Remembering Ouimet: The search for Francis

By Mercer BaggsJune 6, 2013, 11:30 am

BOSTON – You don’t stumble across Barbara McLean’s home. You have to go looking for it (praise Jesus for Google maps and iPhones).

It resides down in the tail-end tip of Massachusetts, near Cape Cod, in the town of Osterville. Inside, there is an obvious Francis Ouimet feel, which is appropriate since Barbara is his daughter. But aside from the famous image of Francis in his red R&A captain’s jacket which hangs above her mantel, most else needs a bit of explaining.

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“Everything of interest to me was stuff around the house,” Barbara says. “The things that I kept were the things that meant the most to me.”

Among the items in Barbara’s house include Francis’ original World Golf Hall of Fame plaque, presented at Pinehurst in 1974. There are some small, engraved cups for awards given to her father and a handful of post-mortem tributes, but nothing that jumps out at you in terms of significance.

That’s because the significance is personal.

“That trophy over there,” Barbara says pointing to an antique-looking, silver piece of memorabilia. “That is the Shepard’s cup. That’s one of my favorites. Caitlin used to sit in that when she was a baby.”

Caitlin is Barbara’s granddaughter. The John Shepard Jr. trophy was won by Francis in 1914, in a tournament contested among Boston-area clubs.

Francis Ouimet medal

On a table rests a gold medal. It was given to Francis for tying third in the 1925 U.S. Open. Barbara used to wear it around her neck as a charm, on a chain which formerly held her father’s pocket watch.

An antique dealer once offered Barbara $5,000 for it. “Not for sale,” she replied. He upped the offer to $12,000. “Not. For. Sale.”

In searching for her father – the notion of who he was – I met Barbara and her husband of nearly 71 years, Obder “Bro” McLean, at their Massachusetts home. We talked for two hours, even had coffee and English muffins. I also talked to Francis’ granddaughter, Sheila Macomber, and his great-granddaughter, the aforementioned Caitlin Wallerce.

If you can judge a man based solely on his descendants then, on first impression, Francis Ouimet was an exemplary individual. His family, and others engaged during a three-day visit to the Bay State, substantiated that assessment.

The centerpiece of the trip was the annual Ouimet Scholarship Fund gala, this year celebrating the 100th anniversary of Francis' 1913 U.S. Open triumph. Arnold Palmer was the honoree (he was also honored at the first gala in 1997). Mark Frost, who authored “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” based on Ouimet’s improbable victory, was there, as was Bill Paxton, who directed the movie. There were several video tributes, including those from Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and R&A chief executive Peter Dawson.

The highlight of the evening, however, was Julia McCarthy.

McCarthy is a Ouimet scholar, of which the fund motto is: “From what golf has given you – let’s give back to golf.” Since 1949, 5,100 young men and women who work in the Massachusetts golf industry (many who served as caddies like Francis) have been granted a total of $26.5 million in financial assistance to help obtain a college education.

Ellis Jones was a recipient. He is now a 27-year-old husband and father of two, who is successfully working as a Xerox auditor.

“The scholarship gave me the opportunity to really further my education,” Jones says. “It relieved angst and anxiety. Without it, it would have meant taking a lot more loans and it would have been a decision (whether or not to go to college) I would have really had to think about.”

Ellis grew up attracted to golf; he began playing when he was 6. As Julia puts it in her speech before 2,100 attendees the night of the gala, “I did not grow up with an instinctual love or gravitation toward the game. I never went to any summer camps or clinics to improve my own play. ... I did not come to love golf so naturally. I first came to golf in order to help out my family.”

Julia is one of 11 children. When the economy tanked, her family lost their home and they hotel hopped for several months. Her father also split on them.

She started caddying at Green Hill Golf Course while in the seventh grade, after the facility got funding to accept inner-city kids to a caddie program. In addition to helping her mother pay for gas and groceries, she earned something of more lasting value than a paycheck.

“Every time I was at that golf course, I felt at peace,” she says. “I found a renewed faith in manners, in people. I felt safe, wanted, valued.

“Golf is more than just a game. It is a way of life.”

Julia is currently a sophomore at Holy Cross, majoring in English and theater.

“We’re not talking about golf,” Palmer says that evening, in relation to the scholarship fund’s importance. “We’re talking about people and children and letting them know how important their actions are on our lives.”

During the gala, Frost remarks, “All you had to do was listen to Julia’s speech and know where (Ouimet’s) impact is being felt today.”

And the genesis was Brookline.

Francis Ouimet houseFacing The Country Club’s 17th hole is 246 Clyde Street, home to the Ouimet family. At least it once was. It is currently owned by Jerome and Doris Wieler.

The house was built in 1887; the Ouimets moved in, in ‘96; and the Wielers bought it in 1989.

“The historical footprint is still the same. The rooms are the same size. Other than a few things here and there, very little has changed on the inside,” Jerome says.

The outside of the house looks very similar to historical photos. Except there is a fence out front now, along with four lanes of paved road and an employee parking lot between the house and the club. The backyard, which used to be a cow pasture and was where Francis’ brother Wilfred built three holes, is now trees and manufactured property as far as the eye can see.

A peek through the front porch window shows the old hardwood floors and the confined rooms. It also alerts a slightly chagrined home owner. But he’s used to strange people snooping around his house.

“Interest in the house goes in spurts,” Jerome says. “It picked up with the book, the movie, the (1999) Ryder Cup (at Brookline). People wanted to talk to us and take photos of the house.

“My wife and I are not golfers, but when we moved here I read up on him. I can say that I have really come to admire Francis Ouimet. Everything I know about him shows that he was a genuinely decent man.”

A couple of miles down the road from his childhood home, in Holyhood Cemetery, Francis is buried alongside his wife of 49 years, Stella Sullivan.

Armed with a digital image of the headstone and this knowledge, but without the knowledge that the cemetery is situated over 35 acres, I embarked on a futile endeavor.

Amazingly, I found a Ouimet headstone for Arthur and Mary Ellen, Francis’ parents, but gave up on the Sullivan search after an hour. Apparently, John Sullivan is a very popular name in the area. At least it used to be. It seems everyone with that name has died and been buried at Holyhood.

Francis Ouimet Room

The final stop on the trip is the William F. Connell Golf House & Museum at TPC Boston, home to the PGA Tour's Deutsche Bank Championship. It houses the Ouimet Room as well as the office of Bob Donovan, executive director of the Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund.

As Donovan shows, the room is sectioned according to different aspects of his career, ranging from his Walker Cup appearances (nine times as a player, three times as a nonplaying captain) to his U.S. Open victory to the book and movie which honored his great accomplishment.

There are artifacts, like the $.25 stamp commissioned in his likeness in 1988, making him one of only four golfers to have such an honor (Bobby Jones, Babe Zaharias, Palmer), trophies and presidential letters. Again, there is the famous Red Jacket portrait, which Donovan points out was painted by president Dwight D. Eisenhower and that the original version resides at the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in a “place of prominence.”

Ouimet's most significant memorabilia resides at the USGA Museum, in Far Hills, N.J., in an exhibit entitled "America's First Golf Hero." It includes his putter and four of his irons from his 1913 victory – mid-iron, mashie, mashie-niblick and jigger; the three balls used by Ouimet, Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in the playoff; their scorecards and Ouimet's championship medal. It also houses his championship medals from the 1914 and '31 U.S. Amateurs.

His red R&A jacket hangs there, as well. Funny story about that coat.

"My sister had one of those portraits over her mantel piece," Barbara tells, referencing the one that hangs in her house. "One day there was a girl playing there, and she said to Les (Barbara's niece, Leslie), 'Who is that?' Les said, 'That's my grampy.' The little girl says, 'What is he, a waiter?'

"Dad would have gotten a big kick out of that."

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Z. Johnson looks to end victory drought at Valero

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 10:45 pm

Nearly three years after his most recent victory, Zach Johnson has a chance to get back into the winner's circle at the Valero Texas Open.

Johnson started the third round at TPC San Antonio with a share of the lead, and he maintained that position after closing out a 4-under 68 with a birdie on the final hole. At 13 under, he is tied for the lead with Andrew Landry and one shot clear of Trey Mullinax as he looks to win for the first time since The Open in 2015.

"Different wind today. Misjudged some numbers, misjudged some wind, made some bad swings, all of the above," Johnson told reporters. "But truthfully, I mean my short game was actually pretty good, my putting was great. I missed some putts but I hit some really good ones, hit some lines and I gave myself opportunities, especially on the back side."

Johnson started slowly, making the turn in even-par 36, before carding four birdies on the inward half. It was a microcosm of his week at TPC San Antonio, where Johnson is even through three trips across the front nine but has played the back nine in 13 under while picking up more than six strokes on the field in strokes gained: putting.

Johnson won this event in both 2008 and 2009 when it was held at nearby La Cantera, but he has only cracked the top 10 once since it shifted venues in 2010. But facing off in the final group against two players who have yet to win on the PGA Tour, the veteran hopes to capitalize on his back-nine prowess this week in order to deliver career win No. 13.

"I've got to do exactly what I did on the back side, and that was give myself opportunities on every hole," Johnson said. "I'm putting great, I'm seeing the lines well, my caddie's reading the greens well. So it's just a matter of committing and executing down the stretch."

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Mullinax fires course-record 62 at Valero

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 9:01 pm

Trey Mullinax surged into contention during the third round of the Valero Texas Open, shooting a 10-under 62 that set a new course record on the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio.

Mullinax started the day seven shots off the pace, but his sizzling round left him alone in third place through 54 holes, one shot off the lead. The former Alabama standout caught fire on the back nine, shooting a 7-under 29 despite a bogey after chip-ins for eagle on No. 14 and birdie on No. 16 to go along with an eagle on the home hole.

"It's probably one of the best rounds I've ever had," Mullinax told reporters. "To go out there and shoot 62 on a hard golf course is really good."

Mullinax appeared headed for a missed cut after a 74 in the opening round, but he bounced back with a second-round 68 to earn a weekend tee time and his third-round score broke the previous course record of 63 held by multiple players.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

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The 25-year-old finished 137th in FedExCup points last season, leaving him with only conditional status this season. His lone top-10 finish of the year came at the Valspar Championship, where he survived a Monday qualifier and went on to tie for eighth, and this marks only his third start since the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February.

"Obviously I would like to play a little more, but the tournaments I get in, I'm really excited about playing golf," Mullinax said. "I've loved every start I've gotten, and I'm very thankful to be in the position I'm in."

Mullinax holed a putt to clinch a national title for the Crimson Tide in 2014, and he finished T-9 at last year's U.S. Open at Erin Hills. But success has been fleeting among the professional ranks, meaning Sunday's opportunity to notch a career-best finish or breakthrough victory is nothing short of enticing.

"I'm sure you'll be nervous," Mullinax said. "To have a chance to win or just go play good golf is what I came here for, so that's what I'm going to do."

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Quiros maintains one-shot lead through 54 in Morocco

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 7:46 pm

RABAT, Morocco - A birdie on the last hole gave Alvaro Quiros a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Trophee Hassan II.

Quiros' birdie on No. 18 allowed the Spanish golfer to sign for an even-par 72 on Saturday to stay at 7-under par overall and clear of four players in second place.

South African pair Erik van Rooyen and Christiaan Bezuidenhout, France's Alexander Levy, and Finland's Mikko Ilonen were just a shot behind at 6 under heading into the final day at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in Rabat.

Quiros is a seven-time winner on the European Tour, but went six years without a victory until last year with his triumph at the Rocco Forte Open in Italy.

Full-field scores from the Trophee Hassan II

He's seeking a wire-to-wire victory in Morocco after sharing the first-round lead with Bradley Dredge before taking it outright on Day 2.

Quiros had an on-off day in the third round - he said it was ''suddenly great shot, suddenly not so good'' - and carded four birdies and four bogeys to come out even and still hold on to his lead.

Van Rooyen shot 71, Bezuidenhout 68, Levy a 69, and Ilonen the best round of the week so far with his 6-under 66.

Ilonen had seven birdies and just a single bogey - on his first hole - to leap 23 places up the leaderboard and into contention for a first tour title since 2014 when he won the World Match Play Championship.

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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.