British Open pioneer's grave rediscovered and refurbished

Arnaud Massy
Arnaud Massy, by winning the 1906 British Open, became the first player from continental Europe to win a major – and was the only one until Seve Ballesteros won the 1979 British Open.

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013 | 2:57 p.m.

A new discovery of an old grave could become the latest tourist attraction at the home of golf.

That's what several golfing groups in Scotland hope, anyway.

Arnaud Massy – who made history as the first non-Briton to win the British Open back in 1906 – was buried in the Newington Cemetery in Edinburgh, Scotland, after his death in 1950. But no one seemed to remember that fact for 63 years, until his unkempt grave was recently rediscovered.

The discovery provoked a huge response from the British golf community, which installed a new headstone during a reconsecration service last Saturday to honor Massy. According to The Scotsman newspaper, the ceremony was attended by representatives of the R&A; the British Golf Collectors Society; the European Association of Golf Historians and Collectors; Douglas Seaton, a golf historian from nearby North Berwick who actually located the grave; Hugh Henderson, a great nephew of Massy; Pierre-Alain Coffinier, the French Consul in Edinburgh; and a representative of the French Golf Federation.

''Hopefully many golfers will come here as a pilgrimage,'' said Coffinier. ''Arnaud Massy was one of golf's biggest champions and we are very proud that he has been honored with such a service in Scotland, where golf is at the core of its identity.''

One of golf's great early champions, Massy was born in the French resort community of Biarritz in 1877, and became a caddie to supplement the money he was making as a sardine fisherman. He met several top British golfers who spent the winter in southern France, and moved to North Berwick, Scotland, to pursue his love of golf.

By winning the 1906 British Open at Royal Liverpool, he became the first player from continental Europe to win a major – and was the only one until Seve Ballesteros won the 1979 British Open. He also won the first French Open in 1906 as well as the second French Open in 1907, as well as the first Belgian Open in 1910 and the first Spanish Open in 1912.

He put golf aside for four years to serve in the French military during World War I, and returned to the game in his 40s. He won his fourth French Open in 1925 at age 48, then defeated Bobby Jones in a 1926 exhibition match in France and went on to win the Spanish Open again in both 1927 and 1928. 

''We are very pleased to be associated with this event,'' R&A representative Philip Truett told The Scotsman. ''If there are other champion golfers not recognized in the correct way, we should pursue this.''