With more than 150 years behind it, the British Open Golf Tournament is proud to be the oldest, most prestigious and the most followed tournament of the sport internationally; Harry Vardon, Tom Morris, Sr. and Jock Hutchinson all play a part in some of its legends, in which we can also find Spaniard Severiano Ballesteros. There are many points that help us understand the fascination that fans from all around the world have with this event – The evolution of the Claret Jug, historical duels and of course the emergence of Seve, all have made a lasting impact on the British Open.
July 14th will mark the beginning of the 2016 edition of the British Open Golf Tournament, officially known as the Open Championship; The Scottish club Royal Troon will host the course for this epic showdown, where defending champion Zach Johnson will come face to face with Bubba Watson, Rory Mcllroy and many others to once again get his hands on the coveted Claret Jug. Sergio García, classified sixth in the previous edition, will once again try to overcome this competition considered the most important of the four ‘majors; After breaking his losing streak at the Ho Tram Open in Vietnam, the Spanish golfer is a perfect contender for the title.
There are many reasons why not even a single edition of the British Open Golf Tournament can be overlooked, and we will review past editions one by one, but to find the origins of this tournament, we must go back a century and a half, more specifically to winter 1860.
A ‘Major’ In Memory of The First Professional Golfer
The first edition of the British Open was held on the greens of Prestwick Golf Club, a year after the death of Allan Roberton, considered to be the first professional golfer to earn a living from this sport; The first British Open was founded with the aim of finding a worthy successor to Roberton, and as direct result, all participants without exception were to be professional golfers, setting up a precedent of great historical importance.
The Claret Jug – A Trophy With Lots of History
The first winners of this tournament were to receive no trophy nor reward, but rather a red leather belt, adorned with a silver buckle, known as the Challenge Belt; This symbolic award would then disappear when 3 time champion Tom Morris, Jr. would seize the belt and propose a claret jug – A classic style jug fixed to a base entirely made of silver. Prize money was implemented shortly before in 1864, with the reward being 6 pounds – At present the reward can easily exceed 4 million.
Legends of The British Open
Many legendary figures have had their names recorded in the history of this tournament, Tom Morris, Sr. being the most distinguishable for being the youngest participant to win the tournament at the age of 17, and being the oldest to win it as well at the age of 46 – It is Harry Vardon however, who has won on no less than six separate occasions. It may come as a surprise that until 1921, European golfers had monopolized the tournament, however it would be Jock Hutchinson who would forever change the rules of the game, being the first American to hold the Claret Jug.
Severiano Ballesteros, in 1979, would become the first Spaniard to win the tournament, a feat he would repeat in 1984 and 1988; For somebody who worked as a caddy during the day, and sneakily improved and practiced their swing at night, the conquest of the British Open, as well as his past victories in the Ryder Cup, have consecrated him as one of the greatest of the sport – Ben Crenshaw is just one of the many golfing personalities to admire ‘The Matador’, stating the ‘The power of his swing, is hard to imagine, even in dreams.’
The feats of Severiano have contributed greatly to promoting golf tourism in Alicante, as well as many other provinces of Spanish territory; He has also exerted a significant influence on the future stars of the sport, encouraging the creation of tournaments, courses, clubs etc. in short providing an opportunity for future generations to conquer the British Open – A legendary tournament where tradition, spectacle and the best golf has to offer, all come together to shake hands.