The second act of the tragedy has Young Tom falling into despair. At the October meeting of the R&A he and his father were 4 up in a match with five holes to play, but Tommy fell apart, and the Morrises lost all the remaining holes and the match. Within weeks Young Tom's health was as bad as his golf. On Christmas Day, when Tommy didn't appear for breakfast, Old Tom entered his son's bedroom and found him dead in bed, at age 24. "There are all kinds of romantic theories, including that he died of a broken heart," says Burnet. "The doctor's certificate says it was the bursting of a blood vessel in his left lung."
Whatever. We are left with an image of Young Tom in his Balmoral hat, which would sometimes fall off when he swung hard. The three-round total of 154 he shot to win the Open belt at the 12-hole Prestwick course in 1868 was six shots better than his father's best. Tommy won again the next year and was awarded the belt permanently in 1870 when he routed the field with a 149. Old Tom retained the prize, a red Morocco belt with mission silver plates, and showed it to visitors on the slightest pretext.
"Tom outlived his whole family," Joy says, conveying with a drooped eyebrow the implied melancholy. "His daughter Lizzie went to America with Charlie Hunter. They named their first son Tommy, and he died after three months. Then her husband died, and she came home. It was just Old Tom and his own Lizzie looking after him."
And now it's just Old Tom, who has, in a manner of speaking, outlived himself. He'll probably turn up this week. He likes to walk the New Course, which he designed in 1894, to check that the revetted bunkers are sound. And no one should be surprised if his bedroom window, above the golf shop, is open to the north wind, because that's how he has it on even the coldest nights. Certainly, Old Tom will appear evenings at the Byre Theatre, puffing on his old clay pipe. Expect to hear tales of Tommy, Allan, Willie Auchterlonie and the other respectable caddies.
But don't worry that you'll stump the old man with a hard question. "You won't panic him," Joy says with a coy smile. "What he doesn't know, he's just forgotten."