The US Open: Part One
- Credit: History.com
In the absence of local golf for the next few weeks, Axe Cliff member Kyle Philpotts takes us to the ultimate challenge in the sport: the US Open.
Although the early years of golf was dominated by Scottish, and then European players, the period immediately after World War 1 saw a regular stream of winners from the USA.
This new American interest in golf was largely sparked by British Professionals going over to North America in the last quarter of the 19th Century to play exhibition matches.
Many of these Professionals stayed and established a new life for themselves, just as they had come together in Britain in 1901 to form The Professional Golfers Association.
The PGA of Canada was formed in 1911 and the PGA of America five years later.
The United States Golf Association (USGA), which was established to set the rules and organise tournaments, had been created in 1895 and historically, have been the rule makers for golf in the USA and Mexico, with the Royal and Ancient in Scotland (R&A) setting the rules for the rest of the world.
The USGA set up their own national Championship in 1895 and this soon became known as the US Open.
Not surprisingly, the first few years were dominated by Scottish professionals, but since 1910 it has largely been a real stronghold for their homegrown players, with only a few international players becoming champions.
As with the Open, while amateur players could enter, they had little success against the professionals and no amateur has won since 1930. However, they did have more success than in Britain with four winners, one of whom, Bobby Jones, won it on four occasions and remains the only amateur to have won both these major championships.
Jones also remains the only player to have achieved a Grand Slam of all four majors in the same year. As an amateur his slam, was the Amateur Championship, the Open, the US Open and the US Amateur in 1930.
He backed himself to do this with British bookmakers before the first tournament at odds of 50/1 and collected over $60,000, far more than the prize money for the two Opens. Jones retired from competitive golf after this feat.
While Bobby Jones came from the type of privileged background largely associated with amateur golfers in that period, another amateur, Francis Ouimet did not. He grew up in a relatively poor household in Brookline, a suburb of Boston, close to the local country club.
Ouimet became a caddy there and learned to play golf using clubs given to him and balls he found on the course. He quickly showed talent at the sport and became the best high school golfer in the state.
However, his father did not see golf as a suitable activity and he was forced to drop out of school ‘do something useful’ and so he started working in a sports shop. He did continue his golf though and won some amateur tournaments.
The 1913 US Open was to be played at Country Club by his home in Brookline and Ouimet, then aged 20 was persuaded to enter. The tournament had been delayed to allow Ted Ray and Harry Vardon to travel over from Britain as Vardon had won the Open 5 times by then and the US Open once and Ray, who had been the Professional at Churston Golf Club in Devon at the turn of the century, had won the Open in 1912.
After four rounds Vardon, Ray and Ouimet were tied for first place and had to play a further 18 holes. Ouimet had his friend, Eddie Lowery, who was only 10 years old, as his caddie. Despite the championship experience of the two British professionals, it was the amateur Ouimet and his junior caddie who came out on top, beating Vardon by 5 shots and Ray by 6 shots.
Part Two in next week’s Midweek Herald