New lease of life for Old Tom's St Andrews shop

AS a businessman himself, he would have approved. So says the great great granddaughter of Old Tom Morris of the famous St Andrews shop bearing his name having been, as she describes it, brought into the 21st century.

Sheila Walker owns the property that overlooks the 18th green on the Old Course. In fact, she lives above the shop that recently re-opened after being given a new look and feel by the St Andrews Links Trust.

"I don't interfere as it's not my business but I have heard one or two people shrieking (with surprise] when they've either come into the shop or have been looking in the window," she said of the initial reaction from customers. They've probably been fascinated by a display featuring several artefacts that belonged to the man widely regarded as the father of the modern game, including what is believed to have been his personal locker.

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His original workbench in the shop window where he made golf clubs and balls has also been restored, as has the fireplace where the four-time Open champion heated and shaped gutta percha balls. "The Links Trust, which has taken over the business, has been most particular to emphasise the historic features we found, some we knew about and some we did not," added Walker. "I see it as a looking forward and a looking back."

The shop originally opened in 1866 - 18 years after Morris founded his ball and clubmaking business. As it was then, the sign on the front of the shop building once again adorns the name 'T. Morris'. His direct descendant is full of pride when reflecting on the achievements of a man who was not only a champion and club and ball maker but also a pioneering greenkeeper and course architect. "I think the interest in him is escalating," noted Walker. "He was a multi-tasker. He did so many different things. To me, that is the most extraordinary thing. In fact, it makes me tired just to think what he did in the course of a day or the course of a week.

"He ran the shop which was very active making golf balls and golf clubs. He was also Keeper of the Green and that in itself was quite a big job because there was a lot of re-development on the course.

"He was also invited to do up and extend many golf courses. That, for instance, is how he got himself over to Prestwick. He was also a family man who went curling and was associated, too, with the Town Kirk. How he did all that without any email, high-speed trains or helicopters I have no idea. It is just extraordinary."

Peter Crabtree, the co-author Tom Morris of St Andrews, The Colossus of Golf, 1821-1908, believes the new shop will become a "place of pilgrimage" for golfers from around the world, just as it once was. Sitting inside it, the R&A member said: "There will be very few people from abroad who won't come into this shop during a visit to St Andrews."Chances are they could well bump into Old Tom's descendant, too. "I inherited the property from my mother when she died in 1996, the property having come down through the female line which is unusual I suppose," revealed Walker. "None of this should have come to me at all. My grandfather had a son called William Morris Hunter who was 6ft 6in but he died at school at the age of 15."

Does the Morris golfing prowess live on? "My golf is a bit dangerous at the moment," she remarked. "I got very involved in the writing of the Tom Morris book, but I'm itching to get back to it.

"My mother was a very good golfer. She was very tall and she had a very fine swing but couldn't really take it seriously. She would often get into a bunker and get a fit of the giggles."