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Tantallon Golf Club
Westgate, North Berwick
Tel.01620 892114

Tantallon Golf Club
© Digitalsport UK

John E. Laidlay © Digitalsport UK

  History of the
Amateur Championship

By Douglas Seaton
Tantallon GC Factfile

In December 1884, Tom Potter the secretary of Royal Liverpool Golf Club suggested the idea of holding a championship open to amateur players. All the leading clubs were invited to send entrants, and a total of 44 players from 12 clubs took part in the tournament held at Hoylake in 1885. The format was matchplay and the rules stated that if a match was drawn then both players advance to the next round. This unbalanced the draw with three going through to the semi-finals and the winner Allan F. Macfie had a bye to the final.

Despite the rules, the tournament was so successful B. Hall-Blyth, Captain of Royal Liverpool wrote to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club urging them to inaugurate an official tournament. The proposal was met favourably and clubs in England and Scotland were invited to send delegates with a view to drafting the necessary regulations, a cup was purchased and duly presented the following year at the Amateur Championship at St Andrews. Benjamin Hall Blyth resided in Kaimend overlooking the West Links at North Berwick and was a former Captain of Tantallon Golf Club in 1896-98.

Effigy of Tom Morris on top of the trophy reflecting the importance of the Amateur game at that time.

Initially, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club did not recognise the 1885 match as the official Amateur Championship but in 1922 Allan Macfie was eventually given his rightful place as the first winner. In 1886, Tantallon was one of the 25 clubs that contributed three guineas towards the establishment of a trophy for competition at the Annual Championship Tournament of the Associated Clubs as it was originally named. In the Tantallon balance sheet the entry was under 'Subscription to St Andrews Tournament.'

There was an earlier tournament in 1858 at St Andrews which attracted an entry of twenty-eight followed much the same lines as the present Amateur Championship. The winner was Robert Chambers, the famous Edinburgh publisher. He was twenty and the youngest player in the tournament, for which he had entered from Bruntsfield Club. Chambers was also Captain of Royal Liverpool and Tantallon (1880-88). In 1885 he moved from Edinburgh to North Berwick and built the imposing St Baldred's Tower as his residence.

The Championship was played on six courses, Prestwick, Westward Ho!, St Andrews, Sandwich, Muirfield and Hoylake. (All seaside greens). Gullane and North Berwick missed out. In 1919 the Royal & Ancient Golf Club was approached to officially organise the Amateur and Open Championships. The Club agreed and in February 1920 a Championship Committee was formed which included John E Laidlay Robert Maxwell and B. Hall-Blyth representing Tantallon Golf Club.

' The Annual Championship Tournament of the Associated Clubs '

The Clubs which made a contribution to the purchase of the trophy were as follows.

Royal and Ancient
Royal Burgess
Royal Liverpool
Royal St George
Royal Albert, Montrose
Royal North Devon
Royal Aberdeen
Royal Blackheath
Royal Wimbledon
Royal Dublin
North Berwick New Club
Panmure Dundee
Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society
Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers
King James VI, Perth
West Lancashire

Robert Maxwell © Digitalsport UK


Allan Fullerton Macfie, born January 1854 in Liverpool son of John Macfie a sugar refiner and his wife Liias Macfie. Allan who was stone-deaf since birth, moved with his parents to 14 Hope Terrace, Whitehouse Gardens, Edinburgh where he learned to play golf. In 1877, Allan sailed to Australia on the City of Adelade and arrived in Melbourne on 29 March. On his return to Scotland he settled in St Andrews. Macfie was a familiar figure in North Berwick having played the West Links on several occasions. He was in the team representing Royal Liverpool against North Berwick in 1881. Allan Macfie died in St Andrews on 15 January 1943.


Freddie Tait was a member of many golf clubs and represented his regiment the Black Watch when he won the Amateur Championship in 1896 and 1898. He joined Tantallon Golf Club in 1899 and that year he was defeated at the thirty-seventh hole in the Amateur Championship at Prestwick by John Ball Jnr. This was the fifth time Ball had won the championship. Only four players Hutchinson, Laidlay, Maxwell and Tait have scored double wins up to 1909.


John R. Gaidner played in the Amateur Championship in 1896 (Sandwich), 1899 (Prestwick) and represented Mid-Surrey Golf Club in the championship in 1900 (Sandwich), 1901 (St Andrews) and 1902 (Hoylake). He entered from Tantallon Golf Club in 1903, and 1909 at Muirfield and 1905 at Prestwick. Gairdner played for the Scottish team against England at Holylake in 1902 watched by over a thousand spectators. At Prestwick in 1905, Gairdner and Robert Maxwell met in the 5th round. Maxwell won the dual of the Tantallon members but was defeated in the next round by A. Gordon Barry who went on to win the Championship. Gairdner was elected Captain of Tantallon Golf Club in 1908-10 and on his death in 1919 his family presented all his medals to the Tantallon Club.


Alex Mackenzie Ross learned to play golf on Bruntsfield and Musselburgh links. He won the Hope Challenge Medal at Kilspindie in 1893 and 1900 and was the first winner of the Braid Hills Tournament in 1889. Alex played in the Amateur and Open Championship and was elected Captain of Tantallon Golf Club (1900-02).


Johnny Laidlay winner of the Amateur Championship in 1889 and 1891, was a pioneer of the overlapping grip, twice Amateur Champion, runner-up three times and leading amateur in the Open four times. He played for Scotland against England every year from 1902 until 1911 when he was fifty-one. Laidlay was elected Captain of Tantallon Golf Club (1906-08). It was in 1902 when the Royal Liverpool arrange the first amateur international match between England and Scotland. John Ball and Robert Maxwell led out their respective teams.


Thomas Mansfield Hunter (b.1877) and his brother Norman Frederick Hunter (b.1879) sons of Dr. James Adam Hunter MD and his wife Marion Mansfield. They resided at 18 Abercromby Place, Edinburgh where their father had his medical practice. Thomas Mansfield Hunter was educated at Edinburgh Academy, and attended Cambridge University.

Mansfield played in the first Amateur Championship in 1885 and again in 1888. He was a member of Tantallon Golf Club and the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. In July 1899 Mansfield Hunter and his partner Charles Dalziel played a 36-hole match against Freddie Tait and Robert Maxwell at Muirfield. Hunter and Dalziel won the match 2 & 1, but lost the return two days later. In 1901 he won the Tantallon Club Medal, and also the Victoria Jubilee Cup. He won the scratch medal at the spring meeting from a field which included J.E Laidlay, L. Balfour-Melville and R. Maxwell. Mansfield was elected captain of Tantallon Golf Club (1910-12), and during this period Tantallon played an annual match against The Oxford and Cambridge Golfing Society. Mansfield Hunter qualified as a Barrister-at-Law and in 1910 he resided in Carters Hotel, 14 Albemarle Street, Mayfair, London.

Norman Frederick Hunter was educated at Loretto School in Musselburgh before going up to Christ College in Oxford University. He learned to play golf on Musselburgh links and was a member of the blue blood fraternity of amateur golfers at Tantalllon Golf Club, North Berwick. He was captain of The Oxford and Cambridge Golfing Society when they toured America in 1903 and 1912. The Chicago golfers can still remember when the trim clean-cut Norman F. Hunter made his 71 on the Wheaton course. Norman and his brother Mansfield entered the Open Championship in1904-1906. In 1911 Norman and his wife Elizabeth were living on private means in Huntingdon, Ascot and was captain of Sunningdale Golf Club.

Norman was an underwriter with Lloyds Exchange, London before he enlisted as a commissioned officer in WW1 and joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, and was attached to the Royal Fusillers. Lieutenant Norman Hunter was posted to France when he was reported as missing in action, presumed dead. The last reported sighting of him stated that he was left wounded in the hip in a trench that had to be abandoned to the enemy on June 16th at Hooge,Ypres. His military record states 'THIS DEATH HAS NOT TO BE ADVERTISED'.


Robert Chambers born March 1832 in Edinburgh son of Robert Chambers Snr. and his wife Jane Kirkwood. Robert Chambers joined Tantallon Golf Club playing over the West Links, North Berwick in 1864. In 1883 Robert Chambers donated a trophy for the lowest scratch score at the Summer Meeting. He was elected Captain of Tantallon in 1880-1888 and won the club medal in 1868 and 1884.

He worked in his father's publishing business in Edinburgh along with his brother William. The printing works of W.& R. Chambers was situated at 339 High Street, Edinburgh where they published the Chambers' Journal which had a wide circulation. Robert resided at 10 Claremont Crescent before moving to 10 Royal Crescent Edinburgh.

Following the National Golf Tournament at St Andrews in 1857, the format for the second championship was altered from Club Foursomes to an individual contest which twenty-year-old Robert Chambers won representing Bruntsfield Golfing Society. Chambers was also a member of Royal Liverpool Golf Club and laid out their course at Hoylake in 1869 with the assistance of his caddie George Morris.

In 1870 Robert Chambers umpired the famous match between Willie Park Snr. and Tom Morris Snr. played over four courses, Prestwick, St Andrews. Musselburgh and North Berwick. At Musselburgh the partisan gallery of over 7,000 got out of control and Chambers repetedly appealed for order before abandoning the match.

Robert Chambers organised the first professional tournament in England played at Hoylake on 25 April 1872. Sixteen professionals entered he tournament offering £55 in prize money which was considerably more than the £12 offered at the Open Championship. The professionals had their rail ticket paid for and a sumptuous dinner was provided in the evening/ Young Tom Morris won the £5 was played between two professionals from England against Tom Morris and Bob Ferguson representing Scotland.

In 1885 Chambers moved to North Berwick and built the imposing St Baldred's Tower. His daughter Violet was a leading golfer in the North Berwick Ladies Club and was a champion of working class women, campaigning for better living conditions through public meetings and articles in the press.

One of the earliest lady golfers was Violet Chambers who attracted a large following of spectators when she started, all intrigued to see a lady playing golf. Her father Robert Chambers was made a burgess of the Royal Burgh of North Berwick in June 1885 and he built St Baldred's Tower situated above the tennis courts in North Berwick. Violet often spoke at public meetings and wrote articles in the press about the appalling conditions for those working in agriculture and the fishing industry. Under her married name of Violet Tweedale she wrote several books on her favourite subject of spiritualism. In 1889 she moved to London and attended seances with Lord Haldane, Arthur Balfour, and his brother James Balfour. W. E. Gladstone also held sittings in her house. Robert Chambers Jnr. died 23 March 1888 at his home in Claremont Crescent, Edinburgh.


Robert Maxwell won the Amateur Championship at Muirfield in 1903 and 1909. He presented the Amateur Trophy to Tantallon Golf Club for safe keeping throughout the year. In 1909, Ben Sayers designed a driver called 'Dreadnought' and gave one to Maxwell who used it to great effect in the final against Captain Cecil Hutchison. Following Maxwell's triumph in 1909 every golfer wanted a 'Dreadnought' and the Ben Sayers factory could not keep up with demand. Maxwell played every year for Scotland against England from (1902-07 )and then (1909-10). Bob Maxwell was Captain of Tantallon from (1902-04).

The interclub match between Royal Liverpool and Tantallon Golf Club which continues to this day is recognised as the fore-runner of the Amateur International Match between Scotland and England. During the first ten years of the International match, the game between Johnny Ball and Bobby Maxwell caught the public's attention when they almost invariably figured at the head of the English and Scottish teams. They met seven times in all, but of the seven Maxwell won five to Ball's two. This was truly 'The Golden Age of the Amateur Golfer.'

[Royal Liverpool]
First Home International between Scotland and England at Hoylake in 1902 © Digitalsport UK

Copyright © Douglas Seaton 1994 - 2021, All Rights Reserved.