Francis Ouimet Biography: The Amateur Who Energized American Golf

Golfer Francis Ouimet
Golfer Francis Ouimet. Bettmann/Getty Images

Francis Ouimet was a pioneer of the American golf scene, a lifelong amateur whose unlikely victory in the 1913 U.S. Open is widely credited with growing the game of golf in the United States. His last name is pronounced "We-met."

Date of birth: May 8, 1893
Place of birth: Brookline, Massachussetts
Date of death: Sept. 2, 1967
Nickname: Ouimet is sometimes referred to as "the father of amateur golf" in the United States.

Ouimet's Wins in Major Championships

Professional: 1

  • U.S. Open: 1913

Amateur: 2

  • U.S. Amateur: 1914, 1931

In addition to his major championship victories, Ouimet won a number of other significant amateur titles, including:

  • Massachussetts Amateur in 1913, 1914, 1915, 1919, 1922, 1925, 1932
  • 1914 French Amateur
  • 1917 Western Amateur
  • 1920 North and South Amateur

Awards and Honors for Francis Ouimet

  • Member, World Golf Hall of Fame
  • Member, U.S. Walker Cup team, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1928, 1930, 1932, 1934
  • Captain, U.S. Walker Cup team, 1932, 1934, 1936, 1938, 1947, 1949
  • Recipient, USGA's Bob Jones Award, 1955

Quote, Unquote

  • Ouimet: "Golfers should not fail to realize that it is a game of great traditions, of high ideals of sportsmanship, one in which a strict adherence to the rules is essential."

Francis Ouimet Trivia

  • When Francis Ouimet won the 1913 U.S. Open, he used as his caddie a 10-year-old boy named Eddie Lowery. Lowery grew up to become a successful businessman, owning a series of car dealerships on the West Coast. He was also a major patron of amateur golf. And Lowery played a pivotal role in the legendary challenge match played at Cypress Point in 1956 between the team of Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson on one side and amateurs Ken Venturi and Harvie Ward. That match was the basis of the Mark Frost book The Match (buy it on Amazon).
  • Ouimet was the first to achieve victories in both the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur. His Open win came first, followed by one year his first amateur championship in 1914.
  • In 1951, Ouimet became the first American to serve as captain at the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.
  • Ouimet appeared on a United States postage stamp issued in 1988.

Biography of Francis Ouimet

Francis Ouimet put American golf on the map. In the early 20th Century, golf was dominated by the English and Scots. In 1913, the great Harry Vardon and his British compatriot Ted Ray were in America for the U.S. Open. Ouimet, a 20-year-old amateur and former caddie, unknown on the national scene (he had already won the Massachussetts Amateur, however), forced the formidable duo into a playoff.

And when Ouimet won that playoff, he became an instant folk hero in the United States - and well-known to golfers around the world.

A biography of Ouimet on the website of the Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund says: "There were very few players in America, no public courses, and the game was confined mostly to the wealthy. Ouimet's victory changed all of that. His victory and unlikely background combined to create an inspirational moment.

Within ten years the number of players tripled." (The World Golf Hall of Fame says it more than tripled: There were roughly 350,000 golfers in America in 1913, two million within 10 years.)

Furthering the folklore, Ouimet's win came at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., a course Ouimet had grown up across the street from, in a working class neighborhood, and where he had caddied. A former caddie - a "regular guy" - winning the U.S. Open? America was ready to embrace golf.

Says the World Golf Hall of Fame:

"Ouimet's stunning triumph captured the imagination of sports fan across the globe, sweeping away the notion that golf was a stuffy game for the old and rich."

(Related: 1913 US Open recap and scores)

Ouimet's accomplishments extended beyond just that one event. Twice Ouimet won the U.S. Amateur.

  In fact, when he won it the first time, in 1914, Ouimet became the first golfer ever to win both the U.S. Open and Amateur.

Following that 1914 U.S. Amateur victory, Ouimet opened a sporting goods store. The USGA ruled it a violation of his amateur status - he was profiting on his golf reputation, the governing body said - and stripped Ouimet of his amateur status. That ruling was overturned a couple years later. Ouimet won another U.S. Amateur at age 38 in 1931.

Ouimet never turned pro. But he did fare well in a few other U.S. Opens: He placed fifth in 1914 and third in 1925.

Ouimet played in the first Walker Cup in 1922, and on seven more American teams. He was player-captain on two of those, and non-playing captain four more times, the last in 1949.

He remained a major figure in golf after his competitive days ended, becoming the first American captain of the R&A in 1951. In 1974, seven years after his death, Ouimet was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame.

The Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund

Today, the Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund is considered "The Golf Charity of Massachusetts," and is one of the largest independent scholarship organizations in New England. The Ouimet Fund was founded in 1949 by friends of Ouimet. It awards college scholarship funds to young people who worked as caddies or in the pro shop or course superintendent fields at Massachusetts golf courses.

Books About Francis Ouimet

Ouimet's impact on golf is detailed in the book, The Greatest Game Ever Played: Harry Vardon, Francis Ouimet, And The Birth Of Modern Golf (buy it on Amazon) by Mark Frost. It is the book that was the basis of the Shia LaBeouf movie.

A couple more books:

  • A Game of Golf (buy it on Amazon) by Francis Ouimet (his autobiography, originally published in 1932)
  • Francis and Eddie: The True Story of America's Underdogs (buy it on Amazon) by Brad Herzog (an illustrated book for children about the relationship between Ouimet and his caddie-turned-businessman Eddie Lowery)
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Kelley, Brent. "Francis Ouimet Biography: The Amateur Who Energized American Golf." ThoughtCo, Oct. 3, 2016, Kelley, Brent. (2016, October 3). Francis Ouimet Biography: The Amateur Who Energized American Golf. Retrieved from Kelley, Brent. "Francis Ouimet Biography: The Amateur Who Energized American Golf." ThoughtCo. (accessed October 22, 2017).