The Open Champions

Willie Park Senior (1833 – 1903)

On 16th October 1860 just eight professionals set out to play the first official British Open at Prestwick. Willie Park Senior from Musselburgh won the first Open at Prestwick with a score of 174, his prize being a leather belt.  He then went onto win the Open three more times in 1863, 1866 and 1875.
Born in Wallyford, Willie’s golfing started when he was a young boy as a caddie.  The caddies would play together during the long summer evenings.  Willie soon established himself as a leading player, going on to challenge the great players of the time, Allan Robertson, Willie Dunn and Old Tom Morris.

In 1870 Willie established a firm of club and ball makers.  He made wooden clubs, drivers, play clubs, spoons and putters. He was also involved in laying out golf courses, some alone and some with his brother Mungo and with his son Willie Park Junior.


Willie Park Junior (1864 – 1925)

Young Willie a player, designer and manufacturer of clubs and balls, course architect, writer, businessman and personality, was to become one of the outstanding professionals of his generation.

From 1880 to 1894 Willie served as assistant pro/greenkeeper under his uncle Mungo at Ryton in England. He then returned to Musselburgh, joining his father in the club and ballmaking firm of W. Park and Son.

Continuing to refine his game, he won the Open in 1887 and in 1889 at Musselburgh.

He laid out links and courses with his father and uncle, and later on his own with construction assistance from his brothers Mungo and Jack Park.  Two of Willie’s courses, Sunningdale GC and Huntercombe GC, became landmarks in the history of course architecture.

Willie first travelled to the USA in 1895 and worked there until 1898 promoting golf and laying out courses. When he returned to the USA in 1916 he became inundated with requests to design and redesign courses, and successfully worked on over seventy courses.


David Brown

David or “Deacon” Brown, as he was known, won the Open Championship in 1886 at Musselburgh. The story was told that he was a slater to trade and John Anderson, who was secretary of the Musselburgh Club at the time, sent for him to make up the numbers.

When he arrived at the Royal Musselburgh clubhouse he was as black as a sweep and was given a bath, then a pair of striped trousers, a frock coat and a lum hat. This did not prevent him from winning.

After this great feat, he went to England and was attached to the Malvern Club. He played in subsequent Opens and featured prominently. Later he went to America and in 1903 tied for first place in the American Open with a score of 307 against Willie Anderson.


Mungo Park (1835-1904)

Mungo Park was born at Quarry Houses Musselburgh in 1835. He was one of five sons. The brother of Willie Park Senior, Mungo learned golf at an early age but abandoned it for a period of 20 years while he was working as a seaman.

Returning to Musselburgh in the early 1870s he found his golfing skills were unaffected by the long layoff, and he won the 1874 Open at Musselburgh Links, with a low score of 159. He spent the rest of his life serving as a clubmaker and teacher at various British clubs. He laid out several golf courses during this time, including Alnmouth, where he remained after its opening as its first professional.

Mungo died in 1904 and the gold medal he won in the Open Championship of 1874 is today played for as the scratch prize at Grimsdyke Golf Club.


Bob Ferguson (1848-1915)

Bob Ferguson, born in Musselburgh in 1848, won the first of his three Open Championships over his home course in 1880.
Bob who was a caddie nearly all his life received £7 for his first Open win. When he was only 18 years old, he won the first prize in a tournament at Leith Links (1866) with borrowed clubs, against a strong field of top pros. He also defeated old Tom Morris six times in challenge matches.

He was a brilliant putter and on many occasions used his putter from off the green. So famous was his versatile use of this club that it became known as the “Musselburgh Iron”.
Bob never made much money from the game despite reaching a high standard as a player, but he treasured the gold medals he won for each Open and also the extra medal he won for winning the Open three times in succession.

A bout of typhoid cut short his playing career and he was later appointed custodian of the Musselburgh Links. Ferguson died in 1915 from chronic bronchitis. The eighteenth hole on the Monktonhall course is named Old Bob and a marble water fountain was erected in front of the clubhouse in his memory.


Jamie Anderson

Jamie Anderson’s first success was to win the Open at Musselburgh in 1877, he then went on to win the championship in 1878 and 1879.
Jamie was of St. Andrews and came from a famous club making family, David Anderson and Sons of St. Andrews.