Jack Burns… the unexpected champion
A fellow by the name of Jack Burns won the 1888 Open Championship on this date 129 years ago. Burns himself was a St. Andrews native and head professional at Warwick in central England. Burns grew up in an Irish laboring family and started his early work in plastering. However, there is reference to him being a professional golfer in the minutes of the St Andrews Golf Club in October 1885. Alas, Burns entered the 1888 Open Championship with optimism. With his victory he won £8 pounds which was worth atlas two months worth of wages. He won it by a stroke from David Anderson, Jr. and Ben Sayers to finish a two day total of 171. Anderson Jr. and Sayers played an 18-hole play-off two days later. Sayers won and took the second prize of £6 pounds, Anderson taking the third prize of £3 pounds. 1886 Champion Willie Anderson came in at fourth with 174 taking home £2 pounds.
The Final Day of the 1886 Championship
In the afternoon Sayers, in the first group, scored 87 and took an early lead on 172. Campbell made a number of mistakes and scored 90 for a total of 174. Sayers then had his 172 matched by David Anderson. Playing a few groups behind, Burns scored an 85 and took the lead on 171, a score none of the later players could muster. Burns’s score for his first round had originally been added up to 87 but an R&A member noticed that it was added up incorrectly and the total was adjusted to 86, making Burns the champion.
Fact: Most noteworthy, Burns was a pallbearer for the legendary Old Tom Morris when he passed away at age 87 in 1908.
Burns played in his final Open in 1894 at Royal St George’s. How his game had faded, for he finished 49 shots off the lead. His only claim to fame that year was being drawn with the fast rising James Braid on the first day. Braid carded 91 and 84 and Burns 93 and 97. Burns moved back to St Andrews in 1891 to work on the railways, but he carried on caddying. When he died in 1927, his profession was listed as a plasterer again.
Josh Morris is the Editor of Golf History Today. A proud USGA Volunteer and golf enthusiast. In his free time he enjoys being a weekend caddie as well as playing as much as he can.