The 1913 U.S. Open Golf Championship 

The most important golf tournament ever played.

As the 1913 US Open approached, golf was excited about itself, and those involved knew they had a tiger by the tail, and they also knew the 1913 US Open was going to be something big. As it turns out they were right, it was like no other golf tournament that had been played to date.  First, applications flooded United States Golf Association  headquarters resulting in the need to run qualifying rounds, unheard of until then so a process had to be established. Once the process was in place they found they needed one more player to have a complete field for the qualifying rounds and time was running out. Travel in 1913 was difficult and expensive. Professional golfers were not very highly paid and often times needed sponsorship to play in distant tournaments. Most also worked for country and golf clubs, so "in season" they needed to make arrangements for time off. With the tournament coming up in 2 weeks the USGA scanned the Boston area golf scene for a player and came upon the name Francis Ouimet. Francis had just won the Massachusetts Amateur Championship, made a strong showing at the United States Amateur, lived directly across the street from The Country Club in Brookline so travel would be no problem and was employed by George Wright, Boston's number 1 golf enthusiast and friend of the United States Golf Association so time off for a qualifying round would not be a problem.

The second unusual circumstance for the tournament was the quality of the field, as of the 1913 Open it was clearly the best field ever assembled. Not including Francis Ouimet, Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, the next 16 top finishers have a combined 41 major tournament victories. Add in Ouimet, Vardon and Ray and that number swells to 53 career majors for 18 players. 

Stir in Henry Leach and Bernard Darwin the great British Golf writers, Lord Northcliffe, Darwin's employer, and the sponsor of multiple British professionals, add in that many British golfers and writers voiced disparaging remarks on the level of play in American golf and before you you know it you've got yourself a very important international golf tournament.

Now just for some fun let's look at life in general at that time. Labor movements through out the world were turning the poor into "working class" and the "working class" about to become the great middle class. Massachusetts was barely back to equilibrium after the "1912 Bread and Roses Strike" in Lawrence (often referred to as The Great Strike of 1912) and mobility both literal and social was rushing forth. The wealthy were clinging to what seemed to be their last of private pleasures, golf among the most important. In the Boston area for example country clubs dominated the golf scene with the exception as The American Golfer put it "the poor apology for a public course at Franklin Park." Bring this together at a place called "The Country Club" in a very important suburb, within easy day trip distance of an even more important working class city and your international golf tournament becomes a center stage for the ongoing social revolution.   

But let's not digress too much. After all it is a golf tournament, but wait what is this, it seems there is also a growing divide between professional golfers (considered servants to the rich), and the amateurs (mostly golfers from wealth), able to play just for the sport of it. Neither respecting the other as people or golfers. 

So in summary you have an event, greater in size and scope than its organizers had ever expected or experienced. This event includes a rivalry, with flames being stoked by what was border line yellow journalism, between the British golfers and American golfers (like this never happened before) taking place in a city that has had more then its share of British/American conflict. The event also has the festering divide of amateur and professional golfers thrown in on top of a major social thorn in a state just rocked by continuing labor unrest. Mix in a few suffragettes and you got yourself a real happening.

This thing could have turned out so many different convoluted and ugly ways.....instead its ending was perfect. A 20 year old upwardly mobile amateur golfer and former caddie from a working class, Catholic back ground with a 10 year boy on the bag became the 1913 U.S. Open Champion. Boston shook from the "the event" in Brookline for weeks and months to come and golf around the world*, as well as life for middle class America would never be the same....................................

1911 Golfing Events leading up to the 1913 U.S. Open

1912 Golfing Events leading up to the 1913 U.S. Open

1913 Golfing Events leading up to the 1913 U.S. Open

September 16, 1913 US Open Tuesday Qualifier

September 17, 1913 US Open Wednesday qualifier

The 1913 US Open "The rest of the field"

September 18, 1913 US Open Tournament day one

September 19, 1913  US Open Tournament day two

September 20, 1913 The US Open Play off

  Francis Ouimet, 1913 United States Open Champion

Playing the US Open Alone !

A Curious Incident - A USGA Ruling

Credit to the caddie

Francis rips a drive !

What was in Francis Ouimet's golf bag ?

*The ranks of US golfers grew from 350,00 in 1913 to 2 million just ten years later, and will grow to about 25,000,000 less than 100 years later.

 

Resources

 

1913 US Open

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