Whilst players and media look forward to next week’s US Open, discussing whether or not Tiger Woods can win his 15th major, I wanted to pay homage to a truly great sport story, that occurred 100 years ago.
In 1913, Francis Ouimet won the United States Open. To this day it is considered, by some, as the greatest achievement in golf and perhaps in all sports.
A caddy from the age of nine, Ouimet taught himself the game. He worked in a store throughout his youth, spending every available minute practicing golf.
By 1913, Ouimet was 20 years old and had just won his first big golf event, the Massachusetts Amateur. With the US Open in his home state that year, Ouimet was personally invited to play in the ‘national professional championship’ by the president of the United States Golf Association, Robert Watson. After initially declining due to work commitments, Ouimet later accepted.
Vardon was a 5-time British Open champion who had won the US Open in 1900. Ray was the 1912 British Open Champion.
Ouimet showed up at The Country Club out of his depth and without a caddy. He famously enlisted a local 10-year old to carry his bag named Eddie Lowery.
The format one hundred years ago was 36 holes Thursday, followed by 36 holes Friday. By day’s end Friday, Ouimet had miraculously shot the lowest score, tied with both favorites, Vardon and Ray. On Saturday, the three men (or two men and one boy) would play 18 holes to decide the national champion.
Outmatched and outnumbered, with heavy rain falling, Ouimet stunned the golfing world, shooting a two-under par 72 to Vardon’s 77 and Ray’, becoming the first amateur golfer to win the United States Open.
Despite his success and instant-fame, Ouimet never turned pro.
He went on to the win the US Amateur in 1914, and later in 1931 after becoming a lieutenant in the US Army (battling Bobby Jones on several occasions between wins), and represented the US in the Walker Cup eight times.
In 1951 he became the first non-Brit to captain the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. Ouimet was later elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.
This year, the US Amateur Championship will be held at The Country Club, the site of Ouimet’s win, 100 years after the most famous amateur victory in golf.
To this day, Ouimet’s 1913 US Open win is widely regarded as the moment that sparked America’s interest in the game of golf.
And what of Eddie, the 10-year old caddy?
Eddie grew up deeply involved in the game he loved. He supported and sponsored amateur golfers, including Ken Venturi and Harvey Ward. In 1956 he arranged a match between these two amateurs and two pros, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson. The match at Cypress Point Club is considered one of the most famous days in golf history, later documentated in Mark Frost’s book The Match.
Ouimet and Lowery remained friends throughout their lives.
When Ouimet died in 1967, Lowery served as a pallbearer at the funeral.