In a story in the Boston Sunday Globe on Sept. 21, 1913, the day after his victory and written by Ouimet, he credited Lowery with giving him a patriotic boost as he prepared to face the two intimidating Brits.
“Little Eddie furnished the inspiration,” Ouimet wrote in the Globe. “I will never forget the shame that crept over me as I beheld the diminutive lad with a red, white, and blue ribbon fluttering from the lapel of his coat. It was absolutely the first time that I realized that I was an American, and that upon my playing devolved the duty of retaining the title in America.”
Not long after, as they made their way to the first tee, Lowery spoke up again.
“Eddie whispered, ‘You’ve just got to beat those fellows, Francis,’ ” Ouimet wrote. “ ‘They never can take the championship across the water with them.’ ”
Ouimet trailed just once in the playoff, when Vardon took a one-stroke lead at No. 6. Ouimet and Ray drew even at the eighth, and all three players made the turn with front-nine 38s. Vardon and Ray fell two shots behind after the 12th, but Vardon cut the deficit in half at No. 13, which is how the playoff would stay — Ouimet ahead by one stroke — going to the 17th, the hole closest to the amateur’s house, the hole where he’d sneak on as a barefooted boy learning the game, and the hole that had been so good to him the day before.
It would be again. Vardon, desperate to make something happen, tried to carry the dogleg but instead found the fairway bunker at the corner (now Vardon’s Bunker). Ouimet drove into the fairway, sent his second shot onto the green, and for the second straight time, knocked in his putt for a 3. Vardon’s 5 put Ouimet’s lead at three shots with one hole to play. Another solid hole — drive in the fairway, second shot on the green, two putts — and Ouimet was the champion.
Ouimet 72, Vardon 77, Ray 78. It remains one of golf’s greatest upsets, and gave the US Open its first signature moment.
Despite the photographs depicting a wild scene at The Country Club immediately after Ouimet’s win, his post-victory celebration Saturday night was rather tame. Or predictable, for those who knew Ouimet. According to the Sunday Globe, he dined quietly with a friend at a café on Boylston Street, then attended a performance of “The Merry Martyr” at the Colonial Theatre. He returned home promptly when the curtain dropped.
He wasn’t done
Francis Ouimet went on to hold a number of job titles, although he never completed his coursework at Brookline High School (which awarded him an honorary degree in 2000). He was president of the Boston Bruins in 1931, and became vice president of the Boston Braves in 1941. He owned a sporting goods store and was an investment adviser.
But Ouimet’s roots remained in golf. He played on eight US Walker Cup teams, captaining six, became the first US captain of the R&A in 1951, and in 1949 helped create a scholarship fund in his name that has provided more than 5,000 Massachusetts students in excess of $25 million in college scholarship money.
To Ouimet, the twin wins 17 years apart at the US Amateur (1914 came at Ekwanok Country Club in Manchester, Vt.) were his greatest accomplishments on the golf course. In the opinion of almost everyone else, it was what took place over three days at The Country Club, nearly 100 years ago.
“The most significant championship in American golf history happened here,” said Michael Trostel, the USGA’s curator and historian, a Massachusetts native, and a Ouimet Scholar. “It’s really who he beat. Ouimet came here and beat Harry Vardon, already a 5-time British Open champion, and Ted Ray, defending British Open champion. Ouimet was really the first American golf hero.
“Ouimet’s humility and his working-class roots were something you didn’t see a lot at that time in the game. Golf was perceived as a game exclusively for the wealthy and the elite, and Ouimet helped break that perception. In the decade after Ouimet’s win, 2 million Americans took to the game, so it’s a story that really transcends golf. It’s not just a golf story, it’s a human interest story.”