ARMOUR’S GROUNDING AT THE BRAIDS
● Edinburgh native remains the only Scot to win three different major titles
The only Scot to win three different majors was a big hit in his native Edinburgh before heading Stateside
In these unusual times, golf fans have had to wait until this week for the first major of the season.
The US PGA, which is taking place at Harding Park in San Francisco, will reach its conclusion tomorrow, with the US Open scheduled for next month and the Masters slated for November.
Sadly, the Open will not happen this year, the first time since the Second World War that the world’s oldest major has not been played.
Tommy Armour, the only Scot ever to have won three of those titles – US Open in 1927, US PGA in 1930 and the Open in 1931 – is clearly an iconic figure in the sport’s history on both sides of the Atlantic, whose feats may not always be recognised here with the credit they deserve.
In part that may be due to his success being achieved by the time he was resident in the USA after emigrating in the early 1920s.
The first of Armour’s major victories came in the 1927 US Open, which was held for the first time at Oakmont, Pennsylvania. He defeated Harry
Cooper in an 18-hole play-off after the pair had tied with a score of 301. Defending champion Bobby Jones finished in joint 11th place.
Three years later, at the Fresh Meadow Country Club in New York, Armour won the US PGA Championship, which at that time was a matchplay competition. Having overcome the USA’S Johnny Farrell and Charles Lacy in the earlier rounds, he defeated Gene Sarazen 1up in the final.
In the 1931 Open at Carnoustie, he posted a fourround total of 296 to claim the Claret Jug, finishing one shot ahead of Argentinean Jose Jurado.
There is no doubt, however, that the Edinburgh golfer’s skills were forged in his native city, especially over the Braid Hills courses where in summer he was often on the first tee at 5am and would also play two rounds in the evening.
The combination of his commendable war record when he survived serious wounds while serving in the Tank Corps and subsequent highprofile lifestyle in the States lent him a certain aura and tended to create a degree of myth round him. It was often quoted that in wartime he attained the rank of major and had strangled a German soldier with his bare hands.
There do not appear to be hard facts in support of the latter story while examination of records reveal his rank as 2nd lieutenant. Other reportedly accurate statements which appear online suggest he was educated at either Daniel Stewart’s or Fettes College and thereafter at Edinburgh University. Research has found these to be untrue.
What is true is that he was born in 1896 at 18 Balcarres Street in Morningside where he was initially brought up with brother Sandy [a top amateur golfer] and three sisters. Father George was a journeyman baker, originally from Linlithgow, but died when Tommy was aged four.
Recourse was had to Edinburgh City Archives to attempt to discover the schools he attended. Given the Morningside connection, South
Morningside Primary School in Comiston Road warranted enquiry and proved positive. He enrolled there on 3 September 1901 and left on 17 July 1908 to attend Boroughmuir High School in September that year.
By then the family had moved to 13 Maxwell Street, still in Morningside, and Tommy remained at Boroughmuir till July 1911, just short of his 15th birthday.
To complete matters, enquiry was also made of Fettes College and Edinburgh University, both of which confirmed there was no trace of him in their records.
The suggestion he attended Daniel Stewart’s may have its roots in his lifelong friendship with Bobby Cruickshank, who did attend Stewart’s. The two played together when youngsters over the Braids and emigrated to the States about the same time, with Cruickshank also enjoying much success there.
Perusal of old school magazines in the library of the splendid “new” Boroughmuir School down Viewforth from its original site disclose that Armour’s exploits featured years ago. The only mention of his potential while at school was reference to playing in the
Students v Staff annual golf match in 1911 when he and partner “Wood” halved their game against “Messrs Mcnab and Oldham”. One is tempted to wonder if any of those three in later years dined out on their match with a future triple majors champion.
Although no venue is recorded it would probably have been the Braids.
Thereafter the magazines contain sporadic mentions of Armour and his successes throughout the 1920s and into the early 1930s in the fairly minimalist style of the time.
One example is in the July 1927 issue where it states, “Congratulations to Thomas Armouronwinningtheamerican Open.” Short and to the point. A similar entry in a 1931 issue relates to his Open win at Carnoustie.
The passage of time has dimmed recollection of his days at Boroughmuir but it is to be hoped the connection can be appropriately promoted. Both schools appreciated the information on their prestigious alumnus.
Although Armour’s professional career hit the heights in the States, he enjoyed a very successful amateur career here before emigrating.
As a member of the Western Club at the Braids he was a member of their team which won the Evening Dispatch Trophy in 1919 while in the same year he won the scratch gold medal at the Thistle Club, also at the Braids.
By then playing out of the now defunct Lothianburn club, he was losing finalist in the Irish amateur championship while in 1920 he won the French amateur title defeating British Amateur champion Cyril Tolley in the final at Versailles.
He also won the prized Silver Tassie competition at Gleneagles that summer, beating among others Bernard Darwin, doyen of golf writers. Referring to Armour, who died in 1968,he later stated: “His style is the perfection of rhythm and beauty.”