As the world’s top-ranked golfers walked the fairways during The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool recently, two Kiwis with a captivating family golfing history were watching with particular interest.

Brothers Mel and Ash Lewis, now both in their 90s, live together at Riversdale Beach — a settlement near Masterton, along Wairarapa’s rugged east coast. Mel, a retired NZ PGA professional who packed up and left Wellington for a slower pace of life, joined Riversdale Golf Club, where his brother was already the greenkeeper.

The brothers are distant relations of Allan Robertson – one of the first golf professionals – and Tom Morris, “The Grand Old Man of Golf”, who won four of the first eight Open Championships in the 1860s. Morris designed the famous Old Course at St Andrews in Scotland as well as designing or remodelling around 75 other courses. Morris’ eldest son, Young Tommy Morris, won four consecutive Open Championships before his 21st birthday, but died aged 24 in 1875.

The Kiwi brothers’ great great-grandfather, David “Auld Daw” Anderson, is the man to thank for the Old Course’s big double greens containing two holes, which Mel Lewis says were introduced to increase the pace of play. Jamie Anderson, the oldest son of Auld Daw and the brothers’ great great uncle, won three consecutive Open Championships in the 1870s.

The Wairarapa brothers made an emotional visit to St Andrews in 2010.

“When the people at St. Andrews found out who we were, they couldn’t have treated us more kindly,” Mel says. When they visited the Tom Morris Golf Shop, which overlooks the 18th green, they met their second cousin.

Mel Lewis started his golfing journey in the 1950s when he was sent to undertake a five-year apprenticeship manufacturing golf clubs. Mel was a professional player himself between 1969 and 1972, while also operating a successful sports shop on Wellington’s Lambton Quay. Using the skills learnt in his earlier apprenticeship, Mel once made clubs for the now 87-year-old Sir Bob Charles, who recently won the New Zealand Hickory Open held at Christchurch Golf Club.

Mel doesn’t fly anymore, but Ash flew down for the nine-hole tournament. Players dressed in traditional golfing attire, including flat caps, and used antique wooden-shafted clubs.

Once at the cutting-edge golf technology, hickory clubs are keeping enthusiasts busy.

At Riversdale Golf Club, the brothers helped fundraise when the course was damaged during Cyclone Gabrielle in February. They still put their name to the Keeper of the Greens tournament, which uses a handicapping system devised by Mel. The trophy is presented to the winners by Ash in the memory of Auld Daw.