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Golfing History - Golf Becomes a Professional Sport


The Prestwick Golf Club was formed in 1851. The precursor to the British Open, the first major national championship, was played there for the first time in 1860 with Willie Park as winner. The legend of Old Tom Morris was born when he won the event in 1862, 1864 and 1867. However his son, Young Tom Morris, was the first great champion winning the event a record four consecutive times from 1869. Other illustrious winners were JH Taylor in 1894 and Harry Vardon in 1896. Together with James Braid, these three men were known as the Great Triumvirate.


Besides the few sponsored events such as the British Open, most golf professionals made a living from competitions by betting against their opponent. Professionals also earned a living from tuition, ball and club making and caddying.


The growth of golf as an organized competitive sport in the United Kingdom was paralleled abroad in India and the USA. Gate receipts were used as prize money for the first time in 1892 in Cambridge, England. The first international golf tournament was the Amateur Golf Championship of India and the East in 1893.


In 1894, the United States Golf Association (USGA) was established to regulate the game in the United States and Mexico. Besides rules it manages the handicapping system and conducts research into grass. The US Open US Ladies Amateur Open was inaugurated in 1895.


By 1900 there were more than 1000 golf clubs in the USA. Chicago was the first to have 18 holes. Significantly American golf courses were usually specifically landscaped parklands unlike those in the United Kingdom, which were typically links courses.


The game attracted the attention of the media and business sponsorship which raised it's profile enormously. In 1897 the first monthly magazine, Golf, was published in the USA. The USA became the centre of the professional game due to the proliferation of commercially sponsored competitions. However the prestigious events were still those hosted in the United Kingdom. Interestingly, it was the amateurs rather than professionals, which were exalted by the public.


Golf was confirmed as a global sport when it was made an Olympic sport in 1900.




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