Meet the Golf Legends Who Inspired "Tommy's Honour"

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The Story of 'Tommy's Honour'

Actor Jack Lowden as Young Tom Morris in Tommy's Honour
Actor Jack Lowden portrays Young Tom Morris in the movie 'Tommy's Honour.'. Neil Davidson

There have been very few on-screen depictions of golf in the 19th century, a time when golf was branching out from its Scottish roots to the rest of Britain and, from there, the world.

Tommy's Honour, whose limited theatrical release happened in April 2017, changed that. The motion picture focuses on Tommy Morris (known to us today as Young Tom Morris), a shooting star across the golf firmament in the late 1860s and early 1870s.

(Warning: The movie is based on real people and real events, and there are spoilers aplenty hereafter as we discuss those real people.)

Tommy's Honour tells the story of Tommy's relationship with his father, Tom Morris Sr. (today know as, natch, Old Tom Morris), their sometimes troublesome personal relationship and their partnership in essentially creating professional golf; and of Tommy's ill-fated romance with the love of his life.

Did we say ill-fated? Tommy's wife died during childbirth, and their baby died, as well. An inconsolable Tommy himself died four months later on Christmas Day, 1875, aged 24. Died of a broken heart, the legend goes. (To which Tom Sr. replied, "People say he died of a broken heart; but if that was true, I wouldn't be here either.")

Then there's the class conflict inherent in golf at that time (and many other times). The "commoners" who played the game were looked down upon by the "gentlemen" who tried to control it, and its profit potential.

Not difficult to see the makings of a great movie in those stories.

Tommy's Honour is 1 hour, 52 minutes long and carries a PG rating. It had its premiere in mid-2016 at several festivals, but opened in limited theatrical release on April 14, 2017. The DVD was released later in 2017.

02
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The Real Tom Morris and Tommy Morris

Postcard showing Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris
Rare postcard from the early 1900s showing Tom Morris Sr. and Tommy Morris. Sarah Fabian-Baddiel/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Tom Morris Sr. and Tom Morris Jr. were real people, and very, very important people in the early history of professional golf.

In their lifetimes they were called Tom and Tommy; today, most golfers know them as Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris.

Old Tom Morris was born in 1821 and died in 1908. He is one of the most important and influential figures in golf history. Old Tom helped usher out the featherie golf ball (leather pouches stuffed with feathers) era and usher in the gutta percha (a rubbery type of tree sap) ball era. He was one of the earliest professional golfers. He won the British Open four times in the 1860s. He was one of golf's first greenskeepers and one of its first course architects. He was a big deal.

And Young Tom Morris? He was only golf's first superstar: He made the first-ever recorded hole-in-one, and he won the British Open four times himself. Four times in a row, in fact. He's responsible for retiring the original Open trophy (a belt), which led to creation of the Claret Jug.

Young Tom was born in 1851 and died in 1875. His father outlived Tommy by 33 years.

  • Tom Sr.'s Open Championship wins: 1861, 1862, 1864, 1867
  • Tommy's Open Championship wins: 1868, 1869, 1870, 1872 (The British Open wasn't played in 1871 because Tommy retired the trophy by winning the previous three years running. When a new trophy was commissioned, the tournament resumed in 1872, and Tommy won it a fourth consecutive time.)

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Cast & Crew of 'Tommy's Honour'

Actor Jack Lowden, director Jason Connery and actor Peter Mullan making Tommy's Honour
From left, actor Jack Lowden, director Jason Connery and actor Peter Mullan on location during filming of 'Tommy's Honour.'. Neil Davidson


The actors are listed first, then their characters.

  • Peter Mullan as Tom Morris (Old Tom Morris)
  • Jack Lowden as Tommy Morris (Young Tom Morris)
  • Ophelia Lovibond as Meg Drinnen
  • Sam Neill as Alexander Boothby
  • Peter Ferdinando as Major Molesworth
  • Max Deacon as David Strath
  • Paul Reid as George Atwood Sr.
  • Kylie Hart as Lizzie Morris
  • Ian Pirie as Willie Park Sr.
  • Benjamin Wainwright as George Atwood Jr.
  • John Walker Gray as Mungo Park

Jack Lowden is a 26-year-old Scotsman who, after winning multiple awards on the London stage, starred in a couple of BBC miniseries, including War & Peace in 2016. That propelled him onto the big screen, and in addition to Tommy's Honour Lowden also stars in the Christopher Nolan-helmed 2017 release Dunkirk, and as Morrissey (yes, that Morrissey) in the biopic England Is Mine.

Peter Mullan, age 57, is also a Scotsman (hooray for accurate accents). He's been in many recognizable movies over the years, including Trainspotting, Braveheart, Children of Men and War Horse.

Ophelia Lovibond, age 31, portrays Meg Drinnen, the woman who captures Tommy's heart. She is best-known for her role as Kitty Winter in the Sherlock Holmes TV series Elementary.

What about the crew? The key names are:

  • Director: Jason Connery
  • Screenwriters: Pamela Marin and Kevin Cook

Yes, Jason Connery is the son of Sean Connery, and Sean Connery's golf obsession is legendary. Clearly, he passed his love of golf on to Jason. (More about the screenwriters below.)

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Were Other Characters in 'Tommy's Honour' Real People?

Actress Ophelia Lovibond and actor Jack Lowden in Tommy's Honour movie
Actress Ophelia Lovibond and actor Jack Lowden in 'Tommy's Honour.'. Neil Davidson

Not every character in Tommy's Honour was a real-life person in the lives of the Morrises. But many were.

You already know about the father-and-son Morrises, golf legends both. And Meg Drinnen really was Tommy's wife, and really did die during childbirth.

But there are some other familiar golf names in the cast list above.

The Morris' great rivals in golf were the members of the Park family, two of whom appear in the cast list above. Willie Park Sr. was the first winner of the British Open in 1860, and won three more times. Mungo Park was Willie's brother and winner of the Open Championship in 1874. (Willie Park Jr. also later won two British Opens.)

David Strath - we know him today as Davie - was a frequent exhibition partner to Young Tom Morris and a 3-time runner-up in the Open.

05
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The Movie Is Based on the Book 'Tommy's Honor'

Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris
Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, circa early 1870s. Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

The movie's screenwriters are Kevin Cook and Pamela Marin. They are husband and wife, and Cook is the author of the book that inspired the movie.

The book, also titled Tommy's Honor (the author is American, so uses the American spelling - no "u" - of "honor"), was published in 2007. It was the winner of the Herbert Warren Wind Book Award as that year's best golf book.

The full title of the book is Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son.

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Is the Movie 'Tommy's Honour' Any Good?

Movie poster for Tommy's Honour
Tommy's Honour Productions/SellOutPictures

Early reviews say yes - Tommy's Honour appears to live up to its tagline, "The pride of a father, the love of a wife, the soul of a rebel, the heart of a champion."

Here is the production company's own description of the film:

Tommy's Honour is based on the powerfully moving true story of the challenging relationship between “Old” Tom and “Young” Tommy Morris, the dynamic father-son team who ushered in the modern game of golf. As their fame grew exponentially, Tom and Tommy, Scotland’s Golf Royalty, were touched by drama and personal tragedy. At first matching his father’s success, Tommy’s talent and fame grew to outshine his father’s accomplishments and respect as founder of the Open Championship in 1860 with a series of his own triumphs. But in contrast to Tommy’s public persona, his personal turmoil ultimately led him to rebel against both the aristocracy who gave him opportunity and the parents who shunned his passionate relationship with his wife.

At the festival where the film premiered in 2016, it was nominated for Best British Feature Film.

And Tommy's Honour won Best Feature Film at the 2016 British Academy Scotland Awards. Jack Lowden was nominated for Best Actor at those same awards.

At the time of writing, the movie had a 7.0 (out of 10) rating on IMDB, and a 78-percent (out of 100) rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The movie's official website is tommyshonour.com.