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Replay

Ouimet shocks Brits to win 1913 US Open at The Country Club

Francis Ouimet, a 20-year-old from Brookline, stunned the golf world by winning the 1913 US Open at The Country Club.
Francis Ouimet, a 20-year-old from Brookline, stunned the golf world by winning the 1913 US Open at The Country Club.

Editor’s note: The Globe is reaching into its archives to bring you “Replay,” articles from the past that highlight something interesting, timely, or revealing. This weekend in 1913, 20-year-old Francis Ouimet stunned the golf world by defeating British favorites Harry Vardon and Edward Ray to win the US Open at The Country Club. The Globe devoted more than 6,000 words in five stories in its Sunday, Sept. 21, edition to cover the tournament’s final day. The front-page story by John G. Anderson excerpted below — it ran close to 4,000 words — appeared under the headline “British cracks, Vardon and Ray, meet their master in Ouimet.”

Golfing history records just one parallel, or near-parallel, to what happened at The Country Club yesterday, when Francis Ouimet, the 20-year-old Woodland amateur, defeated Harry Vardon and Edward Ray in the playoff for the United States Golf Association open title. Years ago Ben Sayers, when at the top of his game, was beaten on his own course, North Berwick, by Freddie Tait, probably the greatest amateur golfer that ever lived.

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Not only was Sayers beaten, but it was by a margin of 8 up and 7 to play. The reason for harking back to the past, when there is so much to be said about the present, is just this: That what Ben Sayers said at the conclusion of that match with Tait might well have come, with certain modifications, from Vardon and Ray at the conclusion of yesterday’s play; Sayers, at that time, looked to the heavens and said:

“To be beaten 8 up and 7 on my own course! It’s no possible, but it’s a fact.”

It was “no possible” for Francis Ouimet to defeat the world-famous Vardon and the hardly less famous Ray at The Country Club yesterday, but he did it. Yes, and more. He really beat them twice, to stretch a point on the figure of speech. The first time was when he tied them for the title, when apparently quite out of the running; the second time was yesterday.

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. . .

Francis Ouimet, center, with Harry Vardon, left, and Ted Ray at The Country Club after the 1913 US Open.
Francis Ouimet, center, with Harry Vardon, left, and Ted Ray at The Country Club after the 1913 US Open.Globe file photo

To digress for a moment. I wonder what were the expressions on the faces of the Englishmen at home when they read on the bulletin boards of the newspapers or heard in their clubs of the outcome of the playoff. I can imagine that those who read the news through spectacles or eyeglasses wondered if the oculists had done something in the grinding process to make the glasses read topsy-turvy, and that those who read without glasses thought it was about time to get them.

I wonder, also, if there may not have been some trans-Atlantic cabling back to English correspondents in America, saying:

“Can your statement be correct? Are these figures accurate? Is there not some mistake?”

Statistics of yesterday’s playoff are printed elsewhere, showing how Ouimet secured his 72, Vardon his 77, and Ray his 78. Now as to something about how it all happened.

First, Ouimet’s situation at the beginning of the match. Here he was, an amateur practically untried; never a real figure in a national championship until this year; and not as old in actual years as his opponents in real competitive experience.

His youth netted him no advantage in stamina, or in the ability to drive his ball farther than the other two, for Vardon, 43 years of age, drove about equally long with the Woodland boy, while, of course, Ray had the better of both, in the matter of mere yards, though not in direction.

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. . .

Twenty-year old Francis Ouimet with lucky horseshoe in hand, gets lifted up by fans after winning the 1913 US Open playoff.
Twenty-year old Francis Ouimet with lucky horseshoe in hand, gets lifted up by fans after winning the 1913 US Open playoff. Courtesy The Ouimet Scholarship Fund

And speaking about being “caught between two fires,” one of the very best things about Ouimet’s game most of the round was that he kept so persistently between the two fires. In other words, where there was any digression from the most direct line between the tee and the hole, it usually was one of the other balls that went astray, with Ouimet holding the middle of the road, ever ready to thrust or parry — to thrust for his stroke advantage or parry for his half.

But there was not much going far off the line for any of the three. That was the most extraordinary part of Ouimet’s victory. It was not a case of Vardon and Ray playing poorly — not until both gave way near the finish — but a match in which the play of the entire trio was superb.

It is remarkable to find, when one stops to reflect upon the round, that not one of the three competitors had to play out of a trap until Ray’s approach to the 15th came down in the sand near the green. The only other time that a ball went into a trap was when Vardon slightly hooked his drive going to the 17th, the point where his chances went up in smoke; or would it be better to say sand?

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Now, The Country Club course is a perfect network of traps and hazards of all kinds. That is one of the reasons — the other being the scientific nature of the bunkering, that has brought so much praise of the course by the visiting professionals and amateurs — why yesterday’s play by the three men stands out as a round seldom, if ever, equaled.

A golfer might make a 69 or 70 at The Country Club and still not be able to say that he did not get in a bunker. To think, therefore, that three players went around in company and only twice in the round did any ball have to be played out of a sand trap is to mentally say that memory must be playing false.

. . .

Ouimet did not get in any trap, and he made only two false shots during the round; of these two only one actually cost a stroke. That one was when he put his brassey shot out of bounds, going to the fifth hole. Francis did not make any excuse for that shot, and I did not ask him just what was the cause, if anything other than a poor shot.

But this I will say, that every stroke he made during the previous holes and those which came later lead to the conclusion that his feet must have slipped on the rain-soaked turf, unusually soft on the fifth fairway.

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. . .

One of the strongest features of Ouimet’s game is the smoothness and evenness of his strokes. His drive is the most deceptive, in the matter of power, of almost any other first-class golfer in the front ranks.

He hits the ball with perfect freedom with timing so true that he gets a long ball without any palpable effort. There is not the slightest sign of a break in any part of his swing, and the swing back and forward appear to the eye like the swing of a pendulum.

He has the ability, which so many amateurs seek in vain, of being able to play a low shot into the wind.

His irons he plays by taking the regulation amount of turf; he never forces a shot, one reason being that he is wise enough not to underclub himself. In the last year he has appreciably shortened up his swing with his irons, and this has improved his game to a marked degree.

His mashie work needs, perhaps a little strengthening, but his putting, generally speaking, is the equal of that of any amateur or professional in the world — his greatest weakness, curiously enough, being on those of four to five feet.

. . .

The day was epoch-making in the history of American and British golf. Ouimet’s victory may be the first step toward American supremacy in golf, as in most other sports. The swimmer knows what it is to stand on the edge of the water and hesitate about taking the plunge, but once he has “gone under” he comes to the surface and wonders why he ever hesitated.

American golfers have been standing on the edge of a hope of being able to meet and defeat the best of British golfers, but, barring the victory of Walter J. Travis in the British championship of 1904, they have not gone against the British without a feeling, whether admitted or not, that the odds are against them.

When Travis won in 1904 he of course broke the ice, but there was no one else ready to step in and help keep the surface stirred up so that it would not weld again. Since then American golf has taken wonderful strides forward so that now that Ouimet has downed two of the most renowned of all British golfers, other Americans are likely to go into a British championship in that frame of mind which helps so much toward victory.

. . .

This is a cartoon by Wallace Goldsmith that appeared in the September 21, 1913, edition of the Boston Sunday Globe. It accompanied coverage of the Francis Ouimet victory in the US Open.
This is a cartoon by Wallace Goldsmith that appeared in the September 21, 1913, edition of the Boston Sunday Globe. It accompanied coverage of the Francis Ouimet victory in the US Open. Wallace Goldsmith

The scene when Ouimet holed the putt yesterday which meant victory was inspiring. The Woodland boy would not have recovered the full use of his right hand for a couple of months had he been able to shake as often and as heartily as some in the crowd would have had it.

Really there were two existing sentiments, and of the two I hardly know which to place first. Hundreds were glad beyond measure simply for the sake of Francis alone. His modesty and geniality make him exceedingly popular among those whom he numbers as personal friends; his game on its own account won the admiration of hundreds of others, not even omitting the men whom he defeated.

There was, again. the sentiment of patriotism. With some, without question, it was not Francis Ouimet against Edward Ray or Harry Vardon, but America against England. It was England’s two against America’s one, and who could help being with the one in such circumstances?