Jack Simpson, Longshot Winner of the British Open

Jack Simpson is one of the lesser-known British Open champions, winner of the Open in 1884 — virtually his only tournament finish of note. But his family name is still on a Carnoustie landmark today.

Full name: John Simpson

Date and place of birth: December 29, 1859 in Earlsferry, Scotland

Date and place of death: July 9, 1895 in Edinburgh, Scotland

Nickname: Jack, which is what everyone called him.

Simpson's Open Championship Win

Jack Simpson won the 1884 British Open by four strokes over runners-up Willie Fernie and Douglas Rolland, and he was considered something of a surprise winner at the time.

Simpson carded a 78 in the first round (despite a nine on the second hole), played over a Prestwick course that was newly expanded to 18 holes. It was the best score of the first round.

In Round 2, played in strong afternoon winds, Simpson staggered home with a 7 on the 13th and back-to-back fives to finish, but still had the best round score of 82. His winning total was 160.

Simpson played in nine British Opens and his victory was his only finish better than 12th. Only five times did he finish in the Top 20, and that was in an era when the fields were small (fewer than 60 in each of his Top 20 finishes).

More Notes About Jack Simpson

Jack was the oldest of six brothers, all of whom grew up to be professional golfers and clubmakers. Jack himself trained as a stonemason, but turned more to golf after developing into the best player at his local Elie Thistle Club in Earlsferry, Scotland.

Jack learned clubmaking from his brother Archie. Archie Simpson was actually considered the best golfer of the Simpson brothers. Although he never won the Open, he was runner-up twice (1885, 1890). Bob Simpson's best Open finish was fourth.

It was Bob Simpson who founded the family's clubmaking and selling business, Simpsons Golf Shop, near the 18th hole of the links at Carnoustie in 1883.

Jack Simpson was a clubmaker and the family shop still exists at Carnoustie

Jack turned primarily to clubmaking, as opposed to tournament golf, in the years after his Open win. The Simpsons' shop still exists today. It is, according to Douglas Lonnstrom, author of The Handbook of Golf History, "thought to be the second-oldest golf shop ever." You can still visit it at Carnoustie.

In a book published in the 1890s, former pro golfer Horace Hutchison called Jack Simpson "a long driver with a fine, slashing style." Hutchison wrote of facing Simpson, along with their partners, in exhibition matches in the 1880s.

In those matches, Simpson sometimes partnered Douglas Rolland, one of the runners-up to him in the 1884 Open. Simpson and Rolland were two of the longest drivers of their day, and Hutchison wrote they reached parts of the hole with their drives that he and his partners never saw off the tee.

But, as with many long drivers throughout golf's history, Simpson's power came with a certain lack of accuracy. He was prone to both brilliant shots and blow-up holes.

The Prestwick website, writing about Open champions who won at the club, states of Simpson:

"In one tournament over Carnoustie he drove into the rough, topped his next two shots horribly and then hit an enormous shot followed by a superb pitch stone dead. After that, he missed the putt for a half. The most powerful player of his day, it is said that he sometimes buckled the heads of irons after just a few shots."

When Buxton & High Peak Golf Club opened in England in 1887, it recruited Simpson as clubmaker, ball maker and its first professional. ... Simpson was a cousin of five-time British Open winner James Braid. ... He died at the age of 35 due to typhoid fever.

Photo credit: "File:Simpsons golf shop Carnoustie - geograph.org.uk - 1241828.jpg"by GeographBot is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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