First Englishman to win the Open buried just a stone's throw away from this year's tournament

Allen Roberts at John Ball's grave in Hoylake.

Allen Roberts at John Ball's grave in Hoylake.

First published in News
Last updated
Wirral Globe: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

AS Hoylake prepares to host the Open Golf Championship this summer, the Globe looks back to the first Englishman to win the prestigious title, who few know is buried in Trinity Road churchyard.

John Ball was born in Hoylake on Christmas Eve, 1861, and grew up playing golf at the Royal Liverpool, a stone’s throw away from the site of the long-gone Royal Hotel, which was owned by his father.

He became the first Englishman to win the Open Championship in 1890 and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1977.

When he died, on December 2, 1940, aged 78, he had eight amateur titles under his belt, two additional runner-up finishes and a runner-up finish in the 1892 Open.

Although most golfing enthusiasts will be aware of Ball’s legacy, some may not be aware that the golfer is buried just a few minutes’ walk from the golf club that played such a huge part in his career.

It was stonemason Allen Roberts, of E F Mackie, who made the discovery back in 2006, when the Open was last held in the town.

He told the Globe: “I discovered that there was a golfer buried in the churchyard who had previously won the Open – John Ball.

“For someone who had actually achieved so much, his grave was in a really bad state so through the vicar, I contacted his family and asked if I could replace it because the Open was taking place.

“They were happy for me to do it. I put all of the other names on of the people buried in the grave but I put the fact that he had won the Open on the head stone and actually engraved a little golfer onto it.”

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