The centennial year of Francis Ouimet’s landmark 1913 U.S. Open triumph has been marked in various ways. The Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund feted the occasion in May with a gala that was attended by more than 2,100 guests, including Arnold Palmer, Peter Jacobsen, and author Mark Frost and director Bill Paxton, who joined forces on the 2005 film, “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” based on Frost’s best-selling book.
The USGA conducted the 2013 U.S. Amateur Championship in August at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., the scene of Ouimet’s stunning victory, and in a turnabout of sorts, Matthew Fitzpatrick of England won to become the first Englishman in 102 years to hoist the Havemeyer Trophy. It was the USGA’s 16th championship at the club, which was one of five founding member clubs of the Association in 1894.
On Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013 – one century and one day after the upset triumph that shook the nation and gave golf newfound attention – The Country Club hosted a reenactment of Ouimet’s victory over British legends Harry Vardon and Ted Ray.
More than 250 spectators, attired in period dress, watched as three members of The Country Club re-enacted the final four holes of the 1913 U.S. Open playoff. The trio was made up of John Dean, who played on the golf team at Cornell University from 2009-12 and assumed the role of Ouimet; Scott Dabney, a 1-handicap player who took on the role of six-time British Open champion Vardon; and Robert Manice, a single-digit player who adopted the swing and presence of the boisterous, big-hitting Ray.
The present-day players were accompanied by caddies, of course, one of whom took the role of Eddie Lowery, the 10-year-old who skipped school to help Ouimet attain his victory. Indeed, Ouimet later signed a photo of the post-round celebration for Lowery with the inscription, “This is the boy who won the 1913 Open.” In the re-creation of the playoff, Lowery was played by James Sanford, who currently caddies at The Country Club and whose grandfather, as a 12-year-old, had caddied for Ouimet and Lowery in real life.
Francis Ouimet's granddaughter, Sheila Macomber, and Eddie Lowery's daughter, Cynthia Wilcox, were both among the spectators for the event, which was played with wood-shafted clubs from the early 1900s, and with golf balls designed to mirror the performance of balls from that era; the drives of the three players averaged just over 200 yards.
After Ouimet (Dean) parred the 18th hole to complete the victory, the players delivered the same post-match speeches from 1913 on the steps of the clubhouse porch. They were joined by club historian Fred Waterman playing the part of John Reid Jr., who as the secretary of the USGA congratulated Ouimet on that day. A replica of the U.S. Open Trophy was presented to the unlikely champion, whose childhood home still sits across Clyde Street from the 17th hole, a par 4 that Ouimet had birdied in both the final round and the playoff.
According to Waterman, the scene of the centenary celebration of Ouimet's triumph included such period touches as 1913 era vehicles on the property (vintage cars included a Model T and a Packard), the use of horse-and-carriages, and a bi-plane flown over the 16th green during play. A herd of sheep (the original grass cutters in the game – and at The Country Club), was also brought in.
Last Friday, Sept. 20, the actual anniversary day of Ouimet’s victory, a wreath was laid at the statue in Brookline that reprises a famous photograph of Ouimet and Lowery from the 1913 Open. The ceremony, which took place at the entrance to Putterham Meadows, the public golf course that abuts The Country Club, was attended by Wilcox, Ouimet’s great-granddaughter Caitlin Wallerce, and several Ouimet Scholars. It took place at 1 p.m., said Bob Donovan, executive director of the Ouimet Fund, “because the playoff had started at 9 a.m. 100 years ago, so we figured it was right about the time the playoff ended.”
The 100th anniversary of Ouimet's win will be featured at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night on Golf Channel's "In Play With Jimmy Roberts." It will be rebroadcast several times later in the week.
Ron Driscoll is the USGA’s manager of editorial services. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.