The golfing triumph a century ago of Francis Ouimet is the stuff of sporting fairytale. It inspired an engaging Disney movie called “The Greatest Game Ever Played”, written by Mark Frost and based on his fine book of the same title. This is my own more modest account.
In September 1913, the privileged gods of amateur golf and their socially inferior professional counterparts were in Brookline, Massachusetts, preparing for the US Open championship. Little did they suspect that golfing history was about to be made by such an unlikely character, and that the nature of the game would be changed for the better and forever.
Among the field that competed over the Country Club course was a lanky, 20 year-old lad called Francis Ouimet. He stood 6 foot 2, weighed 12 and a half stone, and was the son of Arthur Ouimet, a French-Canadian immigrant, and Mary Ellen Burke, who had come to America from Ireland. When Francis was 4 his family bought a house on Clyde Street in Brookline, just a wedge shot’s distance from the Country Club’s 17th hole. Despite this proximity the Ouimets were from the wrong side of the tracks, while Brookline was sited firmly and luxuriously on the right side.