The 47th Open | 1907 Royal Liverpool

Massy makes history as first overseas Champion

The cosmopolitan fields and varying nationalities of modern Champions are a far cry from the early days of The Open when its competitors came exclusively from the United Kingdom.

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As golf's original major gradually expanded, players from further afield were drawn to compete and it did not take long for the Championship to crown a first overseas winner.

That man was a former sardine fisherman from Biarritz, who could play both right and left-handed and whose swing was described as a 'pig tail' due to its idiosyncratic flourish at the top.

Arnaud Massy is still the only Frenchman to have won a major title and it came 115 years ago, in the face of buffeting winds and against a stacked field at Royal Liverpool.

The son of a sheep farmer, Massy left school at 14 to work on the boats and supplemented his meagre income by caddying at the new Biarritz golf course, allowing him to mix with some of the UK's finest players while they enjoyed the southern sun during winter.

A natural from the get-go, he made his first trip to North Berwick at the age of 21 with the aim of becoming a professional. Little did he know what he would go on to achieve.

In France, Massy only had access to left-handed clubs but he worked hard on switching when he landed on British shores. Four years after he did, he entered his first Open in 1902 at, of all places, Royal Liverpool and finished tied for 10th.

Massy's first success came on home soil and he has the distinction of being the first winner of the French, Belgian and Spanish Opens.

A force in the wind, conditions were perfect for him at Hoylake in 1907. Halfway through The 47th Open, Massy led by a stroke from Tom Ball and J.H. Taylor, who was by then already a three-time Champion Golfer.

Taylor's third-round 76 gave him a one-shot lead heading into the last round and few would have bet against the Devonian triumphing once again.

However, with the wind still strong Massy liked his chances and a final-round 77 was enough to win by two shots. His prize was the Claret Jug, a place in sporting history and £50.

Like so many others, Massy's career was put on hold due to the outbreak of World War I. He served in the French army and was wounded at Verdun, and when peace finally came Massy was a man in his 40s, whose best days on the course were behind him. 

He still managed to remarkably win the French Open again in 1925 at the age of 48, but, after the war, he recorded just one more top-10 finish in The Open. 

In later life, he worked as a pro at clubs in England, France and Morocco, before retiring back to his homeland, where he died in 1950. 

The significance of Massy's triumph in 1907 cannot be overstated. The Open would soon crown a host of American Champions, while the 1950s and 1960s brought winners from as far afield as South Africa, Australia and Argentina. 

However, it was not until 72 years after Massy lifted the Claret Jug that another player from Continental Europe repeated the feat.