Throwback Thursday: Francis Ouimet changes golf forever
The 1913 US Open in Brookline, Massachusetts, was delayed by two months to allow the generation’s best golfers, Brits Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, to attend.
Little did the USGA know, their winner was much closer at hand, having grown up in a small house overlooking the 17th green. Vardon and Ray lived up to the hype, but were matched stroke for stroke by 20-year-old amateur Francis Ouimet, a former caddie.
Accompanied by his 10-year-old caddie Eddie Lowery, after 72 holes Ouimet forced his way into an 18-hole play-off with the two golfing greats.
Despite falling rain turning the course into a mud bath, a record number of spectators – some say 10,000 – gathered to cheer on the young sporting goods salesman.
Ray fell away on the 15th, while Vardon found a bunker on the 17th – the hole where Ouimet learned golf by watching from a second-floor window.
Finishing with a 72, Ouimet was victorious by a five-shot margin, and in a moment ignited the popularity of golf in the US.
This was the American Dream come true, with a poor everyman overcoming the odds to find success and wealth.
In the years following his victory, hundreds of courses would be built, with thousands of people taking up the sport.
Ouimet became a mentor for Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen, who later recalled that he was caddying on the course when he found out about Ouimet’s win: “I was so inspired, I said ‘Oh boy I’ve got to find out about that’.”