They were the shots heard ’round the world, and they, too, started a revolution. At the 1913 U.S. Open at The Country Club, Francis Ouimet, a 20-year-old former caddie, didn’t just beat British legends Harry Vardon and Ted Ray; he changed the perception of an entire sport.
Ouimet’s stunning triumph captured the imagination of sports fans across the globe, sweeping away the notion that golf was a stuffy game for the old and rich. Ouimet was American golf’s first great hero, and he remains one of the most beloved figures in the sport’s history.
Ouimet seemed to step from the pages of a Dickens novel. He had grown up across the street from The Country Club in a working-class home and learned the game with the one old club his older brother, Wilfred, had procured as a caddie. The two boys built three makeshift holes in the family backyard, incorporating a gravel pit, a swamp, a brook and a patch of long, rough grass. Sunken tomato cans were used as cups. At 11, Ouimet began caddying at The Country Club, and by his later teens, he had begun to make a name for himself in tournament competition. After winning the 1913 Massachusetts State Amateur Championship, Ouimet was inspired to enter the National Open.