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 Ouimet77-74-74-79--304 
Harry Vardon75-72-78-79--304$300
Ted Ray79-70-76-79--304$150
Jim Barnes74-76-78-79--307$78
Walter Hagen73-78-76-80--307$78
Macdonald Smith71-79-80-77--307$78
Louis Tellier76-76-79-76--307$78
John McDermott74-79-77-78--308$50
Herbert Strong75-74-82-79--310$40
Pat Doyle78-80-73-80--311$30
a-W.C. Fownes Jr.79-75-78-80--312 
Elmer Loving76-80-75-81--312$20
Alex Campbell77-80-76-80--313 
Mike Brady83-74-78-80--315 
Matt Campbell83-80-77-76--316 
a-Fred Herreshoff75-78-83-82--318 
Jock Hutchison77-76-80-85--318 
Tom McNamara73-86-75-84--318 
Wilfred Reid75-72-85-86--318 
Alex Smith82-75-82-79--318 
a-Robert Andrews83-73-83-80--319 
Jack Croke72-83-83-81--319 
Charles Murray80-80-80-79--319 
Peter Robertson79-80-78-82--319 
George Sargent75-76-79-89--319 
Charles Thom76-76-84-85--321 
Jack Dowling77-77-82-85--321 
Bob Macdonald80-79-84-79--322 
a-Jerome Travers78-78-81-85--322 
Frank Belwood79-83-80-81--323 
James Donaldson79-76-85-83--323 
J.H. Taylor81-80-78-84--323 
Jack Hobens78-79-84-83--324 
Albert Murray76-82-81-85--324 
David Ogilvie81-77-82-84--324 
Herbert Barker80-79-85-82--326 
Alex Ross71-80-93-82--326 
Tom Anderson Jr.82-83-82-80--327 
Fred McLeod80-85-82-80--327 
Tom Vardon85-78-79-85--327 
John Shippen81-73-87-87--328 
James Thomson80-80-84-84--328 
Willie Maguire85-80-82-82--329 
Walter Fovargue79-83-81-87--330 
Karl Keffer79-84-81-88--332 
Joe Sylvester81-81-87-83--332 
George Cummings81-79-88-86--334 
Tom Bonnar86-79-85-88--338 
Robert Thomson84-79-90-87--340 

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