Golfer Jack White: British Open Winner Who Set Scoring Milestones

Golfer Jack White with his dog in 1904

Jack White was a Scottish golf pro, clubmaker, a great putter and an Open Championship winner in the late 1800s and first half of the 1900s. He also has a notable connection to Bobby Jones and established several significant firsts in the British Open.

Full name: John White (Jack was his nickname)

Date and place of birth: August 15, 1873, in Pefferdshire, Whitekirk, Scotland

Date and place of death: March 24, 1949, in Musselburgh, Scotland

Jack White in the Majors

White first played the British Open in 1891 and last entered in 1922 but withdrew. The last time he completed an Open was in 1921, when he finished 57th.

Of course, what White is best-known for today is winning the 1904 British Open (more on that to come). But he was also runner-up in the 1899 Open Championship, and had five other Top 10 finishes. White played the Open every year from 1891-1906, but only three times after that.

He played the U.S. Open once, in 1929 when he was 56 years old, opening with a 72 to stand in fifth place. But he ballooned to an 86 in the second round and withdrew.

White's British Open Win and Important Firsts

Jack White not only won an Open, he was also the first golfer to record a couple important scoring milestones in the tournament's history.

White's win happened at Royal St George's in 1904 when he finished one stroke better than Open legends J.H. Taylor and James Braid. White opened with an 80, but a second-round 75 pushed him into a tie for sixth place.

In the third round, White carded a 72 and surged into second place, one stroke behind the leader, Braid. Braid had just become the first golfer in Open history to crack 70 in a round, shooting a third-round 69.

But in the final round, White matched Braid's new British Open scoring record with his own 69 — only to see Taylor break the record with his own 68. But Taylor began the round two behind White, so Taylor's scoring record wasn't enough to overtake the new champ.

So White won with scores of 80, 75, 72 and 69 — the first time in Open Championship history that a champion lowered his score in each successive round. To this day, you can still count on one hand the number the times that has happened.

And White's winning score of 296? It was the new Open scoring record and the first time in the tournament's history a golfer won with a total below 300.

That wasn't the first record White set in an Open, either. In 1899, he carded a 75 that established a then-course record at Royal St. George's.

The Jack White-Bobby Jones Connection

White was one of the preeminent clubmakers of his era and was particularly renown for his drivers and other wood-headed clubs of the time.

In 1926, Bobby Jones met White at Sunningdale Golf Club, where White was the pro and ran a golf shop, near London. Jones was in the U.K. for qualifying rounds to get into the British Open (all golfers at that time had to go through qualifying). Looking through White's wares, Jones found a driver made by White that he liked and bought it.

Jones then went out and shot 66 in his Open qualifier. And then he won the 1926 British Open. A few weeks later, Jones won the 1926 U.S. Open using White's driver. He kept that driver in his bag through the end of his competitive career, winning a total of 10 majors (pro and amateur majors combined) using it.

Today, that driver is on display in the clubhouse of Augusta National Golf Club.

More Facts About Golfer Jack White

White was born into a golfing family: His uncles included pro golfers Ben Sayers and Davie Grant, both of whom posted multiple Top 10 British Open finishes.

White began working as a caddie when he was 10 years old, and training as a clubmaker. (Sayers created a golf equipment company that still exists today.)

By his late teens, White was certified as a golf professional. He began working summers as the golf pro at North Berwick Golf Club in Scotland, and, in the winters, at York Golf Club in England.

One of White's earliest dip-of-the-toes into a pro tournament happened when he was only 16 years old. He finished third in a local tournament. But White became better known in the 1880s and 1890s for playing challenge matches. (He also caddied for others, including caddying for Johnny Laidlay when Laidlay won the Amateur Championship in 1889.) According to a website that tracks the golf history of the North Berwick region, the first-known instance of gate money being collected in golf was for an 1892 challenge match that featured White.

In addition to his British Open record, White represented Scotland eight times in the annual England–Scotland Professional Match, a hotly contested team tournament of the era. White played the match in 1903-7, 1909, 1912 and 1913.

When the British PGA was founded in 1901, White was one of the original members. One year later, in 1902, White took over as professional at Sunningdale, a position he held for 25 years.

Jack White putting style

White was considered one of the best putters of his era. According to the R&A's British Open history:

"White ... was an exceptional putter and had an idiosyncratic style. He crouched low over a tiny putter with his hands at the level of his knees."

White was also a golfer who liked to hook putts off the toe of his putting cleek. That's something that several other putting greats (including Bobby Locke) liked to do, but that is almost never seen today.

In 1904, White co-authored with amateur champion Walter Travis a book called The Art of Putting. In 1921, White wrote his own instruction book on that art, titled simply Putting. It included forwards by the two men he beat by a stroke in the 1904 Open, Taylor and Braid. Both books are out of print and in the public domain; follow the previous links to read them on Google Books.

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