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The Life of Tom Morris
Chapter VII - The most famous foursome of olden days

OF all the many matches in which Tom and Allan played as partners the most important and most interesting was perhaps the great foursome of 1849, for 400 against the brothers Dunn, of Musselburgh, over the links of Musselburgh, St Andrews and North Berwick. There was always a considerable rivalry between St Andrews and Musselburgh, and in this match it was at fever heat. Allan and Willie Dunn had often played singles against one another, Allan winning at St Andrews, Willie at Musselburgh, while on neutral ground Allan was the more successful. Willie was a very long driver, and his style was particularly easy and graceful. A bunker on the St Andrews links to this day commemorates a feat of his. From the homeward Hole o'Cross green at the fifth hole, and from the medal tee, he once drove right over the Elysian Fields into the little crescent-shaped bunker at the end of them. To this day this bunker is named "Dunny." The distance, as measured on the map, is 250 yards. Perhaps the most important of these singles was the one played in 1843. It consisted of 20 rounds, or 360 holes. In those days matches were decided by greens and rounds, and Allan won this one by 2 rounds and I to play.

The "two Dunns," familiarly so called in those days, were twins, as their nephew, Tom Dunn, tells us; and they were so much alike, and spoke so similarly, that it was a very difficult matter to know the one from the other, unless the individual was very intimately acquainted with them. Many gentlemen were nonplussed, among them the late Lord Eglintoun, who would say, "Well, Jamie, how are you?" "I'm not Jamie, my lord" Tom Dunn's father would say, "I'm Willie." "Confound you fellows," his lordship would sing out, "I never know the one from the other." And so it was. Their height, build, voice, appearance and facial expression deceived many. They were as like as two peas.

In the great foursome, the match at Musselburgh went altogether in favour of the Dunns, for they won it by 13 holes up and 12 to play. At St Andrews Allan and Tom had a slight advantage which, however, as far as greens were concerned, left the match square. All then depended on the play at North Berwick. The best account of the final and deciding rounds is that given by "An Old Hand" in his "Golfing Reminiscences" (Reminiscences of Golf and Golfers, by H. Thomas IVter, Member of the Innerlevcn and other golf clubs. Edinburgh: James Thin). It was the finest foursome Mr Peter says he ever saw, and it created great interest in the golfing world of that day, crowds flocking to North Berwick to watch it. Mr Peter writes: "I crossed over from Leven (Fife) with my brother James, and remember it well. When I woke at five o'clock the rain was pouring, and I got up and told my brother so, and that it would be useless to go. However, in a short time afterwards he came to my bedroom and said, 'Man, Tom, I see a wee glint of blue sky! I think we should gang.' 'All right,' I said, 'I'm up.' "And" "gang" they did.

On meeting Allan, Mr Peter said he had come to see him win. Allan replied he hoped so, but Mr Peter thought from the dejected look he wore that he was somewhat doubtful about the result. The match was one of 36 holes; Mr Peter forgets whether that meant 5 or 7 rounds of the then North Berwick links, and i hole more. The rain kept off, probably owing to a pretty stiff wind from the south-west. The match started amid great excitement. Each side had its band of supporters. Those of the Musselburgh men, however, owing to the nearness of its links to North Berwick, preponderated, and they were led by Gourlay, the well-known ball-maker. Mr Peter tells us he never saw a match where such vehement party spirit was displayed. So great was the ferment and anxiety to see whose ball had the better lie, that no sooner were the shots played than off the whole crowd ran helter-skelter; and as one or the other lay best so demonstrations were made by each party.

It took even Sir David Baird, with his commanding figure, all his time to maintain merely tolerable order.

To begin with, the match went in favour of the Dunns, who played magnificently. Their driving was notably better than that of the St Andrews men. They went sweeping over hazards, which their opponents had to play short of. Though the first round was halved, the Dunns won the second by 4. The third round was halved.

During lunch, with the Mussclburgh men four to the good, long odds were offered in their favour.

On the match being resumed they put one more hole to their credit. With 8 holes to play they remained 4 up. Odds of 20 to 1 were now freely laid upon the Dunns. The chances of the St Andrews men looked gloomy in the extreme. Their backs were to the wall. They must strain every nerve if they were not to be badly defeated. Allan wanned to his work and was well backed up by Tom. They took one hole, then another, and yet another. Captain Campbell of Schiehallion, with a true gulling instinct, could not forbear crying out to Mr Peter, "Gad, sir, if they take another hole they'll win the match." They took the "other hole," and were now all square, and 2 to play. The exact sequence of the 6 holes was this: 1 and 2, Allan and Tom; 3, halved; 4, Allan and Tom; 5, halved; 6, Allan and Tom.

"How different the attitude of the Dunns' supporters now from their jubilant and vaunting manner at lunch-time! Silence reigned, concern was on every brow, the elasticity had completely gone from Gourlay's step, and the profoundest anxiety marked every line of his countenance.

"On the other hand, Allan and Tom were serene, and their supporters as lively as they had been depressed before. We felt victory was sure!"

The honour belonged to the St Andrews men. Amid breathless silence Tom played a line tee shot. So did his opponent. It was a longer ball and it lay better. Allan had a bad he and could not make much of it. The supporters of the St Andrews men became uneasy. "Should the Dunns win this hole, they would be dormythcy might win the match! Our revulsion of feeling was great, and as play proceeded was intensified, for Allan and Tom had played 3 more with their ball lying in a bunker close to, and in front of, the putting-green! The brothers, however, by pulling their second shot off the course lay under 'a large boulder' (Everard), 'close at the back of a curb stone on a cart track off the green to the right' (Peter). They were in a dilemma. What was to be done? One can well imagine how tense grew the excitement. First of all, they wished the stone removed, and called to someone to go for a spade; but Sir David Baird would not sanction its removal, because it was off the course, and a fixture."

He rightly decided that the ball had to be played as it lay.

One of the Dunns Mr Peter forgets which struck at the ball with his iron, but hit the top of the stone. His brother then had a "go" at it. He, in like manner, went for the stone instead. Another shot with no better result. It was "the like." "All this time," remarks Mr Peter, the barometer of our expectation had been steadily rising, and had now about readied 'Set Fair.'"

The odd had now to be played. Different tactics were tried. The ball was dislodged through its being struck with the back of the iron on to grass beyond the track.

Had that been done at first the hole might have been won and the match also; but both men by this time had lost all judgment and nerve, and played most recklessly. The consequence was the loss of the hole and Allan and Tom dormy.

We felt the victor was now sorure, and so, in fact, it turned out, and Allan and Tom remained the victors by 2 holes."

So Tom and Allan, up for the first time, gained the last hole, and pulled this remarkable match out of the fire and landed the 400, to say nothing of the 20 to 1 odds which had been laid when their condition appeared hopeless. Well may Mr Everard say, "It would be difficult to find in the whole annals of golf a more perfect illustration of the advantages of pluck and perseverance."

But proud as I naturally am of the victory of St Andrews, and of my old friends, Allan and Tom, I may be allowed to sympathise with the Dunns. Without doubt they had cruelly hard luck. And they in reality won the match, according to our modern method of counting the aggregate number of holes. So unjust, in fact, was ielt the old method of decision by greens that it was then and there given up. In consequence of this match the new reckoning was adopted.

The credit of winning this great match was due more to Tom Morris than to Allan Robertson. Mr Peter, who was quite an unbiassed witness of the contest as far as these two partners were concerned, has left this on record: "I think it only just to say that, in my opinion, the winning of the above match was due to Tom Morris. Allan was decidedly oil his game at the start, and played weakly and badly for a long time, almost justifying the jeers thrown at him, such as 'That wee body in the red jacket canna play goufe and suchlike. Tom, on the other hand, played with pluck and determination throughout." And here is Mr Peter's summing-up of the calibre of the members of the greatest foursome in old-world golf:

"The quartette was one of magnificent players. Of the lot I would place Allan, as a man, as the least powerful but the most scientific. He could not play well on a rough green, for he used light clubs and balls, and a rough, grassy green was too much for him; but on St Andrews, with its unapproachable turf, he was unrivalled. He was, we then considered, alike perfect in driving off the tee, in his play along the green, and in his approach to, his putting towards, and into the hole. Let me note that in putting he always took both putter and deck in his hand to be used according to judgment. On the other hand, when hard pressed, and great prowess was required to save a hole, Allan was the man who possessed it. As an instance, in one of the foursomes at St Andrews, between Allan and Tom Morris and the Dunns, when all were equal at the hole before the lulen coming in, Allan off the tee put Tom in the bunker just facing the hole. Tom, playing the like, took the ball out of the bunker, but just on to the edge, leaving a long putt over sandy ground of about five yards. Allan had to hole out for a half; he did it with his putter. I had been standing at his back, and after play was finished, said to him, 'My man, Allan, you never had a narrower squeak for a hole all your life.'

"'Man,' he said, 'I bid to do it. You see, I put Tom in the bunker.'

"This match was won by the St Andrews men.

"Allan was least in stature of the four, but lithe and muscular, and had a swing of his club which was quite musical and described a perfect circle. I have played a great deal with him, both singly (getting odds, of course), and with him as a partner in foursomes; and can testify to his uniform geniality, thorough earnestness to win matches, and uncomplaining temper under trials.

"Tom Morris and Willie Dunn I would class as on a par. Willie had a particularly graceful style. He was taller than the other three, very supple, and swung his club with great agility and power. James Dunn, I consider, was the least formidable of the four in a single, but alongside his brother was a most dangerous opponent.

"Tom Morris I need hardly describe. Who has handled a club and does not know his genial countenance; dark, penetrating eye, which never failed to detect a cunning road to the hole, imperturbable temper, unflinching courage, and indomitable self-control under circumstances the most exasperating?"

Tom Dunn tells of a big match that his father, Willie Dunn, and Sir Robert Hay played against Allan and Tom. The former couple finished the first round 4 up, but fell off in the second round and were beaten in the match. Tom Dunn says, "It is only fair to add that Sir Robert was at the Fife Hunt Ball the night before, dancing until the hours were well advanced in the morning not a good training for a big match. It is admitted on all hands by old golfers that Sir Robert's style was ideal. He never would take an iron club in his hand if he could help it. Give him his baity, and to see him, as I've watched him many a time approaching a hole, banging the shot up to the left and the ball dozing away round, until it frequently lay dead, was 'a sicht for sair ecu.' This shot he used to play with consummate nerve and no one could beat him at it.'

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