St Andrews University academics are using this year’s Open Championship to celebrate the discovery of what they believe is a unique photograph of Scotland’s greatest ever golfer in action on the town’s links.

Prominently placed in their “The Links, the Open, the University” exhibition is a sepia print of the photo of Young Tom Morris that has been in their possession since the seventies but was only identified this year.

Trevor Ledger, the University’s resident golf archivist, believes the find, made as colleague Rachel Nordstrom was sorting through papers that were donated by an old Fife family to the university, admitted to having been thrilled when they were uncovered.

“This journal has lain in the vaults for about 40 years,” he explained.

“It’s a Victorian woman’s journal, it’s like a scrapbook, mostly about women’s golf but there are odd other bits in there too. Somebody pulled it out because it had some nice little cartoons in it and a colleague of mine, Rachel Nordstrom, found the golf one. She’s a photographic expert, but she said ‘Oh look, there’s a golfer. You might like this.’

“It’s now up on my office wall and they couldn’t understand why I was excited about it because I’m the only one in the office who is interested in golf and everybody else is a photographisc expert. For them it’s just a golfer so they’re not interested, but for me it’s... sheesh!

“If it’s what we think it is and we’re 95 per cent certain that it is what we think it is, then it is very precious.”

While it has now been put on public display Mr Ledger said the University is continuing to examine it.

“Just on it it’s got T.Morris with a question-mark and I looked at it and I thought ‘I’m sure that’s Tommy Morris,’ but then I was instantly sceptical because I’ve never seen a photo of him actually playing the game,” he admitted.

“However the more I’ve looked at it, it’s from his moustached phase, it’s got the right bonnet, it’s got the right clothing but I’ve never seen another photograph of him on the links. So we’ve researched it to the extent that we’ve trawled to try to find one of him and failed, so at this point we’re 95 per cent certain that it’s him and it’s here at St Andrews.”

Close scrutiny by all-comers, particularly those who might doubt its authenticity or uniqueness, is consequently being invited at what is world golf’s biggest event to invite scrutiny.

“Part of the reason we’re excited is that we think it’s unique, but the other side is the research process, so getting any coverage would be great because someone else might come back and say they have one,” Mr Ledger acknowledged.

“It would be a shame if it isn’t unique but at the same time it would be good for provenance.”

He has, however, already addressed one issue raised, regarding the ungainly nature of the pose being struck by a champion golfer.

“It’s a thing called a salt-paper print and the exposure for that would be between 15 and 25 seconds,” said Mr Ledger.

“To hold a pose like this for a picture which is quite sharp, aside from the blemishes, means he has held that still for 25 seconds which is quite a feat.

“It was a very wristy game then because of the hickory shafts, so whereas we’re all about weight transfer forward, for those it wasn’t so much weight transfer as getting back into the right position with a bit of speed and then just whip it through.

“However I really do think that he was just holding it there for a comfortable pose.”