The first 18 winners of the U.S. Open were professionals, mostly British by birth. And in the Open of 1913, two of the most powerful names in golf were ready to make it another - Ted Ray and Harry Vardon. The 1913 Open was important for another reason - Walter Hagen would make his first appearance. But no one thought much about the skinny 20-year-old who actually lived across the street from Brookline and was an American. No one gave Francis Ouimet much of a chance, not even his 10-year-old caddie, Eddie Lowrey.
Ouimet, however, fired a 74 Saturday to tie Ray and Vardon. Nice playing, thought those who followed golf, but obviously the two English gentlemen would prevail come Sunday.
Ouimet was forced to start an hour and 40 minutes behind his two famed counterparts on Sunday. Vardon and Ray both played ineffectively, shooting lackluster 79s. Ouimet was obviously out of the competition, even with the two high scores, until he got something going late in the competition. He played the last four holes in 1-under-par, finished with 79 also, and managed to squeeze into a playoff.
The next day, seemingly all of Boston showed up to cheer on their new young hero. Ray faded first, all golfed out on the front side. The 10,000 in attendance were hardly able to contain themselves at their good fortune ' Ouimet might actually have a chance.
Ouimet was a stroke in front as the par came to the 17th. Vardon drove into a bunker and bogeyed. Ouimet stared down a 15-foot birdie putt and the crowd roared when the ball went in. Ouimet, ahead by one when the hole began, was now up by three as they played the final hole.
Vardon swung mightily at his tee ball on the 18th, hoping somehow to at least make birdie. But his big swing put the ball in a difficult spot, and Vardon slogged his way to a double-bogey. Ouimet parred, leaving the score in the playoff Ouimet 72, Vardon 77 and Ray 78.
America, it could safely be assumed, had arrived.
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