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Singing the praise of Ouimet

Updated: 2012-06-10 07:58
( China Daily)

Singing the praise of Ouimet

The British Open is golf's most prestigious event and the US Masters at Augusta boasts the game's most coveted title, but the US Open is regarded as the toughest to win.

Its many and varied courses over the past 117 years have provided the ultimate man-against-layout challenge for the world's best stick wielders; not to forget the fact that the sportsmen nowadays, who seem to be trapped in a '70s time warp when it comes to attire, are also battling the deepest field of any of the majors.

The US Open is a dog-eat-dog and course-bite man event, which makes what happened 99 years ago in Brookline, Massachusetts, a seminal story in the history of the game.

British golf at that time was king, and the great Harry Vardon wore the crown while ball-mashing Ted Ray was his pugnacious heir apparent. Having pretty much dominated the scene in England, they chased further glory - and cash - at the 1913 US Open in New England.

Well before the first tee was planted, it was expected to be a race for the title between the two Brits.

That's where a 20-year-old amateur called Francis Ouimet, who lived within a five iron of the host course, stepped in and turned the golfing world upside down - or at least tilted it a little bit more to the left of the Atlantic Ocean.

By today's standards, his eight-over effort would have seen him sitting in the clubhouse after two rounds, but it was enough then to earn him a playoff with Messrs Vardon and Ray.

His David-like performance drew a huge crowd for the three-man playoff and under what could only be described as surreal pressure, Ouimet shot a 72 on day five to stun Vardon (77), Ray (78) and the entire golfing world.

However, the beauty of that victory harbors greater depth because success never changed Ouimet and he was more than happy to enjoy the game as a game and he remained an amateur when greater riches more than likely awaited the precocious American youngster.

Let me also toss in the fact that his caddy, chosen almost at tee time of the opening round, was all of 10 years of age!

Lugging a bag almost the size of himself, Eddie Lowery walked into history with Ouimet. That little boy grew up to be a multi-millionaire car dealer in California while his life-long friend, Ouimet, won two US Amateur titles, became the first US captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrew's and settled down to life as a businessman and father.

That US Open victory 99 years ago is regarded as the point when golf turned mainstream in the US.

Appreciate the Tigers, Phils, Rorys and Lukes as they do battle at the Open in San Francisco this week, but spare a thought for Ouimet, for without him this great tournament and, overall, the game could be much different.

Tym Glaser is a senior sports copy editor who once shot a 69 on the front nine at the Constant Spring Golf Course in Kingston. He can be contacted at tymglaser@chinadaily.com.cn