John Ball

John Ball (1 Open 8 Amateur's)

1861 - 1940

John Ball, Jr. (24 December 1861 – 2 December 1940) was an English amateur golfer of the late 19th and early 20th century.

Ball was born in Hoylake, Cheshire (now Merseyside). His father was the prosperous owner of the Royal Hotel, located near the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, in Hoylake. Ball grew up playing golf as a youth on the Royal Liverpool course, which was established in his early boyhood.[2]

In 1878, at the age of 17, Ball finished fifth in The Open at Prestwick. His run of Amateur titles began in 1888 and stretched until 1912, when he was 51 years old. His best year was 1890, when he won both the Amateur and Open Championships. Bobby Jones, who won the Grand Slam in 1930, is the only other golfer in history to win those two tournaments in the same year.

After winning The Amateur Championship in 1888, Ball became the first English-born player to win The Open Championship in 1890,[3] and in the same year won his second Amateur, the first to win both titles in the same year. Ball subsequently won the 1892, 1894, 1899, 1907, 1910, and 1912 Amateurs, a record eight titles in all, in addition to two runner-up finishes. Ball retired with a 99–22 record (81.8%) at The Amateur Championship. Ball was also runner-up in the 1892 Open Championship, finishing three strokes behind Harold Hilton.

Ball dominated amateur golf in Great Britain. He won all the important golf championships as well as the hearts and respect of his country. In the words of British golf historian Donald Steele, "No golfer ever came to be more of a legend in his own lifetime." He was the first amateur golfer in England to be named by the Royal Empire as an Immortal.[clarification needed]

Although he gripped the club tightly in the palms of both hands, Ball’s swing was the most graceful and stylish of his era. Bernard Darwin wrote, "I have derived greater aesthetic and emotional pleasure from watching John Ball than from any other spectacle in the game." Ball learned the game competing against Harold Hilton on the links at Hoylake. In 1878, at the age of 16, he competed in his first Open Championship and finished fourth at Prestwick.

Ball mounted on horseback during the Second Boer Warc. 1901

Ball was famous for refusing to carry a niblick, which had the loft of a modern-day 8- or 9-iron. He scorned the use of that club, describing it as "another bloody spade," and admonished the Rules of Golf Committee of the Royal and Ancient for permitting such horrid-looking contraptions to be allowed in competition. In a bunker, Ball would simply lay open the blade of a mid-iron and float the ball toward the hole with a smooth swing.

It was this stubbornness and dogged determination that made Ball such a lion in match play. Darwin once noted that Ball had "a strong vein of hostility and if he wanted a particular player's blood, he would fight his way through a tournament with the sole object of getting at him." Darwin added, "That was not a personal hostility, but rather a desire to measure himself against a foe really worthy of him."

Words from Ball are hard to find. He was a shy man who went about his business without wasted motion. In his book, Sixty Years of Golf, Robert Harris wrote that "John's soft, whispering voice, his stoicism, his pawky jibs at easy rules and innovations, his relentless criticism of moderns with their fuss, and his total outlook on the game, were the very essence of golf."

Ball died in Holywell, Wales on 2 December 1940.[4] Ball served his country during the Second Boer War. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1977.