SI Vault
Edited by Cameron Morfit
October 04, 1999
Francis Ouimet's Old HouseCaddie's Shack
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October 04, 1999


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U.S. Wadkins/Nelson



U.S. Nichols/Pott



U.S. Palmer/Dickinson



U.S. Nicklaus/Watson



Eur Faldo/Woosnam



Eur Ballesteros/Olaz�bal



Eur Ballesteros/Olaz�bal



Eur Alliss/O'Connor Sr.



Eur Faldo/Langer



Eur Ballesteros/Pinero


Francis Ouimet's Old House
Caddie's Shack

The 17th green is still only a lob wedge from the front porch, but 246 Clyde Street doesn't seem as close to the Country Club as it once did. Last week a cluster of corporate tents, traffic cops and barbed wire separated the childhood home of the club's most fabled member from the site of the Ryder Cup.

As a kid Francis Ouimet would cross Clyde and cut through the pine trees to get to the course. He was a caddie there and a part-time sporting goods salesman until September 1913, when he was promoted to folk hero. At age 20, as an amateur, Ouimet won the U.S. Open at the Country Club in a playoff against England's Ted Ray and Harry Vardon, igniting a golf boom in the U.S. A bronze statue near the 1st tee commemorates Ouimet's feat, and last week the row of tents covering his old shortcut was dubbed Francis Ouimet Village. A sculptor sold 23-inch bronze likenesses of Ouimet and his 10-year-old caddie, Eddie Lowery, for $6,500. Twenty-two years after his death, Ouimet is everywhere, still to the Country Club what Heff is to the Playboy Mansion.

At 246 Clyde, though, the tribute is more subtle. A framed 25-cent postage stamp honoring Ouimet hangs in the front foyer of the two-story, three-bedroom house. Around the corner a wall is adorned with a photo of a bearded man sitting on a motorcycle outside Sloppy Joe's in Key West, Fla. His name is Jerome Wieler, a self-described "financial analyst and philosopher." He and his wife, Dedie, live here now, the real residents of Ouimet Village.

"We're not golfers. We're bikers," says Dedie, a hospital administrator and an officer in the Boston chapter of the Harley Owner's Group (HOG). "But we appreciate what [ Ouimet] did. As champions of the working class, we love the fact that a caddie walked across the street and won the U.S. Open."

Dedie says they had no idea who Ouimet was when they bought the house 10 years ago but were told of his legend shortly thereafter. Five years ago a coworker sent the Wielers the postage stamp and a mug with Ouimet's likeness on it.

"To this day golf makes no sense to me," says Jerome. "I have more appreciation for people who shoot pool than for those who play golf, but I've got to admit, the story of this guy fascinated me. From what I understand, he was not that welcome as a golfer over there. I mean, a caddie who wins the biggest tournament of the year? That's my kind of guy."

The Wielers say no one offered to rent their home for Cup week. Occasionally golf fans will stop to look at the house, though Jimmie and Harriet, the Wielers' black Lab and Scottish terrier, keep the curious at bay. In their decade on the outskirts of the Country Club, neither Wieler has been on the course or in the clubhouse. They say they never thought to open a lemonade stand or sell quickie tours of Ouimet's bedroom. Dedie spent last weekend catching up on her work and reading while Michael Jordan, Prince Andrew, George Bush and the rest of the golf-obsessed elite roamed her block. Jerome rode his Harley to the Berkshires to take in the foliage.

In their own way the Wielers have upheld the tradition of Ouimet, the pariah, the party-crasher, the working-class hero. The corporate tents and the $6,500 statues are across the street, on the other side of the barbed wire. The legend lives here still, at 246 Clyde Street.
—Gerry Callahan

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