Bernard "Ben" Sayers (23 June 1856 in Leith, Edinburgh – 9 March 1924 at North Berwick, East Lothian) was one of the most successful early professional golfers. He became a distinguished golf teacher, golf course designer and manufacturer of golf clubs and equipment.
After moving to Haddington with his family at the age of 12, Sayers began to play golf after being given a club by his uncle. He was short at 5 ft 3 in (1.60 m) but strong, and on the verge of becoming a professional acrobat when he began to take golf seriously. He moved to North Berwick and after enjoying success in competitions at Dunbar, Hoylake and other courses he took up ballmaking, and also began to enter The Open Championship. He came second in The Open on two occasions, but although he won 24 top-level tournaments he never lifted the "Old Claret Jug".
Instructor and golf architect
Sayers was a golf instructor to royalty, nobility and fellow professionals. In his day he taught Her Majesty Queen Alexandra, George, Prince of Wales (later King George V), Princess Victoria, the Duchess of Connaught and Princess Patricia of Connaught. He also instructed the great lady champion Dorothy Campbell (a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame) and Frenchman Arnaud Massy, who became the first overseas player to win the British Open.
His course designing credits include the East course at North Berwick, Moffat, Rothesay, Craigielaw Links, Adare Manor, West Monmouthshire, the Spey Bay Golf Club in Banffshire, and the Ballathie Hotel course in Perthshire.
Ben Sayers & Son
The Ben Sayers & Son factory in North Berwick has been responsible for creating several revolutionary pieces of golf equipment, from gutta-percha balls and the "Benny" putter (the first to have a square-edged handgrip) to, in later years, the first set of carbon-shafted clubs and a specially commissioned putter for Jack Nicklaus. Ben Sayers Jnr. also designed the first "oversized" driver. After operating from the Ben Sayers factory in North Berwick for 126 years, production was moved to China in 2003.
Ben Sayers as a company was founded in 1873 and is thought to be the oldest golf company in the world.
Apart from making clubs and carrying out repairs, Ben Sayers first venture was in making golf balls.
Ben's first shop was a lean-to shed adjacent to the new 18th tee at North Berwick Golf Club. It was from this shed that he started to acquire a reputation both as a player and teacher.
Over the years he played in many famous golf matches. Such matches attracted terrific interest and took place at North Berwick Golf Club, St Andrews Golf Club, Old Prestwick Golf Club and other famous courses of that time. The matches were watched by crowds of 2,000 to 3,000 and fairly high stakes were played for.
He played in the Amercian open of 1914. He played in 23 British Open Championships from 1880 to 1923. In the British Open he came close to winning on several occasions, but never won the coveted title.
His fame grew both as a teacher and a player and famous politicians and members of Royal Families were numbered amongst his pupils and acquaintances.
He was presented to King Edward the VII. He received a special presentation from the Duke of York who later became King George V. The Czar of Russia sent one of his sons – Grand Duke Michael – to North Berwick to receive lessons from Ben.
In 1913 Ben Sayers Jnr joined the business. Young Ben was a very good golfer and played in many matches with his father. He played for Scotland and on one famous occasion he played with his father in an international match against England.
By 1934 the demand for the Ben Sayers brand was growing and they moved the business to a new factory in North Berwick.
From this factory Ben Sayers established a worldwide name for custom made quality clubs. Ben Sayers exported clubs to America, South Africa and Japan.
By the mid 1970's, production had risen from a few hundred clubs per week to 5,000 per week. Ben played his last open at 67 years old and in the following year, his final round of golf.
The Ben Sayers & Son factory has been responsible for creating several revolutionary pieces of golfing equipment, from gutta-percha balls and the "Benny" putter (the first to have a square-edged handgrip) to, in later years, the first set of carbon-shafted clubs and a specially commissioned putter for Jack Nicklaus. Ben Sayers Jnr. also designed the first "oversized" driver.
Today Ben Sayers manufactures a range of high quality clubs, golf bags and accessories and supplies them all over the world wherever a game of golf is being played you can guarantee a Ben Sayers club will be present.
How Ben would have enjoyed that, and the fact 136 years after he first got to work on those hickory shafted clubs, his name is greater than ever in golf.