- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Whenever the peerless Harry Vardon came to America, something of great consequence invariably happened. Vardon made his second tour of this country in 1913, with the backing of Lord Northcliffe, the owner of the London Times. For his series of exhibition matches, Vardon had in Edward "Ted" Ray the ideal partner, a perfect Pythias for their fourball matches and a dramatically long hitter born to attract galleries.
Ray and Vardon interrupted their tour in mid-September to play in the National Open, held at The Country Club. Two other European professionals were in the field assembling at Brookline. Wilfred Reid from Banstead Downs in England and the diminutive French star, Louis Tellier. Johnny McDermott was primed to defend his title, and Mike Brady, Tommy McNamara, and Jerry Travers, among the homebreds, and MacDonald Smith and Jim Barnes, among the semi-Americans, were on hand for what loomed as the most turbulent tournament ever staged in this country.
The 1913 Open was the big leagues, the big test for American golf—no question about it. The United States had demonstrated that it could hold its own in international sports competition by defeating teams representing Great Britain in tennis, yachting, and polo, but was it still too early to hope for a declaration of independence on the golf course? It could be done, of course. McDermott had confessed to his countrymen that he was just as good as Vardon, and Brady and McNamara knew The Country Club course by heart. Yet when Americans weighed the mild talents of the nativeborn players against the furious talent of Ray and the genius of Vardon, they reluctantly concluded that it would probably take another few years.
At the end of 54 holes, Vardon, Ray and Francis Ouimet were tied for the lead at 225. Ouimet had caught the two favorites with a round of 74, but no man in his right mind could expect the inexperienced amateur to stand up to the enormous pressure of the last round of a major tournament. Reid had blown sky-high. Tellier had not made up enough ground. Hagen, Smith, Barnes, and McDermott would have to play subpar golf to catch the leaders, and the sodden condition of the course definitely argued against such a hopeful contingency.
Ray was the first one of the leaders to finish his fourth round. He had taken a 79 on the rain-soaked course and would have to stand by at 304 and see how his rivals fared. One by one they faded. Vardon straggled home in a 79 which was only good enough for a tie with Ray. Harry's putting, his old Achilles' heel, had let him down. Back to the clubhouse over the grapevine came the news that Barnes' rally had petered out. Hagen and Smith were done too. Tellier had a fighting chance until he reached the 12th, and then he had cracked wide open. Simultaneously the report came in that Ouimet, the one man left who could catch Vardon and Ray, had gone to the turn in 43 and had killed off what slim chance remained for him by taking a 5 on the short 10th. To get his 304 now, Francis would have to play the last eight holes in one under even fours, and under the circumstances that was asking for the impossible. The young man deserved all the credit in the world for sticking with the Englishmen as long as he did.
Ouimet did not think he was finished. Even when he had taken a 5 on the par-4 12th after getting his par on the 11th, he did not give up the fight. On the 13th tee he figured out that he would now have to play the last six holes in 22 strokes, 2 under par, to gain a tie. He went over the six holes in his mind and selected the 13th and the 16th as the ones on which "he had the best chance to pick up the two birdies he needed. He had been putting for 3's regularly on the 13th, a short par 4; the 16th was a relatively easy par 3, but Francis had not gotten a deuce there all week and had a hunch that this could be the time.
Francis got his birdie on the 13th, but had to hole a chip from the edge of the green to do it. On the 14th, he got his par 5 comfortably enough. He hit a nice drive on the 15th, a testing par 4, and then completely mis-hit his approach. To stay in the hunt, Francis had to get down in two from a snug lie in the rough, and did this by playing a superb chip-shot less than a yard from the pin. He came to the short 16th, the hole he had a hunch he might birdie. His hunch was wrong. Francis had to sink a nine-foot putt to get his par.
AN ICICLE JUMPS
To tie now, Ouimet was faced with bagging that all-important birdie on either the 17th, a dogleg to the left or on the 18th, a somewhat lengthier par 4. The gallery appreciated as clearly as the boy himself the full size of that task. There was an almost tangible tension in the air as Francis followed his drive down the 17th with a jigger-shot some 20 feet past the pin. On the green the young man did not fidget or pose. He looked over the sliding sidehill putt, and concentrating so intensely that he did not hear the blare of automobile horns that unnerved the gallery, stroked the ball boldly for the cup. The ball took the roll nicely, slipped rapidly down the slope, struck the back of the cup hard, and stayed in. The keyed-up spectators crammed around the 17th green could not control themselves. They yelled, pummeled each other joyously, swatted their friends with umbrellas, and shouted delirious phrases they had not thought of since boyhood. Jerry Travers, the icicle himself, jumped three feet in the air. The stirring battle of the hometown David against the two Goliaths had cut deeper into their anxieties than the gallery had been aware.
Francis Ouimet was the calmest man on the course as he walked to the 18th tee. He needed a 4 now to tie Ray and Vardon. He forgot about everything else but getting that 4. His drive was satisfactory, straight and long enough. He hit his second shot accurately and saw it kick up the mud on the soft bank in front of the green. His chip-shot left him five feet short of the cup. Then, with a complete disregard for the feelings of the spectators, he stepped up to his putt as if he had not the vaguest idea that history was riding with that shot. He placed his putter in front of the ball once, took a look at the hole, and hit the ball firmly into the back of the cup.