Ever since Francis Ouimet topped his first drive at the 1913 U.S. Open, winning the national championship at The Country Club has required a long, rocky climb to the bright yellow clubhouse. While only 28 of the 88 Opens have been decided by playoffs, all three held at Brookline have gone into OT.
Ouimet's victory over Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, then considered the finest players in the world, began the transformation of golf in America from an elite game to a public pastime. Ouimet, a 20-year-old store clerk who had grown up across the street from the 16th green at Brookline, overcame his nervous start and tied Vardon and Ray by playing the last eight holes of regulation in two under par, for a 20-over 304. Ouimet's 10 clubs were carried by a 10-year-old truant named Eddie Lowery. Lowery would later move to San Francisco, where he became a millionaire auto dealer and a patron of another Open champion, Ken Venturi, who won in 1964.
In the 1913 playoff, Ouimet reached the turn tied with Vardon and Ray at two over, having survived a ball out of bounds as well as a request from an acquaintance in the gallery for advice on how to correct a slice. Three straight pars gave Ouimet a two-stroke lead after the 12th, and a birdie at the 17th sealed his win. A throng of 10,000 looked on at the 18th, which Ouimet parred for a 72, to Vardon's 77 and Ray's 78. At the time, there were about 350,000 golfers in the U.S. By 1923, there were more than two million.
Golf was riding another boom—thanks to Arnold Palmer—when the Open returned to Brookline in 1963. For 72 holes, Palmer was in or near the lead. But when he three-putted from eight feet on the 71st hole—missing his second putt from 19 inches—he fell into a tie with Julius Boros, who had already finished. Jacky Cupit had a chance to win outright, but he double-bogeyed the 71st and then missed a 15-foot birdie putt on the 72nd.
In the playoff, the iron-willed Boros took a two-stroke lead at the 4th hole. Palmer was through when he tried to extricate his ball from a tree trunk and made a 7 on the par-4 11th. Boros won with a 70 to Cupit's 73 and Palmer's 76. Later, Palmer admitted he was weak from food poisoning he had contracted the night before. Boros likes to think he had something to do with that stomachache. "Arnold was my pigeon," he told Golf Digest earlier this year. "I'd beaten him before. I usually did." When asked what he thought of how Strange and Faldo had played, Boros said, "They didn't have to work as hard as I did."
Strange's face hardened when he was told of Boros's comment. "I don't know what he means by that," he said. Strange had a point. After all, Brookline has always required an honest day's work.
GEORGE S. PIETZCKER
Young Oumiet (center) vanquished Vardon (left) and Ray.