“Opening Drive” and the Scene of the First Open Championship

Graylyn LoomisArtistsLeave a Comment

I first learned about Opening Drive from a good golf buddy of mine who lives in Scotland. On one of our monthly Facetime catch-ups, he told me about a friend of his named Professor David Purdie, who had extensively researched and then commissioned a painting of the first drive in the first Open Championship. To my surprise, there had never been an image or painting representing that historic moment. Opening Drive solves that problem!

As I learned more about David, his research, and his intentions for the painting, I came to appreciate the project even more. When the idea of featuring the painting on my website arose, I couldn’t have been more happy to oblige. The questions below are from a brief interview with David, and I hope you enjoy a little background on Opening Drive, the research behind it, and the artist. For much more information about the painting, or to purchase a print, visit www.openingdrive.co.uk.

Tell us about the journey of researching and commissioning Opening Drive?

When I was learning the game as a boy on the links of Prestwick St Nicholas, I remember asking my grandfather if it were true that the Open Championship had begun right here.

Indeed it did.” I was firmly told, “And furthermore, boy, the first dozen Opens were held here at Prestwick – and don’t you forget it!” Delighted with this honour for our home town, I asked if I could see a picture of the first event in 1860 and was rather surprised to hear that no-one in our golfing family had ever seen such a thing.

There matters rested for over forty years until I and Hugh Dodd, artist to the R&A, were preparing our book, The Ancyent & Healthfulle Exercyse of the Golff, a humorous history of the game. Our hunt for any image of the 1st Open ended in the St Andrews office of Angela Howe, the R&A’s Heritage Director. Angela confirmed our suspicions. No image of the 1860 event was in existence.

This immediately begged a question. Might it be possible to depict, in oil-on-canvas, the scene on the first tee as Tom Morris Sr. struck away that very first shot in The Open?

What were some of the key resources for your research into the first Open Championship and the setting for that first drive?

The archives of Prestwick Golf Club gave me the date, Wednesday 17th October 1860, and the time, high noon. I also had the precise location, since the original 1st tee at Prestwick is marked by a stone-cairn unveiled in 1977 by two-time Open winner Sir Henry Cotton.

A reporter from the local newspaper The Ayr Advertiser being present, I also had the weather. It was a day of fitful sunshine, with a strong, blustery half-gale from the south-west, Prestwick’s prevailing wind. This determined the active cloudscape – and the presence of whitecaps out on the waters of the Firth of Clyde.

The Dept. of Astronomy at Edinburgh University calculated that at noon that day, the azimuth angle of the sun was 180 degrees – and its elevation angle 34 degrees. This allowed the correct orientation and length of the shadows.

Captain David Campbell (L) and Prof. David Purdie in The Tom Morris Room, Prestwick St Nicholas GC.

The UK Hydrographic Office reported that the tide – on the beach below the 1st tee – had been 2 hours below high water – and was ebbing.
The personal appearances of six of the Officials superintending the tournament were known to me from contemporary photos or paintings – as were the features of 6 Contestants. All have been faithfully represented by the Artist  – and several have now been recognized by their descendants alive today.

Tell us about Peter Munro and why was he chosen as the artist for Opening Drive?

Born in 1954, in the Highlands of Scotland, where he still lives, Peter graduated from the Chelsea School of Art in London. He concentrated initially upon wildlife work, then on landscape, especially the great golf courses of the United Kingdom and Ireland. He became well-known in the US where he and his work have been profiled in leading magazines. Peter has exhibited at prestigious galleries in the UK, Europe, the US and Canada.

Prof Purdie commissioned Opening Drive from Munro due to his requirement for a great golf landscape painter who was also a superb portraitist. Such artists are few in number – and such is Peter Munro.

Where will the original painting be displayed and are prints available for purchase?

The original remains in the possession of Prof David Purdie. It will be placed on the open market after being exhibited at the July 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale GC in England. Limited-edition prints are available: see;  www.openingdrive.co.uk

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