1913 US Open: Ouimet's Unlikely Victory Spurs Growth of US Golf

Harry Vardon, Francis Ouimet and Ted Ray in a photo taken in 1914
Francis Ouimet (middle) is flanked by Harry Vardon (left) and Ted Ray, his two opponents in the playoff at the 1913 US Open. Bettmann/Getty Images

The 1913 U.S. Open is considered by many golf historians one of the most important developments in the history of golf in America - the most important development in the game's early history in the United States.

That's because the tournament was won by a little-known amateur, a former caddie named Francis Ouimet, a native-born American who defeated two British titans in a playoff. So it was a David-vs.-Goliath(s) story that caught the public imagination.

And Ouimet, being a former caddie - a "commoner" - showed that golf didn't have to be a game only for the wealthy and privileged. "Regular" people could enjoy the game, too.

Golf enjoyed a huge growth spurt in America in the following years, and Ouimet's defeat of Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in a playoff to win the 1913 U.S. Open is given much of the credit for that.

Ouimet was 20 years old. He had grown up near The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., and caddied at the club. That surely helped him, since The Country Club is where the 1913 U.S. Open was played.

Ray and the legendary Vardon were on an exhibition tour of the United States, which is how they came to play in the U.S. Open (travel across the Atlantic for golf tournaments was very rare in these days). Vardon was favored over the field, and Vardon and Ray - and just about everyone else - were favored over Ouimet.

Vardon shared the 36-hole lead with Ray two back and Ouimet four behind. Those three were tied for the lead following the third round. And in the final round - with his 10-year-old caddie, Eddie Lowery, in tow - Ouimet, against all expectations, matched Vardon and Ray again, and the trio ended 72 holes tied at 304. Ouimet forced his way into the playoff with a birdie on the 71st hole.

In the playoff, Ouimet shot his best score of the week, a 72, to beat Vardon by five and Ray by six. Ray wasn't much of a factor in the playoff, but Vardon gave chase until late in the action. Ouimet's lead was only one stroke after 16, but a birdie on the 17th essentially sealed his unlikely victory.

Ouimet went on to win two U.S. Amateur titles, remaining an amateur throughout his life.

Two-time defending champion John McDermott finished eighth. Future 2-time U.S. Open winner and 11-time major champion Walter Hagen made his U.S. Open debut here, finishing tied for fourth.

1913 U.S. Open Golf Tournament Scores

Results from the 1913 U.S. Open golf tournament played at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts (x-won playoff; a-amateur):

x-a-Francis Ouimet 77-74-74-79--304
Harry Vardon 75-72-78-79--304 $300
Ted Ray 79-70-76-79--304 $150
Jim Barnes 74-76-78-79--307 $78
Walter Hagen 73-78-76-80--307 $78
Macdonald Smith 71-79-80-77--307 $78
Louis Tellier 76-76-79-76--307 $78
John McDermott 74-79-77-78--308 $50
Herbert Strong 75-74-82-79--310 $40
Pat Doyle 78-80-73-80--311 $30
a-W.C. Fownes Jr. 79-75-78-80--312
Elmer Loving 76-80-75-81--312 $20
Alex Campbell 77-80-76-80--313
Mike Brady 83-74-78-80--315
Matt Campbell 83-80-77-76--316
a-Fred Herreshoff 75-78-83-82--318
Jock Hutchison 77-76-80-85--318
Tom McNamara 73-86-75-84--318
Wilfred Reid 75-72-85-86--318
Alex Smith 82-75-82-79--318
a-Robert Andrews 83-73-83-80--319
Jack Croke 72-83-83-81--319
Charles Murray 80-80-80-79--319
Peter Robertson 79-80-78-82--319
George Sargent 75-76-79-89--319
Charles Thom 76-76-84-85--321
Jack Dowling 77-77-82-85--321
Bob Macdonald 80-79-84-79--322
a-Jerome Travers 78-78-81-85--322
Frank Belwood 79-83-80-81--323
James Donaldson 79-76-85-83--323
J.H. Taylor 81-80-78-84--323
Jack Hobens 78-79-84-83--324
Albert Murray 76-82-81-85--324
David Ogilvie 81-77-82-84--324
Herbert Barker 80-79-85-82--326
Alex Ross 71-80-93-82--326
Tom Anderson Jr. 82-83-82-80--327
Fred McLeod 80-85-82-80--327
Tom Vardon 85-78-79-85--327
John Shippen 81-73-87-87--328
James Thomson 80-80-84-84--328
Willie Maguire 85-80-82-82--329
Walter Fovargue 79-83-81-87--330
Karl Keffer 79-84-81-88--332
Joe Sylvester 81-81-87-83--332
George Cummings 81-79-88-86--334
Tom Bonnar 86-79-85-88--338
Robert Thomson 84-79-90-87--340

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