Golf as a popular sport began in the wide eyes of those young boys who would practice putting and chipping from behind the caddy-shack waiting for the next loop. Why on earth, would a bunch of children yearn to play the game of these urban capitalists???
For very same reason the game was invented in the first place! Swinging a club or stick to hit a ball or rock, is a uniquely human skill that was probably done since the very early days of humankind. Now to hit that ball with precision and send it into a hole requires the skill of a practiced champion... or just dumb luck, as the case may be. Unlike baseball, golf is game you play by yourself, often against yourself, unencumbered by any need for a team.. Of course, having a partner to take on a small wager would certainly make the game a bit more interesting, wouldn't you agree?. It’s like a game of marbles on a grand scale.
So it's fitting that the first great American Golf Hero was a caddy who gained entry to the 1913 U.S.Open held in Boston Massachusetts. As documented in the historical fiction book “The Greatest Game Ever Played” the 1913 Open was a big deal because of the entry of great English golf professional Harry Vardon. Vardon won the 1900 US Open on his first trip to America and spent most of the decade dominating all the tournaments and revolutionized the game with the "Vardon Grip" and the first sponsored ball the "Vardon Flyer" from Spaulding. Little did the champ know, he would soon meet his match in for the form of the unknown 19 year old underdog and former caddy Francis Ouimet.
I highly recommend reading the full story as told by Mark Frost in The greatest Game Ever Played. He sets the stage for this epic match that was like the shot heard round the world and set the fire of imagination for Americans. Francis embodied the American dream with a foundation that anyone with the determination and practice can make it to the very top. though while the papers and fans loved the story, the truth is Francis' journey was not easy, his ability to play golf regularly was often thwarted by the fact he was not born privileged and his entry in the US Open was uncertain even a few weeks before the tournament began.
Above is a great old movie clip of Francis Ouimet swing and to the right we see the closely following gallery on the final 18 hole playoff match. With the US Open and golf still fairly new phenomenon the crowds can be seen walking side-bu-side with Francis and his pint sized caddy - Eddie Lowry. The photos of Eddie really point to the actual caddies of the day, who for the most part were young boys, who looped on the weekends and everyday during the summer.
Harry Vardon was household name in his home country of England and loathed in Scotland. In America he found a the people more embracing of his professional lifestyle, which in England was considered uncouth for gentleman to play sports for money.
Harry himself was once a caddie, who grew up alongside the golf links, his family home displaced by new Royal & Ancient Links being established in his home island of Jersey along the Britain coast.
Ted Ray was another fascinating character. Born on the same Isle of Jersey as Harry, an English island just north of the coast of France, was previously famous for the origin of the Jersey dairy cow. It was a farming and working mans island which only became a golf haven after the industrial revolution decimated the boat building culture. He followed in Harry's footsteps as a caddie and learned the game for the intention of escaping the island as a professional golfer.
Ted Ray was known as a basher with a long ball. He liked playing very fast, and golfers that spent too much time over the ball annoyed him greatly. When asked for advice on, for example, the drive, his main contribution consisted in the words "'it 'em 'ard, mate, like I do." If the pupil complained that he did hit hard but still did not obtain the desired result, Ted's comment was, "Well, then, 'it 'em 'arder." See original article
Francis performance is both miracle and something as natural pure golf shot. Harry Vardon and Ted Ray were true professionals, and the young up and coming hot shot Water Hagen would finish a distant fourth before he would go on to win a series of US Open Championships and become the "Harry Vardon of America" by winning a British Open leading new breed of golfers to what was known as the American invasion. The advantage of Harry and Ted was the ability to play under tournament pressure, which any golfer knows can snakebite the best of us with jerky swings and big numbers.
Francis had two advantages himself. First and most importantly, the US Open was played on the club he grew next to, so he had caddied and learned the game on the very course he would compete. Second, as he was a very late entry, and a total unknown, there wasn't the type of pressure many of the the other players like Walter Hagen. Yet, soon as the tournament approached the final day, everyone knew who Francis Ouimet was and his gallery grew and grew. Harry would later remark, “he played like a seasoned professional.”
Francis became the America’s hero for retaining the U.S. Open cup and Harry and Ted for their demonstration of good sportsmanship in congratulating the winner.