BROOKLINE, Mass. – Boston has never been a kind city to the British, going back to the Boston Tea Party in 1773, and the man with the Union Jack was rooting hard to flip a century of defeat on its ear.
“Being a member here – and one of the few Brit members – I’m slightly partisan, you see,” said Julian Bourne, who had draped the British flag he was carrying over the gallery rope beside the 14th green as Matt Fitzpatrick took a 3-up lead in the afternoon round. “We hear a lot about Harry Vardon; it happened 100 years ago, but we still hear a lot about it.”
Bourne, who lives in the Boston suburb of Weston, grew up in London and later moved to the Cotswolds region of England. Twelve years ago, he moved to Boston, and he became a member at The Country Club six years ago.
Bourne is very well acquainted with the victory by unheralded 20-year-old amateur Francis Ouimet in the 1913 U.S. Open, when he defeated English stalwarts Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in an 18-hole playoff at The Country Club for the U.S. Open title.
When the 1988 U.S. Open was held at The Country Club, England had another chance to conquer Boston when Nick Faldo squared off in a playoff against Curtis Strange. Again, the American prevailed on Monday.
Even what seemed like an insurmountable lead for the European Ryder Cup Team in 1999 went against the visitors at The Country Club, as the U.S. squad had one of the greatest Sunday rallies in the competition’s history, capped by Justin Leonard’s long birdie putt on 17 to regain the Cup.
So there was some irony on Sunday when Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick, who looks closer in age to 14 than 18, triumphed at TCC. Not only was he the first international winner in 16 USGA championships there, he also became the first Englishman since Harold Hilton in 1911 to win the U.S. Amateur.
“It’s been 102 years, so this is very historic,” said Bourne, who works for Agero, a Boston-area consumer services company. “It had been, what, 79 years before Andy Murray won Wimbledon, so this is more significant. And with Justin Rose, it had only been 40-something years in the U.S. Open, so that’s relatively recent, isn’t it.”
“We’ve had a great summer, particularly against the Australians, I’m sorry to say,” said Bourne. “In rugby football, the British and Irish Lions beat the Australians; in cricket, we’ve beaten them in the Ashes, and we’ve also won the Tour de France; I don’t think we’ve ever won that. Something is going right for British sports; we obviously have the wave going in our favor at the moment.”
British expatriate Bourne drew an assignment on Saturday afternoon that he wasn’t expecting. He was asked to drive U.S. Amateur finalists Fitzpatrick and Oliver Goss to Fenway Park, to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Red Sox-Yankees game.
“After all the golf this week, I thought the guys would be ready for a quiet evening, but they were energized and excited,” said Bourne. “As far as driving around Boston, I would have been more comfortable driving from Sunningdale to Lord’s Cricket Ground in London than I was driving from here to Fenway. Fortunately I had (The Country Club director of golf) Brendan Walsh as my navigator to get me down the back roads.”
Matt and Alex, A 2013 Story
“It's quite ironic that I had my brother (Alex) on the bag, and it was sort of similar, I guess, to Ouimet and [caddie Eddie] Lowery,” said Matt Fitzpatrick, referring to the 10-year-old who carried the bag for Francis Ouimet. “But yeah, it's just fantastic, and it's nice to be the first for a while, that's for sure.”
Alex Fitzpatrick, 14, became a mini-celebrity this week, with his short stature and young looks drawing comparisons to Lowery. It was the first time Alex, a 2-handicap golfer, had ever caddied for his older brother.
Matt said at the trophy presentation that he planned to do something special for him, but didn’t elaborate. Alex is hoping to carry Matt’s bag at next year’s Par-3 Contest at the Masters.
Besides being exempt into three majors next year, Matt also will be part of some special groupings. At the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, he’ll be grouped with Rose, the reigning U.S. Open champion, and Phil Mickelson, the 2013 British Open champion. Matt was introduced to Mickelson last month when he won the silver medal for being low amateur at the British Open at Muirfield.
“Meeting Phil at the British Open was nice, and meeting Justin will be just as good,” said Fitzpatrick. “There's no doubt about it, things are probably going to change. They changed when I won the British Boys last year, but I was still at home then. So to me I'm going to have to change anyway going to college [at Northwestern], so I don't think it'll be too bad. It will be harder for [the British media] to chase me, I guess.”
Bound For Southampton?
While the USGA finalized its 10-man USA Walker Cup Team on Sunday, The R&A won’t officially announce the Great Britain and Ireland side until Monday. It’s a good bet Fitzpatrick will be part of the team, given his U.S. Amateur victory, British Open performance and lofty position in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (No. 2).
While he received great support from the fans in Boston, Fitzpatrick said he might not be cheered as loudly at the National Golf Links of America when the two-day competition takes place Sept. 7-8 in Southampton, N.Y.
“I'm really looking forward to it, if I get picked, obviously,” said Fitzpatrick. “Just the atmosphere I think will be incredible. The atmosphere here was obviously amazing this week, and I really enjoy having a crowd sort of behind.
“It's going to be good fun … and having the support this week from the Americans might not be the same. We'll have to see about that. If I do get picked, it will be a bit like Ryder Cup, and [hopefully] the same result as well.”
North By Northwestern
After incoming freshman Matt Fitzpatrick won his quarterfinal match on Friday, Northwestern University assistant men’s golf coach David Inglis quickly booked an airline ticket from Chicago to Boston. Of course, he still needed Fitzpatrick to win his Saturday semifinal match against Corey Conners, which he did, 2 and 1.
Inglis caught the last non-stop flight Saturday night and arrived too late to rent a car. A friend picked him up at Logan Airport around 11 p.m., and Inglis made it to The Country Club for the start of the 36-hole final.
A native of Scotland who is entering his third season at the Evanston, Ill., school, Inglis first saw Fitzpatrick play at the 2011 Junior Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Fitzpatrick didn’t have a good week in Florida, but when Inglis, who played collegiately at Tulsa, and Pat Goss, Northwestern’s head coach, saw him again last year at the European Championships, they saw a much different golfer.
It also didn’t hurt that Goss is the swing coach for Northwestern alum and five-time PGA Tour winner Luke Donald. Donald, an Englishman, had a decorated amateur career that included a semifinal showing at the 2000 U.S. Amateur and two Walker Cup appearances for Great Britain and Ireland.
“The Luke connection really helps, especially for an English player coming over here,” said Inglis of landing Fitzpatrick. “Pat Goss still coaches Luke. That’s a good relationship to have for recruits to see.”
Fitzpatrick was the second Northwestern golfer to reach a U.S. Amateur final, joining 2005 runner-up Dillon Dougherty, who lost to Edoardo Molinari at Merion Golf Club.
Besides Inglis, team member John Callahan was in the gallery for Sunday’s final. Northwestern golfer Jack Perry also competed in this week’s U.S. Amateur, but failed to qualify for match play.
“It certainly puts us on the map,” said Inglis.
The Good Host
As soon as Wellesley resident Mary Joe Clark discovered she would be hosting Australians Oliver Goss and Brady Watt at this week’s U.S. Amateur, she contacted a good friend from Australia to see if they had a flag.
Clark and her husband, Todd, hung the flag in the hallway of their home as a way to welcome the two Australians.
“When they walked into our house, they saw it,” said Clark. “They said, ‘I can’t believe you thought of that.’”
On Sunday, Mary Joe brought the flag to The Country Club to support Goss in the 36-hole championship match. Although Goss came up short in the final, she said hosting the two Australians was one of the best experiences of her life.
The Clarks took Goss and Watt to various Boston landmarks, including Friday night’s Boston Red Sox/New York Yankees game at Fenway Park. Mary Joe and Todd also took their guests to the North End, the Prudential Center observatory, Boston College and Legal Sea Foods.
“They were a delight to have in our house,” said Mary Joe, a member at Charles River Country Club, the companion stroke-play qualifying course for the 2013 U.S. Amateur. “This is my highlight forever.”
Among the estimated 5,200 spectators who were walking the fairways on Sunday was 2000 U.S. Amateur runner-up and Boston-area native James Driscoll. Driscoll missed the cut at this week’s PGA Tour event in Greensboro, N.C., so he hopped a flight to Boston on Saturday. Driscoll, of Brookline, is a member at nearby Charles River Country Club and often played the Primrose Course at The Country Club in high school.
“It’s such a great event, and it’s cool that it was in my backyard and I got a chance to come out and check it out,” said Driscoll, who fell to Jeff Quinney in 39 holes at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J.
Driscoll was impressed by the gallery at The Country Club. He couldn’t remember seeing this many people at Baltrusrol when the final needed to be completed Monday morning due to a weather delay and darkness.
“A lot of time has passed, but I do have great memories of that year,” said Driscoll, who lost in the 1995 U.S. Junior Amateur final and was a member of the 2001 USA Walker Cup Team.
A few months ago, Driscoll was invited to a member/guest at The Country Club and got a rare chance to play the Composite Course, which is set up only for championships and a few additional days during the year for members.
“It’s a beast,” said Driscoll. “It’s a long golf course. When it is firm, it’s OK because you’re going to get some roll in the fairways and have a reasonable club in [to the greens]. It just goes to show that Fitzpatrick, he doesn’t have a ton of length and he won the whole thing.”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at email@example.com. Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.