Jamie Anderson, Golfer Who Had British Open Threepeat

portrait of golfer Jamie Anderson
Jamie Anderson was a Scottish golf professional of the 19th century who was the second golfer ever to win the British Open three consecutive years. One of his victories was helped along by an ace on the second-to-last hole. He also was a friend of and frequently formed a formidaly playing partnership with Young Tom Morris.

Full name: James Anderson

Date of birth: June 27, 1842

Place of birth: St. Andrews, Scotland

Date and place of death: August 16, 1905 in Thornton, Fife, Scotland

Nickname: Jamie

His Open Championship Victories

Jamie Anderson was the second golfer (joining Young Tom Morris) to win three consecutive Open Championships, doing so in 1877, 1878 and 1879.
  • 1877 British Open: This Open consisted of four loops around the 9-hole Musselburgh Links, 36 holes total. Anderson was two off the lead at the midway point, but carded a 37, his best for the tournament, on the third nine. A closing 41 gave him the 2-stroke victory.
  • 1878 British Open: Played at 12-hole Prestwick, with three loops around for 36 holes. Anderson was the co-leader with J.O.F. "Jimmy" Morris (son of Old Tom Morris, brother of Young Tom Morris) after 24 holes. But he started his final round with consecutive 7s. When informed after eight holes that he needed to play the final four holes in 17 to win, Anderson replied, "I can do it." Then he did — scoring 13, in fact — with the help of a hole-in-one on the second-to-last hole.
  • 1879 British Open: Played on his home course at St. Andrews, Anderson led by two after the first 18, and wound up winning by three strokes to make it three in a row.
What happened the following year when Anderson went for four in a row? Nothing, because he didn't: Anderson did not enter the 1880 British Open, showing a massive gap between how tournament golf and pro golfers were considered then compared to how they are now.

More About Jamie Anderson

In Peter Alliss' The Who's Who of Golf (published 1980), he described Jamie Anderson this way: "Not a dashing player, his strengths were steadiness and accuracy and he was an exceptionally fine putter."

In the 1975 Encyclopedia of Golf, the authors wrote that Anderson "was often compared to Willie Park. He lacked Park's length but was deadly accurate with his approach shots, which he played so quickly that he scarcely seemed to give himself time to take aim."

And in his 1892 book Golf, golfer and author Horace Hutchinson said of Anderson's game, "He was the very embodiment of machine-like accuracy, and when properly in his game, and in the real swing of the thing, he, as it were, conquered his opponents by tiring them out. No matter if they went away with a flourish of trumpets, they generally came back to him: one half-missed shot at rare intervals was his opportunity, always profited by."

Hutchison continued, writing that Anderson:

"... (W)ithout being gifted with any extraordinary power ... he was nevertheless always straight and a fair length; and as a putter, and in the use of the iron in especial, his skill was, and is, proverbial. It was extraordinary to see with what judgment he would pitch a ball up to within a few feet of the hole half a dozen times in succession, and then hole his putt. In bad weather, too, he was a most trustworthy player, as he never appeared to be inconvenienced by the cold ... or wind."
Jamie Anderson was born in St. Andrews and grew up around and on The Old Course. His father, David — known as Da or Old Da — had been a feathery ball maker and a St. Andrews caddie, who, from 1851-55, served as "keeper of the greens" for the golf course. Old Da later became famous for running a food and beverage cart that he operated near the fourth hole, his wares including ginger beer. And, hence, today, the fourth hole of The Old Course is named Ginger Beer.

Jamie, too, started out as a St. Andrews caddie, and first played in the Open Championship in 1869. He finished fourth that year, but 16 strokes behind the winner, 18-year-old Young Tom Morris.

Anderson himself was 26 at that point, and he and Tommy Morris knew each other well: They frequently played challenge matches, both as opponents and as a particularly formidable partnership. In fact, Anderson and the younger Morris were such a good team that once, when Tommy was at the height of his considerable talents, they issued a challenge: They were willing to lay 100l. against their opponents' 80l. (l. meaning old English pounds) to face any two golfers who cared to challenge them. At that time, none were willing to take that offer.

Anderson played the British Open 13 times from 1869 through 1888, although skipping multiple years along the way, including, as previously mentioned, 1880 when he would have been going for a fourth consecutive win.

Instead, Bob Ferguson won that 1880 Open, then Ferguson won again in 1881 and 1882, immediately following Anderson's threepeat with his own. Anderson was runner-up to Ferguson by three strokes in 1881. (Anderson had also finished second in the 1873 Open Championship.) Anderson and Ferguson then played a much-anticipated series of challenge matches, each winning two of the four matches.

Anderson also worked a clubmaker, focusing on that after his playing days ended. (At one time, Anderson employed Bob Martin, who won two Opens himself.) And although he was highly regarded as a clubmaker, when he died at age 63 Anderson was in the Dysart Combination Poor House in Fife.

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