Remembering Ouimet: The Eddie Lowery story

By Bailey MosierJune 6, 2013, 12:30 pm

His eyes welled. At any moment, tears were going to cascade down the 10-year-old boy’s ivory, cherubic cheeks. The trepidation flooded his face as swiftly as it did honestly.

He had worked so hard and for so long, believing in the impossible even when no one else did.


 Remembering Ouimet
Baggs: Who was Francis?
Baggs: Search for Ouimet
Tays: Anatomy of upset
Tays: Turning point in U.S.
Timeline | Trivia | Bag | Photos
Why Vardon and Ray?
The Country Club
Vardon and the Titanic
Inspiring other writers
Full Coverage


“I’ll stick with Eddie,” Francis Ouimet said one September day in 1913; his loyalty to Eddie resolute.

And just like that, little Eddie Lowery dried his eyes. He and Francis were going to finish what they started. Together.

Eddie Lowery was born in Newton, Mass., on Oct. 14, 1902 – the second of seven children from a poor Irish family. He is most widely remembered as the 10-year-old who caddied for Francis Ouimet – a 20-year-old amateur from meager means – when Ouimet took down Ted Ray and Harry Vardon in a playoff at the 1913 U.S. Open.

But what Eddie did those three days at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., was much more than lugging around a bag full of clubs; the experience would forever change the trajectories of his and Ouimet's lives.

“My little caddie, Eddie Lowery … not much bigger than a peanut, was a veritable inspiration all around; and a brighter or headier chap it would be hard to find,” Ouimet wrote for The American Golfer.

“(Eddie’s) influence on my game I cannot overestimate.”

It was by sheer coincidence that Eddie came to caddie for Ouimet. Eddie and his brother, Jack, played hooky from school on Thursday – the day on which the first two rounds of the U.S. Open were slated – but his brother got caught and was sent back to school. The tenacious and venturesome Eddie, however, escaped and made his way to The Country Club.

"Eddie takes three street cars, skips school, shows up at Brookline and runs up to Francis," Mark Frost, author of “The Greatest Game Ever Played” described. "It's about 10 minutes to [Ouimet's] tee time. [Eddie] explains that Jack isn't coming ‘cause he had to go back to school. And Francis says, 'Well, thanks for coming to town,' and starts walking away. And Eddie says, 'I could caddie for ya.' And Francis says, 'Eddie, you're shorter than my bag, you can't do this.' And Eddie ends up convincing Francis that he's the guy who should carry his bag in the Open."

After Ouimet duck-hooks his first shot about 40 yards into the rough, Eddie “almost grabs him by the tie and says, 'Now listen, Francis, you gotta settle down. We're not going anywhere unless you focus and get your mind back on this next swing,' " Frost details.

Throughout the remaining 89 holes they would play together, Eddie repeatedly told Francis to “Keep your eye on the ball.” He also remarked, “Take lots of time; it’s only 10 o’clock now and you’ve got until six tonight. Get this one up, dead sure;” and “You’re going to get a 72.”

“The lad was so certain I was going to win that it would not have surprised me had he gone up to my opponents (Ray and Vardon) on the first tee and said: ‘When does your boat sail for England? You might as well begin to pack,’” Ouimet said in The American Golfer.

A hat was passed around after Ouimet’s win, and it is reported that somewhere between $50 and $150 was raised for little Eddie.

The relationship Ouimet had with Eddie in the '13 U.S. Open almost seems as if it were scripted out of Hollywood. The story of that 1913 U.S. Open was eventually made into a book (Frost's “The Greatest Game Ever Played”) and later adapted into a feature film, but by no means was 10-year-old Eddie Lowery – or his tenacity and influence on Ouimet’s win – make-believe.

“It was one of the great good fortunes of my life to come upon this story and realize that nobody else had written it yet,” Frost said. “Lots of people thought I made Eddie up.”

Not only was Eddie not made up, he was a large reason why director Bill Paxton tackled the project and turned it into the 2005 movie starring Shia LaBeouf (playing Francis Ouimet) and Josh Flitter (playing Eddie Lowery).

Greatest Game Ever Played

“When I read this, it’s quite a story,” Paxton said. "The relationship with a 10-year-old caddie, at the U.S. Open? Can you imagine?

“My father used to tell me stories and when I heard this one of Francis and little Eddie, it was like mother’s milk to me.”

Those three days that Eddie was on the bag helped Francis beat the world’s best players, which ultimately led to the first golf boom in America. It would also help shape how Eddie viewed himself and it would direct how he lived his life – like the gentleman Francis Ouimet was.

“For (Eddie), he was not the hero. Francis was,” said Lowery’s daughter, Cynthia Wilcox. “He was always grateful for what Francis did for him, sticking with him in that playoff. I am convinced that the reason he was so successful was because of that incident.

“My father’s success was based on his desire to live up to Francis Ouimet’s grace and dignity. … I think a lot about what my father’s life would have been like if (Ouimet) had not used him in the playoff. … I truly believe that it is because of Francis Ouimet’s selfless decision to stick with my father that made this life possible.”

After the U.S. Open, Eddie became a local celebrity and a fine golfer, himself. At age 16, he won the 1919 Massachusetts Golf Association Junior championship and then defended his title the next year. He also won the 1927 Massachusetts Amateur and was runner-up in 1931 and ’33. He became the caddie master at Woodland Golf Club, was a sports writer for the Boston Traveler and then worked his way into advertising where he first enjoyed financial success.

Lowery went on to become a multi-millionaire when he moved to California in 1937, joining the management of Van Etta Motors, which he subsequently bought and built into the largest Lincoln-Mercury dealership in America; he later acquired two additional dealerships.

He was often regarded as “Mr. San Francisco Golf,” as he remained intimately involved with the game and sponsored many amateur golfers, including Ken Venturi (1964 U.S. Open champion) and Harvie Ward (1955 and 1956 U.S. Amateur champion), who worked for Lowery at his dealerships.

Lowery was a member of San Francisco Golf Club, Cypress Point, Thunderbird, California Golf Club, Augusta National and Seminole and won several club championships. He became president of the Northern California Golf Association.

Lowery also served on the executive committee of the USGA. Lowery got into some hot water with the USGA when he claimed certain disallowable business expenses for tax write-offs, which in turn affected his sponsorship of Ward. And Ward, who had trusted Lowery's USGA expertise, had his amateur status revoked in 1957, at a time when he had won the previous two U.S. Amateur titles.

Lowery is also the man responsible for arranging what is considered the greatest fourball match ever in which amateurs Venturi and Ward faced off at Cypress Point against professionals Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson. The story of that day is chronicled in depth in Frost’s 2007 book “The Match: The Day the Game of Golf Changed Forever.” The two teams traded birdies and eagles the entire round, but Hogan and Nelson won, 1 up, when Hogan sank a 10-foot birdie putt at the 18th.

“Mr. Lowery never lost his colorful, profane working-man's Boston accent, despite the many years he spent selling Lincolns at his car dealerships in San Francisco and on the Monterey Peninsula,” former Cypress Point head professional Jim Langley wrote for Sports Illustrated. “You'd hear him on a clubhouse phone saying, ‘How many cahs did we sell today?’ If you went to his showroom looking to buy last year's model, he'd say, ‘I'm going to sell you a brand-new ... cah.' "

Lowery and Ouimet remained lifelong friends and visited one another often, including reuniting at the 1963 U.S. Open to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of Ouimet’s win.

Eddie also contributed significantly to the Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund and was a sponsor of the Ouimet Museum.

The image of Lowery carrying Ouimet’s bag in 1913 was featured on a 25-cent stamp issued in 1988. Lowery was one of the pallbearers at Ouimet’s funeral when he died in 1967.

Lowery died in 1984 in California and in 1998 his widow, Margaret, endowed a Ouimet scholarship in his name for the scholar who is considered the best and most dedicated caddie. Mrs. Lowery died in 2000, and The Fund has endowed a Margaret Lowery Scholarship in her honor.

In 1999, a Ouimet and Lowery statue was unveiled at the World Golf Hall of Fame, and he and Francis were also inducted into the Caddie Hall of Fame.

“He lived the story of 20th century American golf. There's an effort to have Mr. Lowery put on the ballot for possible election into the World Golf Hall of Fame," Langley said in his Sports Illustrated piece. "There's already a statue of him there, with his lifelong friend Francis Ouimet. I'd love to see him get in. He was a good player, a member of the USGA executive committee, a benefactor for amateurs and a friend to many caddies.” 

Were it not for those four words uttered by Francis Ouimet that September day in 1913, little Eddie may not have stepped up in a big way – helping to shape the future landscape of golf in America.

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.

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Landry stays hot, leads desert shootout at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 12:35 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Andrew Landry topped the crowded CareerBuilder Challenge leaderboard after another low-scoring day in the sunny Coachella Valley.

Landry shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under. He opened with a 63 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club.

''Wind was down again,'' Landry said. ''It's like a dome out here.''

Jon Rahm, the first-round leader after a 62 at La Quinta, was a stroke back. He had two early bogeys in a 67 on the Nicklaus layout.

''It's tough to come back because I feel like I expected myself to go to the range and keep just flushing everything like I did yesterday,'' Rahm said. ''Everything was just a little bit off.''

Jason Kokrak was 14 under after a 67 at Nicklaus. Two-time major champion Zach Johnson was 13 under along with Michael Kim and Martin Piller. Johnson had a 64 at Nicklaus.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Landry, Rahm, Kokrak and Johnson will finish the rotation Saturday at PGA West's Stadium Course, also the site of the final round.

''You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important,'' Rahm said about the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, a layout the former Arizona State player likened to the Dye-designed Karsten course on the school's campus. ''With the small greens, you have water in play. You need to be more precise. Clearly the hardest golf course.''

Landry pointed to the Saturday forecast.

''I think the wind's supposed to be up like 10 to 20 mph or something, so I know that golf course can get a little mean,'' Landry said. ''Especially, those last three or four holes.''

The 30-year-old former Arkansas player had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine. After winning his second Tour title last year, he had two top-10 finishes in October and November at the start the PGA Tour season.

''We're in a good spot right now,'' Landry said. ''I played two good rounds of golf, bogey-free both times, and it's just nice to be able to hit a lot of good quality shots and get rewarded when you're making good putts.''

Rahm had four birdies and the two bogeys on his first six holes. He short-sided himself in the left bunker on the par-3 12th for his first bogey of the week and three-putted the par-4 14th – pulling a 3-footer and loudly asking ''What?'' – to drop another stroke.

''A couple of those bad swings cost me,'' Rahm said.

The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the world, Rahm made his first par of the day on the par-4 16th and followed with five more before birdieing the par-5 fourth. The 23-year-old Spaniard also birdied the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth.

''I had close birdie putts over the last four holes and made two of them, so I think that kind of clicked,'' said Rahm, set to defend his title next week at Torrey Pines.

He has played the par 5s in 9 under with an eagle and seven birdies.

Johnson has taken a relaxed approach to the week, cutting his practice to two nine-hole rounds on the Stadium Course.

''I'm not saying that's why I'm playing well, but I took it really chill and the golf courses haven't changed,'' Johnson said. ''La Quinta's still really pure, right out in front of you, as is the Nicklaus.''

Playing partner Phil Mickelson followed his opening 70 at La Quinta with a 68 at Nicklaus to get to 6 under. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer is playing his first tournament of since late October.

''The scores obviously aren't what I want, but it's pretty close and I feel good about my game,'' Mickelson said. ''I feel like this is a great place to start the year and build a foundation for my game. It's easy to identify the strengths and weaknesses. My iron play has been poor relative to the standards that I have. My driving has been above average.''

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on a sponsor exemption, had a 70 at Nicklaus to match Mickelson at 6 under. The Southern California recruit is playing his first PGA Tour event. He tied for 65th in the Australian Open in November in his first start in a professional tournament.