Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Remembering Ouimet - and Why Isn't the 2013 Open at Brookline?

The 2013 U.S. Open is the 100th anniversary of amateur Francis Ouimet's victory that stunned the golf world in 1913, when the local boy beat British legends Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in a playoff at Brookline. Ouimet grew up across the street from The Country Club, he was 20 years old, and his caddie was a 10-year-old named Eddie Lowery.

Ouimet's story is told in the book by Mark Frost, The Greatest Game Ever Played, and in the movie of the same name starring Shia LaBeuf.

In 1963, Brookline was the site of another U.S. Open to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ouimet's win. So in 2013, naturally, the Open returned to Brookline on the 100th anniversary. Except that it didn't, of course: the U.S. Open is at Merion this year, not Brookline. Why not?

Former USGA executive director David Fay explained in a Golf Digest article:

That's a sensitive subject. Some members of The Country Club regarded the 2013 Open as a foregone conclusion, a birthright. I like The Country Club, but I think the composite course is the most overrated of America's great courses, if that makes any sense. I love the members' course, and I think the drive up to the clubhouse is one of the most charming in the world, but I didn't--and don't--see it as a good U.S. Open site. My views were formed during the 1988 Open and the 1999 Ryder Cup. I thought there were too many weak and indifferent holes on the course and too many spectator bottlenecks.

... But now came the tough part: convincing The Country Club to consider hosting the 2013 Amateur as a fitting tribute to Ouimet, a two-time Amateur champion. It was not easy, but eventually the club agreed to invite us. We accepted, with alacrity. It will be a terrific U.S. Amateur, but there remain some hurt feelings and anger toward me. That's understandable.


What became of Ouimet? He continued playing great golf, mostly at the U.S. Amateur which he won twice in the years after the 1913 U.S. Open. He also contended again at the Open, but never won it. He became a major figure in amateur golf internationally, working with the USGA, becoming the first non-Brit to captain the R&A. (His 10-year-old caddie Eddie Lowery because a wealthy businessman and major benefactor to amateur golf, and had a role in another event covered by a Mark Frost book, The Match.)

Ouimet also founded a scholarship fund, The Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund. Ouimet died in 1967, but the scholarship fund is still going strong, helping "deserving young men and women who have worked at golf courses in Massachusetts obtain a college education. We provide need-based undergraduate scholarships which are renewable and can be worth up to $10,000 – $40,000 (or more) for four years. The Ouimet Fund is the largest independent scholarship fund in New England."

The Ouimet Fund has posted multiple videos on YouTube, many of them having to do with the 1913 U.S. Open. Here is a recap that includes a few scenes from the movie:

Here is another video showing a reunion among Ouimet and Lowery on the 50th anniversary:

And here's a history of the Ouimet Fund:

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