History Repeats Itself

A century and a day later, Francis Ouimet once again took on Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in the 1913 U.S. Open playoff at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts. On Saturday, September 21, 2013, before more than 250 spectators in period-dress costume, the three golfers played the same, final four holes as on Saturday, September 20, 1913, hitting the same shots as described in newspaper accounts of the day.

And, once more, the 17th hole proved decisive when Vardon, trailing Ouimet by one shot, hit his tee shot into a fairway bunker, could advance the ball only 70 yards, and eventually took a bogey, while Ouimet hit his second shot, a mashie niblick, onto the green and sunk the birdie putt (with the invisible aid of a nylon filament) for a three-shot lead.

The re-creation was played with wood-shafted golf clubs from the early 1900's, and with golf balls designed to repeat the performance of balls from that era; the drives of all three players averaged in excess of 200 yards.

After Ouimet parred the 18th hole, the same post-match speeches delivered by the players and USGA Secretary John Reid, Jr. in 1913 were again delivered on the steps of the clubhouse porch. A copy of the same U.S. Open trophy (provided by the USGA) was again presented to the unlikely winner—the 20-year-old amateur and former caddie from across the street, Francis Ouimet.

The roles of Ouimet, Vardon, and Ray were all filled by members of The Country Club: John Dean, who played on the Cornell golf team during 2009-12, took the role of Ouimet; Scott Dabney, a 1-handicap golfer, played Vardon; and Robert Manice, a single-digit golfer, captured the swing and presence of the big-hitting Ray. Eddie Lowery was played by James Sanford, a caddie at The Country Club, whose grandfather, as a 12-year-old, had caddied for the real Francis Ouimet and Eddie Lowery. Also on hand: Ouimet's granddaughter, Sheila Macomber, and Lowery's daughter, Cynthia Wilcox.

The re-creation of the playoff's closing holes was part of a larger centenary celebration of Ouimet's historic triumph; during the day at The Country Club, no vehicles newer than 1913 were on the property (the vintage cars included a Model T and a Packard), horse-and-carriages were used, a bi-plane flew over during play on the 16th green, and a herd of sheep (the original lawnmowers in the game of golf and at The Country Club), were also present.




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