Save the Golf Builder at the US Open

Save the Golf Builder at the US Open

BROOKLINE, Mass. – A small, 19th-century golf course with a view of the golf course is difficult for hundreds of drivers to roar at 40 miles per hour on Clyde Street near Boston, Brooklyn. Although the two-story house once stood guard over cow pastures, the neighborhood is now filled with luxurious homes, four-lane roads, and community-worthy noise just seven miles from downtown.

The place does not seem to be a landmark for the birthplace of American golf. But it is both material and symbolic. The site will be in the spotlight this week as the US Open returns to the Country Club in Brookline for the fourth time.

Neighbors of the property on Clyde Street recently saw an increase in activity at the residence, as contractors’ minibuses filled the driveway every day for a publicly paid restoration project. In late April, two workers stripped the attic ceiling panels of a 1893 apartment building and then had to duck up a pair of antique golf clubs as they fell to the ground.

“They are Francis’ clubs!” one of the workers, Aldeir Filho, shouted. His colleague Christian Herbet threw down the stairs and warned the merchants below.

From the second floor, Herbet shouted: “We have found Mr. Ouimet clubs. ”

In 1913, Francis Owimet, then a 20-year-old amateur golfer, left his second-floor bedroom with his brother at 246 Clyde Street and crossed the road to the Country Club, where he defeated two of the world’s top scorers. British professionals Ted Ray and Harry Vardon won the US Open.

Ouimet, the son of immigrants and a member of the club, was surprisingly unhappy with the front-page news across the country and caused the game to explode nationwide. In 1913, there were only 350,000 American golfers, but 10 years later that number had risen to 2.1 million. The fame of Ouimet’s groundbreaking achievement – no amateur ever won the US Open and several working-class golfers played in the championships – lasted for 109 years, no doubt helped by the popular 2005 film The Greatest Game Ever Played. . ”

Ouimet’s father, Arthur, accidentally bought a house in front of the Country Club, which often played a key role in Francis Ouimet’s great story. Riding in a modest residence, a friendly country club, Ouimet came to represent the two worlds he bravely crossed as he descended the unadorned wooden front steps and marched to the club’s gold-plated pitch in the last 18 holes of the 1913 US Open. About four hours later, he was carried on the shoulders of applause from the last green field. The duality of Ouimet’s life on either side of Clyde Street, as well as the narrow boundaries of his upbringing, are a strong part of the story. For example, in the 2005 film, there are 17 scenes depicting life in the Ouimet house.
Until recently, however, it was never a priority to preserve or formally recognize the importance of the home. Although the organization remained in the Ouimet family for 94 years, it changed ownership several times. The exterior and interior were changed, and a tall white fence was erected in the front yard to keep most of the first floor out of the way.

As house prices at Brookline have risen for decades, some at a nearby club, a founding member of the United States Golf Association, have been worried about what might happen if property is bought and rebuilt. Years ago, for example, the family barn next to the Ouimet house was sold, rebuilt, and converted into a condominium.

Club historian Fred Waterman said in an interview last month, “If you allow that house to be demolished, you will allow a very important part of American sports history to disappear.”

Tom Hynes, a member of the Country Club with Boston real estate experience dating back to the 1960s, made a casual friendship with homeowners Jerome and Dedie Wieler shortly after moving to the neighborhood in 1989. Hynes lives nearby and could see the Wielers walking their dogs almost every day.

“When you’re ready to sell your home,” Hynes told the couple, “I’m your buyer.”

Wielers replied that they did not sell and wondered why Hynes wanted it. Hynes told Wielers, who knew nothing about golf, the history of Ouimet. But Wielers was interested in a heartwarming story.

“One day, maybe 20 years from now, you will sell, and please let me know,” Hynes said, adding that he would remind the Wielers once a year. “I just wanted the house to play golf.”

In late 2020, the Wieler family contacted Hynes, who first set foot in the house at 246 Clyde Street and signed a handshake agreement to buy the property for $ 875,000 30 minutes later.

Hynes tried to cover the cost of the purchase by raising money with the intention of donating the house to the club, which could use it for countless activities, including a second-floor staff and guest house. It was also decided to restore the house in 1913 to make it look like it was when the Owimets lived.

“When you enter a home, we want you to feel what it was like to enter a family home 109 years ago,” Waterman said.

But first there was a lot of work to be done. Although the house was in good condition, it needed numerous upgrades to meet modern building standards. The cost of restoration work has risen. “I took out my tin cup and started walking around the city,” said Hynes, the nephew of the three-term Boston mayor, who mediates the city’s largest real estate deals.

Hynes had a strong, almost divine ally in his fundraising mission. It was as if Francis Ouimet was helping him mystically. Ouimet, who died in 1967, remained a resident of Boston for the rest of his life and continued to win golf championships as an amateur for many years after 1913. He also had a career in finance.

In 1949, the Ouimet College Scholarship Program was established for caddies. Since then, the Ouimet Foundation has awarded about $ 44 million to more than 6,300 men and women. Need-based scholarships can be up to $ 80,000 over four years of study.

When Hynes began to ask for help in his recovery, he was sometimes surprised to find donors who were generous with their money. They were now middle-aged Ouimet Scholars who believed they would never be able to attend college without the help of the foundation.

In addition, more than 40 members of the Country Club contributed, most of them donating $ 25,000 each. The first stage of the repair was completed last week.

These days, an excursion to the 1,550-square-foot, six-room Ouimet home is a return to the past, as the look is adapted to the style of the early 20th century. Wallpaper, lighting, curtains and shades are vintage. The furniture is faithful to the times: chairs, sofas and tables from the early 1900s were donated to the club by an architect who learned of the renovation. The common rooms were small at the time, but add a cozy, family feel.

At the entrance to the first floor, there is an old, preserved wooden wall phone, with an elbow on the side. It was falsified so that visitors could pick up the receiver and hear an audio recording of Owimet’s victory at the US Open. Ouimet’s 10-year-old caddy, Eddie Lowery, joins him on an audio cassette. The two remained lifelong friends.

Elsewhere on the first floor, there are recollections of recent events, including newspaper clippings and photographs. A high fence on the side of the street was demolished, and newly planted meadows with perennial plants were found.

The second phase, which will update the exterior of the building with new boards, windows and cedar roofing, will not be completed until next year. After that, Hynes hopes to hand over the house to the club. As the club, which has about 1,300 members, still does not own the Ouimet house, its president, Lyman Bullard, said no decision has yet been made on whether to enter or use it.

Noting that a property in a residential area is sensitive to its neighbors, Hynes does not intend to open the house to the public or offer tours such as a museum. But Waterman felt he might have to share the house and its history in some way.

“The Biggest Game Ever Held” has initial predictions: a scene where young Francis Owimet obediently but secretly trains at night after his parents go to bed. If this could be a Hollywood legend, there is no arguing for the golf-centered, thrilling view from the bedroom window on the second floor of Owimet. He could see the 17th pit of the Francis Country Club on Clyde Street. Now the landscape is being transformed by decades of growing trees around the perimeter of the area. But standing in the bedroom window, the revived original floor of the house cracking underfoot, the manicured 17th hole is still clearly visible.

Francis Ouimet’s childhood dreams are not far away, they look like today.

His influence on golf and even American sports is alive in the spirit of his home.

In 1913, golf icon Gene Sarazen, then known as Eugenio Saraceni, was an 11-year-old caddy in and around New York. The son of the Sicilian emigrants, Ouimet read about his astonishing victory over the famous British experts. As Waterman points out, Sarazen said to himself at the time, “If he can do it, so can I.”

Sarazen, like Ouimet, won the U.S. Open, the first of seven major golf championships he won from 1922 to 1935, when he was 20 years old.

One of their biggest hopes for Waterman and Hynes is that the newly returned Ouimet home from playing golf will not affect future US Open champions. Hynes suggested that one of this year’s golfers might want to stay home during the race.

Calling it the “main thing”, Waterman added: “It would be a player who said, ‘I want to wake up in Francis Ouimet’s bedroom because he came down the stairs and won the US Open. Maybe that’s what will happen to me.’

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