Horace Hutchinson

Horace Hutchinson (2 Amateur's, author.)

1859 - 1932

Horatio Gordon "Horace" Hutchinson (16 May 1859 – 27 July 1932)[1][2] was an English amateur golfer who played in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Hutchinson won the 1886 Amateur Championship and the 1887 Amateur Championship. He had three top-10 finishes in the Open Championship, his best result being sixth in the 1890 Open Championship.[3]

He was also a prolific writer of books on the subject of golf and other sporting themes.[4][5] Hutchinson was the first English captain of the R&A links at St Andrews Golf Club, Scotland.[6] He suffered from grave illness in the latter portion of his life and committed suicide in Chelsea, LondonEngland, on 27 July 1932.

Hutchinson, born 16 May 1859 in London, England, was the third son of General William Nelson Hutchinson (1803–1895).[1] He began his golfing career at an early age playing at the Royal North Devon golf club—also known as Westward Ho!—a course founded in 1864 and designed by Old Tom Morris.[8] By the age of sixteen he won the club medal championship. He attended Corpus Christi College for a time where he was a cricket player,[9] then Oxford University from 1878–81[10] where he made an immediate impression by playing number one on the Oxford golf team and led them to victory over arch rival Cambridge in the University Golf Match.

 
Caricature by Spy of Hutchinson (1890), from Vanity Fair magazine

During his Oxford years he would spend vacations at home playing the Royal North Devon course accompanied by a young orphaned caddie who was employed by the Hutchinson family as a houseboy. The young lad went by the name of John Henry Taylor. Taylor's future exploits in golf—which included winning five Open Championships—would become legendary.[11]

Hutchinson was a keen billiards player and enjoyed rowing, shooting and angling. He graduated Oxford BA with third-class honours in literae humaniores (1881) and entered the Inner Temple with a view to reading for the bar, but his health, always frail, temporarily broke down.[7] In 1890 he considered becoming a sculptor and studied briefly under G. F. Watts.[5] In 1893 he married Dorothy Margaret Chapman, daughter of Major Frederick Barclay Chapman of the 14th Hussars.[5][7][12]

Hutchinson's major accomplishments in golf were his two victories in the 1886 and 1887 Amateur Championships. He became the first player to successfully defend the title by defeating the great John Ball on Ball's home course at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake.

Hutchinson was an avid student—and later teacher—of the mechanics of the golf swing, so he decided to put forth in writing his suggestions on methods of play. He said, among other things, "The great secret of all strokes played for the most part is to make the club travel as long as possible in the direction in which you want the ball to go".[11]

In 1896, showing his humorous side on the subject of golf etiquette, Hutchinson remarked:

If your adversary is badly bunkered, there is no rule against your standing over him counting his strokes aloud, with increasing gusto as their number mounts up, but it will be a wise precaution to arm yourself with the niblick before doing so, so as to meet him on equal terms.[13]

— Horace Hutchinson

From 1910 a local director to their West End branch and later its chairman[14] Hutchinson was elected to the court of Directors of Royal Exchange Assurance Corporation in May 1919.[15]Following Hutchinson's death in 1932 the chairman of Royal Exchange began his address to their 213th Annual General Court by telling of his deepest regret. "He had the interests of the Corporation always very much at heart and the charm of his personality endeared him to his colleagues and to all those with whom he came in contact. He is very much missed by us all".[14]

In 1905, with his golfing friend H.C.B. Underdown, he became one of the two first directors of Commercial Cars Limited (Commer) which the pair of them set up to make Commer commercial vehicles. Their venture was intended to capitalize on a promising preselector gearbox invented for heavy vehicles. He remained on that board until his death.

Although he lived to be 73 years old, Hutchinson suffered with poor health most of his life, and was for the last eighteen years of life incapacitated by grave illness.[5] Before 1920 he left his Sussex home, Shepherds Gate, Coleman's Hatch across Royal Ashdown Forest Golf Club from Forest Row and moved to 29 Lennox Gardens, Chelsea, London. Eighteen years after he could no longer play golf he committed suicide there on 27 July 1932. He was survived by his wife.[7] According to his 1932 probate, his wealth at death was £26,337 (£1.65 million today).[16]

American golf teaching professional Mike Stevens said of Hutchinson, "In my mind, there is no question that Horace Hutchinson was a teacher extraordinaire and is clearly the father of golf instruction".[11]

Walter Travis, in 1904—shortly after his victories in the 1903 U.S. Amateur and 1904 British Amateur—said of Hutchinson:

All things considered, the golfer whom I most admired as a player was Horace Hutchinson. Over here we have read so many of his books and spoken of him so long as a veteran that one is surprised to find he is only forty-seven years old. He plays every shot for what it is worth and in perfect style, as free as any supple youth, and, all told, I pronounce him, to my mind, the ideal golfer.[4]

— Walter Travis