Who won the first Open Championship?

Willie Park Open Championship

The Open Championship is the oldest competition in golf and one of the sport’s four majors.

It was first held in 1860 at Prestwick Golf Club in Ayrshire in the south-west of Scotland. 

The very first winner of the Open was Willie Park Sr, who was born in Wallyford in East Lothian in 1833.

Like most other professional golfers at the time, he started out as a caddy and earned extra money by playing challenge matches against other stars including Old Tom Morris, Allan Robertson and Willie Dunn.  

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These were the most popular form of spectator golf during Park’s era, and custom at the time dictated players would lay down challenges to those deemed better than they were. 

He also ran a club-manufacturing business and was renowned as a long hitter and an excellent putter, although he often found trouble on the course by being overly aggressive.

A controversial figure at some points during his career thanks to his aggressive self-promotion, his approach nevertheless led to a huge increase in interest in golf – not least the rivalries between the various professionals of the time. 

That in turn contributed to more matches being set up, and in turn the creation of the Open Championship as well as increased earnings for Park and other top professionals of the time.

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Park’s win in 1860, when the field consisted of just eight players, was a shock as Morris was considered the best golfer at that stage. 

He would go on to win three more Open Championships in 1863, 1866 and 1875. 

Away from the golf course he had 10 children, and one of his sons, Willie Park Jr, won two Opens in 1887 and 1889. 

Park died in 1903 at the age of 70 in Musselburgh, and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2005.

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