This is something we had to see to believe.
When we heard that an original program from Harry Vardon's victory at the 1899 Open Championship was tucked away in a private UK collection, we could not wait to lay our eyes on it. The Gilchrist Guide lists the earliest known British Open program as 1921 (with a $12,500 value) - more than two decades after this program. In fact, 1921 is the earliest known program listed for any Major Championship. The earliest British Open program we've ever offered for auction was from 1927 (sold for $10,000), and 1923 was the earliest for any program (1923 US Open program sold for $13,702).
Well, we now have the extreme privilege of offering for auction this 1899 Open Championship program from Harry Vardon's victory at St George's Golf Club (St. George's took on the Royal designation in 1902).
But then we learned something else. This wasn't just any 1899 Open Championship Program (likely the only copy that exists), but one that was personally owned by the legendary Freddie Tait. Freddie Tait famously won the British Amateur twice, and then was killed in action in the Second Boer War in February 1900. Freddie Tait finished T7 at the 1899 Open, and was the low amateur in the field. This would be the 29 year old Tait's final Open Championship, as he would ship off to South Africa and the Second Boer War just months later.
This 1-sheet program consists of the By-Laws and Rules on one side, and Draw Sheet and Tee Times on the reverse. This is from the final day of the two-day 1899 Open Championship (36 holes played each day). The program has printed scores from the 1st day's play, and has several handwritten scores as golfer's finished their 3rd round. One of the rounds hand recorded is for Freddie Tait himself. Other hand notations list scores from the 2 golfers immediately following Tait's group, as well the preceding tee time where the great John Ball recorded a 3rd round 90 - shooting himself out of contention.
Playing conditions must have been extreme during the final round of the 1899 Open Championship on Thursday June 8, 1899. Nearly every golfer had higher scores on the final day. The eventual winner Harry Vardon, who shot 76-76 on Day 1 for a one stroke lead, finished with 81-77 and still somehow distanced himself from the field to win by 5 strokes.
This program is in excellent condition. 8 1/4" x 13 3/8". Some original folds where you can imagine this program folded into the jacket pocket of Freddie Tait, or perhaps one of his friends/family members as Tait battled at St. George's against the likes of Vardon, Taylor, Hilton, Ball, Ray, Herd, and Park.
An historic piece of memorabilia that is truly worthy of any museum or serious golf collection.