A Game of Golf

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Francis Ouimet (1893–1967) was an awkward, relatively unknown twenty-year-old amateur and former caddy when he walked across the street from his modest home in Brookline, Massachusetts, and stunned the sports world by upsetting famed British golfers Harry Vardon and Ted Ray to win the 1913 U.S. Open in a dramatic playoff at The Country Club (TCC). His spectacular victory made him America's first golf hero, drew new fans to the sport, and forever altered the image of golf as a ...
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Boston 2004 Softcover 294 pages. Softcover. Brand new book. SPORTS. Brimming with exciting matches and great players such as Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen, these humble ... reminiscences of the working class kid who changed the game of golf will inspire golf enthusiasts and general readers alike. (Key Words: Sports, Golf, Autobiography, Francis Ouimet, Memoirs, United States Open, Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Harry Vardon, Ted Ray, PGA). Read more Show Less

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Overview

Francis Ouimet (1893–1967) was an awkward, relatively unknown twenty-year-old amateur and former caddy when he walked across the street from his modest home in Brookline, Massachusetts, and stunned the sports world by upsetting famed British golfers Harry Vardon and Ted Ray to win the 1913 U.S. Open in a dramatic playoff at The Country Club (TCC). His spectacular victory made him America's first golf hero, drew new fans to the sport, and forever altered the image of golf as a stuffy, rich man's game dominated by British and Scottish players.

In this engaging memoir, first published in 1932, Ouimet fondly reminisces about his life in golf and gives sage advice on playing the game. With charm, wit, and a passion for the sport, he vividly chronicles his boyhood in Brookline, recalling how he scavenged for golf balls and clubs, learned to play on a homemade three-hole course in his backyard, and sometimes sneaked onto The Country Club's fairways to practice in the early morning hours. He recounts his caddying years, starting at age nine, the early amateur competitions, and the momentous 1913 U.S. Open tournament on his neighborhood course. Included is the legendary story of Ouimet turning down the offer of an experienced TCC member to carry his clubs in the playoff, sticking instead with his ten-year-old caddy, the self-assured Eddie Lowery. Ouimet's narrative then journeys through his illustrious amateur career, over the fairways of Hoylake, St. Andrews, Garden City, and Pebble Beach, and concludes with his great sentimental victory in the 1931 U.S. National Amateur at Beverly Hills in Chicago.

Brimming with exciting matches and such great players as Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen, these colorful yet humble reminiscences of a working-class kid who changed the game of golf will appeal to golf enthusiasts and general readers alike.

Francis Ouimet, who twice won the U.S. Amateur Championship in addition to the U.S. Open, played eight times on the U.S. Walker Cup team. One of the most honored golfers in the history of the game, he was elected an original member of golf's Hall of Fame in 1944, and in 1951 became the first American elected captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. Richard A. Johnson, editor of the Sportstown Series, is Curator of the Sports Museum of New England. Robert Donovan is Executive Director of the Francis Ouimet Caddie Scholarship Fund. Ben Crenshaw, two-time Masters champion, is one of the most respected golfers of the last half century, known both for his success on the PGA tour and for his deep love of golf history and traditions.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Ouimet was an unknown kid from Massachusetts who came out of nowhere to best the top English and Scottish golfers and win the 1913 U.S. Open. He told the story of his career in this 1932 volume. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555536008
  • Publisher: Northeastern University Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2004
  • Series: Sportstown Series
  • Pages: 300
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Francis Ouimet, who twice won the U.S. Amateur Championship in addition to the U.S. Open, played eight times on the U.S. Walker Cup team. One of the most honored golfers in the history of the game, he was elected an original member of golf's Hall of Fame in 1944, and in 1951 became the first American elected captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. Richard A. Johnson, editor of the Sportstown Series, is Curator of the Sports Museum of New England. Robert Donovan is Executive Director of the Francis Ouimet Caddie Scholarship Fund. Ben Crenshaw, two-time Masters champion, is one of the most respected golfers of the last half century, known both for his success on the PGA tour and for his deep love of golf history and traditions.

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Read an Excerpt

A Game of Golf


By Francis Ouimet

Northeastern University Press

ISBN: 1-55553-600-X


Chapter One

A GAME OF GOLF

* * *

ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE COUNTRY CLUB

Born in a rather thinly populated section of Brookline, Massachusetts, I have often wondered what my golfing activities would have amounted to if my father had not bought a home bordering on the Country Club. Of one thing I am quite certain, and that is I should never have had the opportunity of developing an interest in the game of golf to the same extent that was made possible by close proximity to a fine course. As it was, daily trips from home to a little schoolhouse, built in 1768 and known as the Putterham School, carried me back and forth across the fairways. Not that I was granted any such privileges, but in the rôle of a trespasser I discovered that this route saved many footsteps, got me to school on time, and, more important, enabled me to get home with the least possible delay.

There was a more intriguing motive, however. Frequently on one of my excursions I ran across a lost ball, of the gutta-percha variety. At the age of seven I had a collection of Silvertowns, Ocobos, Vardon Flyers, Henleys, and other brands popular among golfers in 1900 that would do full credit to the professional's shop.

Long before I ever had a club, I had golf balls enough to last me for years. But the balls without a club were not very useful. Golf was so new to America in 1900 that it was difficult to get clubs. They never got lost, and were rarely discarded. The balls, however, seemed to have plenty of life in them, their varied markings held some sort of fascination for me, and it was fun watching them bound from rocks and other solid substances.

After I had hoarded golf balls enthusiastically for two years, someone gave my brother Wilfred a club. When Wilfred was busy caddying, I helped myself to that club and used it to knock some of my hoard around the back yard. I was careful to put Wilfred's club back in its place before he put in an appearance. Otherwise, I felt, there might have been a family riot. Occasionally a tournament was held at the Country Club and on those days and after school, I would stand on the edge of a fairway and watch the golfers go by. If I saw someone play an exceptional stroke, I watched how he did it and hastened home to take Wilfred's club and set about trying to put into practice what I had seen. Those efforts must have been funny, but they were, after all, the beginnings of my game, such as it is.

I can remember vividly the first Haskell ball I ever found. It was in the fall of 1902, and I was nine years old. Wilfred was a caddie boy at the Country Club, and the ladies were having their national championship. On the way home from school, I picked up a nice new ball. It was unlike any other I had ever seen and seemed much livelier. I showed it to Wilfred and he told me it was one of the new rubber-cored balls. Few had them, and Big Brother tried his best to talk me into parting with it. Nothing doing. I played with it, bounced it, and used it until the paint wore off. I got some white paint and painted it. Mother was baking some bread in a hot oven and I sneaked my repainted Haskell into the oven, thinking the heat would dry the ball.

Mother smelled something burning and went all through the house trying to discover the cause. She found nothing, but the odor was so strong, and she was so worried that the house was burning up, that she kept on searching. Finally she opened the oven door and the most awful smell in the world came out of the newly made batch of bread. It was ruined - and so was my prize, the Haskell. The heat had melted the gutta-percha shell and there was nothing left of the thing but a shriveled-up mass of elastic bands. I learned then and there how Doctor Haskell made his golf balls and why it was that the rubber-cored ball was vastly superior to the solid gutta.

The Haskell crowded the gutta off the courses and made the game much more enjoyable to play. At any rate, I could play the rubber-cored better than the hard ones, and my interest in the game increased. Behind our house was a cow pasture, and here Wilfred, with the mind of a golf architect, built three holes. The first was about a hundred and fifty yards long, with a carry over a brook. The brook was a hundred yards or so from where we drove. When he hit a shot well, Wilfred could drive close to the green, but it was far beyond my reach. As a matter of fact, the very best I could do was to drive into the brook. The second hole was very short, hardly more than fifty yards. The last was a combination of the first two, and brought the player back to the starting-point. We used tomato cans for hole rims. As I visualize that old course of ours, it was the most difficult one I have ever played because it contained a gravel pit, swamps, brooks, and patches of long grass. We - or rather Wilfred - had selected only the high and dry pieces of land, which were few and far between, to play over. A shot that traveled three yards off line meant a lost ball, and it was well we had plenty!

Wilfred made trips to Boston from time to time and discovered that Wright and Ditson had a golf department with a man named Alex Findlay in charge. He discovered also that a good club could be got in exchange for used golf balls, and that three dozen would be a fair exchange for the best club made. From one of these visits Wilfred brought me home a mashie, and for the first time in my young life I was independent so far as playing golf was concerned. I had my own club, balls, and a place to play. What more could anyone ask!

A lawnmower kept two of the greens in fair condition, but the one near our house was used so much it was worn bare and had no grass whatsoever on it. You see, while we were waiting for a meal we fiddled around the hole and the grass never had a chance to grow. One advantage, from Mother's point of view, was that she always knew where to look, and it was a simple matter for her to call us into the house. We fooled around that particular spot early in the morning and long after dark, and it was small wonder that my interest in golf increased because, with all this practice, it was natural enough that I should notice some improvement in my play. Mother thought I had gone crazy because golf was the only thing I seemed interested in.

I had more time to devote to the game than Wilfred. He had chores to do around the house and barn and being older, he was the one called upon to go on errands. They say practice makes perfect, and I believe it. After striving for weeks and months to hit a ball over the brook, and losing many, I finally succeeded. A solid year of practice had enabled me to drive accurately, if not far, and one Saturday morning, after trying for an hour, I drove a ball as clean as a whistle beyond the brook.

When I told Wilfred of my accomplishment, he received my story with a good deal of doubt. I had now acquired a brassie to go with the mashie, and I invited my brother out to the pasture to see what I could do with it. Whether I was tired out from my earlier efforts or not, I do not know, but I failed utterly, and Wilfred naturally was more skeptical than ever. The next day was Sunday, and after I returned from Sunday School, I went at it again. This time Wilfred was with me, and I definitely convinced him by hitting two balls out of three over the brook. It soon got to be a habit, and I was quite disgusted with myself when I failed.

A good many tournaments were held at the Country Club and the best golfers gathered to play in them. Soon I was old enough to caddie, and as a youngster of eleven I saw in action such great golfers as Arthur Lockwood, Chandler Egan, Fred Herreshoff, Jerry Travers, and Walter J. Travis among the amateurs, and Alex Campbell, the Country Club professional, Alex Smith, Tom McNamara, Willie Anderson, and many of the prominent professional players. If I noticed anything particularly successful in the play of any of these golfers, I made a mental note of it, and when opportunity afforded, I set out to my private course and practiced the things I had noted.

Therefore, you see, I was brought up in a golfing environment and learned to love the game. I read in magazines or newspapers anything I could find relating to golf, got a few of the boys in the neighborhood interested in the game, and jumped into it head over heels. One day I caddied for a dear old gentleman named Samuel Carr. Mr. Carr was a golfing enthusiast, and, furthermore, always most considerate of the boy who carried his clubs. All the boys liked him. Playing the eighteenth or last hole one day, he asked me if I played golf. I told him I did.

He asked me if I had any clubs. I replied that I had two, a brassie and mashie.

'When we finish, I wish you would come to the locker room with me; I may have a few clubs for you,' he said.

I took Mr. Carr's clubs downstairs to the caddie shop and hustled back. He came out with four clubs under his arm, a driver with a leather face, a lofter, a midiron, and a putter. I think it was the biggest thrill I had ever got up to that time.

Early mornings - and when I say early I mean around four-thirty or five o'clock - I abandoned my own course and played a few holes on that of the Country Club, until a greenskeeper drove me away. Rainy days, when I was sure no one would be around, I would do the same thing. Complaints concerning my activities arrived home, and Mother warned me to keep off the course, usually ending her reprimand by saying that the game of golf was bound to get me into trouble.

I was so wrapped up in the game, however, I just couldn't let it alone. One summer, tired of my own layout, I talked a companion, Frank Mahan, into going to Franklin Park with me. Franklin Park was a public course and we could go there and play unmolested. We set out one Saturday morning. To get to Franklin Park, we had to walk a mile and a half with our clubs to the car line. Then we rode to Brookline Village, transferred there to a Roxbury Crossing car, arrived at Roxbury Crossing and changed again to a Franklin Park car. After getting out of the last street car, we walked about three quarters of a mile to the clubhouse, checked our coats - that is all we had to check - and then played six full rounds of the nine holes, a total of fifty-four holes.

Then we went home the way we had come, completely exhausted. All this at the age of thirteen!

Another thing I like to remember is the day I was selected by Dan McNamara, the caddie master at the Country Club, to act as caddie for a gentleman named Theodore Hastings. Mr. Hastings was peculiar about his golf: he invariably played alone. As we walked toward the first tee, he asked me if I played. I told him I did. He asked me where I lived. I told him. He said, 'Get your clubs and we will play a round.'

Of course, caddies were not permitted to play on the course at all, but when Mr. Hastings invited me, I forgot all about regulations, dashed home for my set, and all running records were broken in getting back to that first tee.

The Country Club course was not as difficult then as now, but for all that it was one of the leading courses in the country and was hard enough for anyone. I played the first nine holes in thirty-nine strokes, and Mr. Hastings was considerably impressed. I not only lugged my own clubs, but his as well and was having a marvelous time. The fifteenth hole passed directly by the caddie house, and Dan McNamara usually sat in a chair overlooking the caddie shed and with a perfect view of the fifteenth fairway. Furthermore, he was a disciplinarian. I have since learned that a good caddie master has to be one.

My play continued satisfactorily through the fourteenth, but then I began to think of Dan! I hit a good tee shot over the hill and, walking around, I cast a glance toward the caddie shed. There was Dan. I doubt if I have ever been as nervous before or since. I topped my second shot and missed the third. It was a simple hole to make in five. I put my fourth into a trap and needed three to get out. The hole cost me a ten.

Once out of Dan's sight, I steadied a bit and finished the round with a score of 84. Delighted beyond words, I was ready to meet Dan in all his fury. Mr. Hastings came to my assistance, though, signed my caddie check, and told Dan he had had a most enjoyable afternoon. Dan was reasonable, too, seemed interested to know what score I made and wanted to know also what happened to me on the fifteenth. I truthfully told him I expected to see him come running after me, and was just frightened to death.

Those are just a few of the highlights that brought me closer than ever to the game. As a grammar-school boy I was looking forward to the time when I should graduate and become enrolled in Brookline High School. In 1902, an association had been formed, known as the Greater Boston Golf Association, and all boys registered at a high or preparatory school were eligible to compete in the annual championship. My ambition was to play in this event and win it. Many a fine golfer was developed in this tournament. Percy Gilbert was a winner one year. So was Henry Wilder. George Bowden, a fine professional golfer, got his start in the schoolboy championship. Mike Brady played in it. Carl Anderson, Heinrich Schmidt, Ray Gorton - I can think of other good ones.

I was graduated from the Heath Grammar School in 1908, and of course the following September I should be in Brookline High School. Could I wait to become a full-fledged member of the high school? I should say not. The championship was to be played at Wollaston. In went my entry to the secretary, honestly feeling I could represent Brookline High because that was to be my school in two months. When I arrived at Wollaston, there was some question about my eligibility. I explained to Wilfred Shrigley, the secretary, that I intended to go to Brookline High in the fall. After a brief conference, my entry was accepted. I qualified in the championship division with a score of 85. Bill Flynn, now well known as a golf architect, led the field with a grand round of 74.

My first match was with a boy named J. H. Sullivan, Jr., and I managed to beat him. As a proof that he harbored no ill-feelings toward me, he later introduced me to his sister, and the young lady is now my wife. In the next round I was eliminated by Carl Anderson, a big burly fellow from Winthrop High School. Carl was a great chap. To make me feel at ease, he said, 'You can call me Andy.' He could not pronounce my name and he let it go at just plain Francis.

We had a great match, but Andy was too good and beat me on the seventeenth green two up and one to play. I had the satisfaction of drawing out his best golf and found consolation in the thought that it took the champion to put me out.

(Continues...)


Excerpted from A Game of Golf by Francis Ouimet Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Illustrations VII
Sportstown Series Preface IX
Foreword XI
Preface XV
Across the Street from The Country Club 1
My Beginnings in the National Amateur 23
The Open Championship of 1913 38
English Experiences and the National Amateur Championship of 1914 57
Some Golf, Some Soldiering, and Some Business 77
Playing with Our Cousins the Britons 99
'The Greatest Little Shots' 114
St. Andrews and Roger Wethered 126
A Youth from Atlanta 142
Sweetser at Muirfield 161
Bobby Jones--and Others--Beat Me 175
Mr. Jones Plays Mr. Gorton at Brae-Burn 190
Playing Golf with the Pacific Ocean 203
The Great Jones Year 212
A St. Andrews Card 227
'This Looks Like a Father-and-Son Tournament' 241
Seventeen Years After 259
Appendix Theories of the Game 269
Afterword 275
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