The Andersons of St Andrews

On a cool, misty, and properly Scottish afternoon in The Home of Golf, we passed through the ancient gates of the St. Andrews cemetery. There are few places in the world where the word 'ancient' almost seems inadequate, but this is surely one of them.

The St Andrews cathedral was built on these grounds in 1158 and was once one of the largest churches in the known world. The cathedral fell into ruin during the Scottish Reformation of the 16th century, but portions of the once magnificent structure still stand. The ground where the cathedral once stood is now the town's cemetery, and as one might expect in St. Andrews there's a wealth of golf royalty laid to rest within these walls.

And while I had waited a short lifetime to leave a golf ball at the grave of Old Tom Morris, there was one stone in particular that I needed to find. A stone that the overwhelming majority of visitors would pass without second thought, yet one with a unique, if somewhat tragic, story to tell.

Just a chip shot from the monument to Allan Robertson - the patriarch of golf in Scotland - there is a small, somewhat faded gravestone for an infant child named David Anderson. The child's father was Jamie Anderson, a winner of three consecutive Claret Jugs in the 1870's. The child's grandfather was also David Anderson - better known as "Auld Da" - who spent a brief time as Keeper of the Green at The Old Course, but is best known for operating golf's first Halfway House. From his cart on the 4th hole, Auld Da served Ginger Beer - or perhaps something stronger - and snacks to golfer's in the midst of their round. He became such a fixture of the St. Andrews links, the 4th hole of the Old Course is named Ginger Beer in his honor.
Auld Da and Old Tom enjoy a Ginger Beer

Upon their own deaths, both men were laid to rest in the same plot as little David, without any kind of marker. Which raises an inescapable question...

How was it that arguably the finest golfer of his time and his legendary father came to be buried in what amounts to an unmarked grave?
Jamie Anderson

Later in life, Jamie fell on hard times and soon found himself living in the local poorhouse, his Open Championship glory an all but forgotten piece of history. When Auld Da passed away, Jamie had his father buried alongside little David in the family plot, but likely could not afford to place a marker for Auld Da. When Jamie himself passed away a few years later, he was also laid to rest in the plot without a gravestone.

Both men deserve better.

After years of working through approvals from the town of St. Andrews as well as the Anderson family, a crowdfunding campaign has been launched to honor Jamie and Auld Da with a stone of their own in the cemetery. Noted St. Andrews historian and author, Roger McStravick, is leading the campaign which can be found at the banner below.

For reasons that I can't quite pin down, the story of Jamie Anderson has struck a chord with me. There's just something about a three-time Open Champion resting in an unmarked grave that seems... wrong. History, it seems, is awfully cruel and forgetful at times, with the difference between eternal glory and relative anonymity being exceptionally small.

Jamie and Auld Da Anderson were far more than footnotes in the history of golf, and it is my deepest hope that visitors to The Home of Golf will soon come to learn this.

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