A Most Welcome Addition

USGA Museum & Archives Lands Most Significant Acquisitions In Its 70-Year-History: Set Of 4 Irons Used By Ouimet To Win 1913 U.S. Open


February 12, 2007


By Rand Jerris, USGA

Far Hills, N.J. - In 1913, Francis Ouimet defeated legendary British professionals Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in a playoff to win the U.S. Open. Ouimet, a 20-year-old amateur and former caddie at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., where the championship was played, tied Vardon and Ray at the end of four rounds, aided by a critical birdie on the 71st hole. Expected to wilt under the pressure of the playoff the following day, Ouimet played his best golf of the championship in a driving rain, shooting 72 against Vardon's 77 and Ray's 78. His startling victory placed golf on the front page of many American newspapers for the first time and inspired a new generation to take up the game.

These four clubs used by Francis Ouimet to win the 1913 U.S. Open will be on display at the new Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History along with the ball and scorecard from the historic playoff. (John Mummert/USGA)

To this day, Ouimet's unlikely victory in 1913 is celebrated among the greatest moments in USGA championship history. Fittingly, it will be one of the stories featured in the USGA's new Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History, scheduled to open in 2008. Visitors to the Palmer Center will have the opportunity to view unique artifacts from the 1913 U.S. Open that the USGA has collected through the years. This includes the three golf balls used by Ouimet, Vardon, and Ray in the historic playoff, as well as the three original scorecards from that memorable round.

Visitors will also see four of the newest additions to the museum collection - a set of irons used by Ouimet in his remarkable win. Shortly after his victory, Ouimet gifted these clubs to Eddie Lowery, the 10-year-old caddie who had carried his bag during the four regulation rounds of the championship, as well as the playoff. Lowery held on to the clubs for several years, but concerns about their security prompted him to sell them to a good friend. This past January, the USGA was fortunate to acquire these clubs from a Connecticut couple who had obtained the clubs from Lowery's friend and subsequently cared for them for some 25 years.

The four irons acquired by the museum include Ouimet's mid iron, mashie, mashie niblick, and jigger (the equivalents of the modern 2-iron, 5-iron, 7-iron, and utility/chipping club). The mashie stands out as perhaps the most important, for it was this club that Ouimet used to play two of the most important shots of the championship. In the fourth round, needing to birdie one of the closing two holes to tie Vardon and Ray, Ouimet played a magnificent shot with his mashie at the par-4 17th, striking his approach to 15 feet and converting the putt for a birdie 3. And in the playoff, again at the 17th hole and now leading Vardon by one stroke and Ray by five, Ouimet rifled his approach to within 20 feet of the hole to set up the birdie that insured his victory.

The clubs were made by Tom Stewart, widely regarded as the most accomplished clubmaker in St. Andrews, Scotland in the early decades of the 20th century. Stewart was never the most prolific clubmaker in the British Isles, but he had learned the craft at an early age from renowned 19th-century cleek maker Robert White, who also hailed from St. Andrews. This pedigree and years of experience helped establish Stewart as the premier clubmaker of his day, and many of the game's legends came to play his clubs. Old Tom Morris, Harry Vardon, Freddie Tait, and Bob Jones were just four of the players who, like Ouimet, were clients of Tom Stewart. Stewart's characteristic trademark - a pipe - is clearly visible on the back of each of the Ouimet clubs.

In 2004, the USGA Museum and Archives completed an extensive period of internal review, which led to the adoption of a comprehensive strategic plan. The development of the Palmer Center is just one step - albeit the most critical one - in our effort to strengthen the museum, its programs, and its role within the USGA. We are now working diligently to implement the new mission of the museum, with a focus on the history of golf in America, and a particular emphasis on the history of USGA champions and championships. In many ways, the set of four clubs used by Francis Ouimet embodies this new direction. There are few moments more significant in USGA history, and in all of American golf history, than Ouimet's victory in 1913. We are confident that these clubs will long be celebrated among the treasures of the museum's rich and deep collections.

Dr. Rand Jerris is the director of the USGA's museum and archives and is responsible for overseeing the development of the Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History. Email him with questions and comments at rjerris@usga.org.

 

 

 

 

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