Insights into the history of the Country Club, hosting the 2022 US Open

by | Aug 31, 2021 | Golf Clubs

Francis Ouimet’s secret weapon at the 1913 US Open was neither a particular club nor his familiarity with the space at the Brookline, Massachusetts country club that he could see from his bedroom window.

When the amateur won the title in an uproar against British veterans Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, he attributed the title to caddy Eddie Lowery, a 10-year-old boy from nearby Newton who was his loudest cheerleader.

The breathtaking win cemented Ouimet and Lowery – and The Country Club, hosts of the upcoming 2022 US Open – a place in golf history. Here’s what you need to know about the country club.

Who was Francis Ouimet’s caddy?

Ouimet, a 20-year-old Brookline native who was a TCC caddy, had just been defeated by the US amateurs when the president of the United States Golf Association asked if he would play at the Open. Although he initially declined, Ouimet joined after his boss gave him time to play.

Finding a caddy turned out to be more difficult.

Lowery and his brother Jack played hooky from school to watch the game at the TCC, and Jack agreed to go caddy for Ouimet after the golfer’s original husband was bailed. However, when a truant caught Jack, Eddie took three trams to the TCC and begged Ouimet to take his brother’s place.

“I’ve never lost a ball,” said Lowery, without mentioning that, according to TCC historian Frederick Waterman, he rarely played caddy.

Francis Ouimet

Francis Ouimet

After winning the US Open in 1913, Brookline’s Francis Ouimet, in the back, credited his caddy, 10-year-old Eddie Lowery. Ouimet later dedicated this photo and wrote on Lowery’s towel, “This is the boy who won the 1913 Open.” (Photo: The Country Club)

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Knowing the course as well as he did, “Ouimet didn’t really need a caddy,” Waterman said. “He needed someone to believe in him, which Eddie Lowery did with all his heart.”

The story goes on

Ouimet’s victory sparked the American golf boom, Waterman said. Both he and Lowery left lasting legacies at TCC, including an incident in 2005 when an assistant golfer discovered the ghostly figures of a boy and a young man sitting on a bench dressed in golf attire from a century earlier.

The country club membership

The ghost sightings – there have only been a few over the years according to Waterman – are part of the lore of The Country Club, one of the oldest and most exclusive clubs in the United States.

TCC was founded in 1882 and did not allow women as voting members until 1989 and had no Jewish member until the 1970s and no black member until 1994.

The club is so exclusive that former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said he and his wife were “annoyed” by joining. Former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady – whose former residence is visible from the TCC course – struggled to get inside.

The country club

The country club

In its early days, the country club employed a flock of sheep to trim the greens. (Photo: The Country Club)

Who founded the country club?

The unique name of the country club, which has no identifiers, indicates its historical status. When he and his friends set out to found the club, founder J. Murray Forbes, an international retailer, borrowed the name from a club in Shanghai.

At the time of its inception, The Country Club was the only “country club” in the western hemisphere, according to Waterman.

While the TCC hosted many high profile golf competitions, including the 1999 Ryder Cup, 2013 US Amateurs, and three US Opens, the early activities were mostly equestrian.

Foundation of the golf course

Golf came to Massachusetts in 1892 with Florence Boit, who brought equipment from her studies in Europe and shared the game with her uncle and friends. The new golf converts enthusiastically convinced the TCC Executive Committee to spend $ 50 to create six holes in the Clyde Park area.

Willie Campbell, the club’s first professional golfer, helped upgrade the course. His wife Georgina later became America’s first professional female golfer in nearby Franklin Park.

Georgina Campbell

Georgina Campbell

Georgina Campbell, wife of Willie Campbell, the country club’s first head golfer. Willie later moved to Franklin Park and Georgina took over the reins after his death in 1900 and became the first female head professional in the US (Photo: The Country Club)

Meanwhile, TCC rose to the fore in America’s burgeoning golf industry as one of five charter clubs that formed the United States Golf Association.

At the second US Open in 1896, European pros threatened to withdraw if John Shippen, a black, and Oscar Bunn, a member of the Shinnecock Nation, were allowed to play at the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, their home course. The USGA President performed, the naysayers backed away, and Shippen and Bunn played.

When the US Open came to Brookline in 1913, the TCC – with four of the first eight USGA presidents – guaranteed Shippen would be welcome. Until 1948, no black would play at the US Open again.

Tricky Course: One of the best in the US

Over the years the country club has attracted the best golfers in the world, many of whom loved and lost the tricky course.

Half a century after Ouimet’s victory, golf experienced another boom when the charismatic, telegenic Arnold Palmer gained popularity. Palmer came to the TCC for the 1963 US Open, and the crowd watched in horror as his ball came to a stop on the 11th hole in a tree stump. It took Palmer three swings to get him back onto the fairway.

Arnold Palmer

Arnold Palmer

During the 1963 US Open at the Country Club, legendary golfer Arnold Palmer watched his ball come to rest on a rotten tree stump at the 11th hole. He took three swings and managed to get him into the fairway but ended up trailing Julius Boros. (Photo: The Country Club)

During the 1963 US Open at the Country Club, legendary golfer Arnold Palmer watched his ball come to rest on a rotten tree stump at the 11th hole. He took three swings and managed to get him into the fairway but ended up trailing Julius Boros.

Other pros have learned the hard way that the TCC course requires strategy rather than long hitting. Jack Nicklaus “tried to force his game on the court,” recalled Waterman, missing the cut in both 1963 and 1988 when TCC next hosted the US Open.

TCC, which covers more than 235 hectares, is consistently one of the best courses in the world. In May, Golfweek named the TCC the best private course in Massachusetts.

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“You want a golf course to be like having a conversation with an interesting person so that you have a different conversation every time you meet that person,” said Waterman. “The best golf courses are those where every round is different, but it’s always interesting, always convincing because of the variety, because of what it demands of you.”

The natural features of the course set it apart, particularly the rocky foothills and fescue-lined bunkers that look incomplete in design, said Brendan Walsh, TCC’s chief golf pro.

The country club has played host to the greats of golf including the Golden Bear himself, Jack Nicklaus.

Walsh counted the third hole as one of his favorites. “It’s our number one handicap hole in the top nine and it’s a beautiful view from the tee,” he said. “You look down and the horizon is our ice-skating pond, as we call it.”

Both the third and eleventh holes – another of Walsh’s favorites – have similar characteristics and lead to a generous area that opens into a narrower path between the rocks, he explained.

What holes will be used for the US Open 2022?

The club’s main course consists of the combined Clyde and Squirrel nines, and the upcoming US Open will be played on a compound course with 15 holes from the Clyde and Squirrel plus four additional holes from the Primrose nines (the first and second holes are combined Walsh explained).

He said the 2022 Open, slated for June 13-19, matters in light of Ouimet’s 1913 win there, which put the game of golf on the map in America.

“The most exciting thing for the US Open is to get back to where the story began and where people realized it was an accessible game for everyone,” he said. “To be able to share that with the whole world is something very special.”