detractors wrong with four Open titles and four runner-up places in a 16-year spell.

 

Andrew Prezioso is a contributor for PGA.com. Have a good golf story? Send him an email at andrew.prezioso@turner.com.