At the US Open, he built the Gulf to save the house

BROOKLINE, Mass. – XIX with a view of the golf course. the small 19th-century house is barely noticeable in the suburbs of Brooklyn, Boston, on Clyde Street, which is 40 miles away. Once a two-story house that looked like an acre overlooking an acre of grassland, today the neighborhood is filled with luxury housing, a four-lane road, and a bustle worth a community just seven miles from downtown.

The location does not seem to be a milestone in the birthplace of American golf. But that is, in a tangible and symbolic way. This week, the new site will be in the spotlight as the U.S. Open returns to Brooklyn Country Club for the fourth time.

Residents of the Clyde Street property recently noticed a lot of activity at the residence, as the contractor’s vans filled the road every day for a clearly funded restoration project. In late April, two workers peeled off the ceiling panels of their attic housing in 1893 and then had to weaken them when the old golf clubs fell to the ground.

“They’re Francis clubs!” one of the staff, Aldeir Filho, shouted. His colleague, Christian Herbet, descended the stairs to warn the crew of the merchants below.

From the second floor, Herbet shouted, “We found Mr. Ouimet’s club ”.

In 1913, Francis Ouimet, then a 20-year-old self-taught amateur golfer, left the second-floor bedroom he shared with his brother at 246 Clyde Street and crossed the street to the Country Club, where he defeated two of the world’s most defeated. great British professionals, Ted Ray and Harry Vardon, to win the US Open.

Ouimet, the shocking grief of an immigrant and the son of a club kaddy, was the headline news across the nation and acknowledged that the game has created explosive growth nationwide. Although there were only 350,000 American golfers in 1913, that number rose to less than 2.1 million 10 years later. The popularity of Ouimet’s pioneering achievement – an amateur who never won the US Open and played in few tournaments of few working-class golfers – has hardened for 109 years, arguably accompanied by popular 2005 films, arguably The Greatest Game Ever Played. ”.

Ouimet’s father, Arthur, who had just bought a house in front of the Country Club, has often been a prominent factor in Francis Ouimet’s fascinating story. A humble abode on top of a country club where Ouimet bravely traversed the two worlds it depicted down its unadorned wooden staircase and went to the club’s gold fields for the last 18 holes of the 1913 US Open. About four hours later, they were taken from the last green on the shoulders of the animated fans. The duplicity of Ouimet’s life on both sides of Clyde Street, including the narrow and narrow boundaries of his education, are a strong part of the narrative. In the 2005 film Ouimet, for example, there are 17 scenes.
However, until recently, preserving or formally recognizing the importance of the home was never a priority. The structure remained in the Ouimet family for 94 years, changing ownership several times. The exterior and interior were changed and a tall white fence was erected on the front porch to eclipse most of the ground floor from the road.

As the price of Brooklyn housing has risen for decades, some in the surrounding club, which is a founding member of the U.S. Golf Association, were concerned about what would happen if they bought and developed the property. Years ago, for example, the former Ouimet family’s barn was sold, rebuilt and converted into a condominium.

“If you let go of that house,” club historian Fred Waterman said in an interview last month about the Ouimet house, “you’ve let a very important part of American sports history disappear.”

Tom Hynes, a member of the Boston-based Country Club estate until the 1960s, accidentally reconciled with homeowners Jerome and Dedie Wieler shortly after moving to the neighborhood in 1989. He lives near Hynes and would see Wieler walking the dog almost every day.

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

Wieler responded that they weren’t selling it and were curious as to why Hynes wanted it. Hynes explained the story of Ouimet to Wieler, who knew nothing about golf. But Wieler was intrigued by a hilarious story.

“One day, maybe 20 years from now, you’re selling, and please let me know,” Hynes said, adding that he would remind Wielers once a year. “I wanted to return home to golf.”

In late 2020, the Wielers contacted Hynes, put the house at 246 Clyde Street for the first time, and 30 minutes later agreed to lend a hand to buy the property for $ 875,000.

Hynes began trying to pay for the purchase by raising money to donate the house to the club, which he could use for a variety of activities, including second-floor staff and guest housing. It was also decided to renovate the house in 1913 to make it look like the ouimettars lived there.

“We want you to feel like you were in the family home 109 years ago when you moved into the house,” Waterman said.

But first, there was a lot of work to be done. Although the house was in good condition, it needed countless improvements to comply with modern building codes. The cost of restoration increased. Hynes, the nephew of the three-term mayor of Boston, who has handled some of the city’s biggest real estate deals, said: “I started walking around town with a tin cup.”

Hynes had a strong, almost divine ally in his mission to raise funds. It was as if Francis Ouimet was mystically helping him. Ouimet, who died in 1967, was a resident of the Boston area and continued to win golf tournaments as an amateur for many years from 1913 onwards. He also pursued a career in finance.

In 1949, a scholarship program for cadets at Ouimet University was created. Since then, the Ouimet Fund has provided nearly $ 44 million to more than 6,300 men and women. Need-based scholarships can cost as much as $ 80,000 in four-year studies.

When Hynes started asking for his restoration help, he was occasionally surprised to find donors who were completely generous with their money. It was Ouimet Scholars, now middle-aged, who thought they would never go to college without the help of the fund.

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

Today, a 1,550-square-foot six-room tour of the Ouimet house is like going back in time to its 20th-century appearance. Wallpaper, lighting, covers and shades are vintage. The furniture is true to the times: an architect who was aware of the innovation that introduced chairs, sofas and tables to the club in the early 1900s. The common rooms were small at the time, but they add a cozy, familiar feel to them.

Inside the entrance on the first floor is an old wall-mounted wooden telephone with a crank on the side. There is a device that allows visitors to pick up the receiver and listen to a recording of Ouimet describing the victory at the US Open. On the audio tape, Eddie Lowery joins Ouimet’s 10-year-old caddy. The two were forever friends.

Elsewhere on the first floor are memorabilia from around 1913, including newspaper clippings and photographs. A tall, formidable fence on the side of the street has been removed to reveal freshly planted grass with an edge of perennial plants.

The second phase, which will renovate the exterior of the building, with the addition of planks, windows and a cedar roof, will not be completed until next year. After that, Hynes hopes to hand over the house to the club. The club, which has about 1,300 members, has not yet taken over the Ouimet house, and its president, Lyman Bullard, said there was no decision yet on the main access or use.

Hynes, who mentioned that she is sensitive to the residents of an apartment in a residential area, does not see the house as open to the public, or offer visits as a museum. But Waterman believed that there could be a duty to share the house and its history in some way.

In “The Greatest Game Ever Played”, there is a preview: a scene of a young Francis Ouimet playing his duty at night, but secretly, after his parents go to bed. If that could be Hollywood mythology, it can’t be disputed that a moving view based on golf from the window of Ouimet’s second-floor bedroom. Across Clyde Street, Francis saw a clean hole 17 in the Country Club. Today, the growth of trees growing on the perimeter of the earth is changing the view. But standing in the bedroom window, with the original revitalized floor of the house creaking underfoot, the neat 17th hole is still clearly visible.

Francis Ouimet’s childhood dreams seem to be present, not distant.

His influence on golf, as well as on American sport, is alive and well in his home spirit.

In 1913, Gene Saraz’s golf icon, then known as Eugenio Saraceni, was an 11-year-old kaddy in the New York suburbs. The son of Sicilian immigrants, Ouimet read about his amazing victory over famous British professionals. Waterman stated that Sarazen then said to himself, “If he can do it, I can do it.”

At the age of 20, Sarazen, like Ouimet, won the U.S. Open, the first of seven major golf tournaments he won from 1922 to 1935.

For Waterman and Hynes, one of their best hopes is that Ouimet, who has just returned from golf, is not finished, influencing the future of the U.S. Open champions. Hynes said one of the golfers on the field this year wanted to stay home during the competition.

Calling that “the last thing,” Waterman added, “It would be a player saying, ‘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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