In this US Open Venue, the 17th hole is known for its drama

One of the most important golf courses in America began as a place to watch amateur horse racing. Founded in 1882, Brookline, the Country Club of Mass, the site of this week’s U.S. Open, is one of the oldest clubs in America and one of the five founding clubs of the United States Golf Association. However, this would not have happened if it were not for a member’s nephew.

He was visiting Florence Boit Pau (France) in 1894 “when Scottish soldiers encountered an old route built in the 1850s,” said club historian Fred Waterman. When he returned to the United States, he was introduced to the game by his uncle Laurence Curtis, a member of the club that would become the second president of the USGA.

Shortly after Curtis introduced the game, several members, though they had never seen a suitable golf course, put six rudimentary holes in the club’s floor. Although none of these holes remain today, the rugged, rocky terrain of the route establishes its character.

Built on rocky outcrops and twisting through mountain ranges formed by glaciers, the Country Club is a lifelong creation for golfers of all levels, including the best in the world, with a challenging design and surface.

Gil Hanse has been the club’s chief consultant since 2007, and he says similar courses at the time “unlike the landscape, the holes in the Country Club seem to be covered in earth. he was there. ‘

Part of the charm of the course is its small greens, unlike the major golf courses in the tournament. He has worked with the Hanse club to expand the surface to put him where he can, but this week the players will be aiming for smaller goals than usual.

The Country Club has a long history of organizing the USGA Championships, starting with the 1902 United States Women’s Amateur. Including this year’s Open, he has hosted 16 USGA tournaments, one in each decade except the 2000s.

The club’s most famous tournament was the U.S. Open in 1913, when Francis Ouimet, a 20-year-old amateur who grew up on the street, defeated Ted Ray and Harry Vardon in a playoff. Ouimet’s victory sparked the popularity of golf in the United States. Waterman said that in the 10 years since Ouimet’s victory, the United States has grown from 340,000 golfers to 2.1 million.

It wasn’t just Ouimet’s amateur status that made him a popular golf hero at the time. He made a kaddy at the club and took the game using the balls he found on the field and in his brother’s clubs. He often played ball in a meadow on his walk. Writer Mark Frost chronicled Ouimet’s difficult victory and humble origins in his book “The Greatest Game Ever Played.”

In the 1913 playoffs, the three golfers reached the 17th hole with their green area just 275 meters from Ouimet’s childhood home and Vardon one down. Ray was already out of the competition. Vardon tried to cut the corner of the dogleg’s left hole, but fell short, landing his ball in a bunker that now bears his name.

This allowed Ouimet to take a more conservative path to the right of the bunker. Unable to reach the green, Vardon splashed and then fired a bogey, while Ouimet made a birdie in the hole and took a three-shot advantage. From there he took the wind home.

Ouimet, who died in 1967, had a distinguished amateur career, winning the 1914 U.S. Amateur. 1951n, St. He was named the first captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. Andrews. He never became a professional.

Fifty years later, when USGA returned to the club to honor Ouimet’s victory, the 17th hole was again crucial. Arnold Palmer lost an 18-inch putt that put him two strokes behind leader Jacky Cupit.

“Cupit didn’t know he had a two-point advantage over Palmer, and if he did, he’d tell me he’d hit an iron on his shirt and hit the middle of the street,” Waterman said.

Instead, thinking he needed to get more, Cupit hit three sticks, landing on the long grass next to the Vardon bunker, but not there. He made a double bogey in the hole to tie in with Palmer and Julius Boros. Cupit still had a chance to reach the 18th green space of the tournament and the 72nd hole, but a 15-footer failed by “an inch,” Waterman said. He and Palmer lost to Boros in the playoffs.

The three U.S. Open games played at the club have gone to a knockout round, and the 17th has always provided drama. “It’s a hole in the game of play in a stroke game event,” Waterman said, causing the golfer to pay special attention to his opponent, rather than allowing the golfer to play his own game.

In the 1988 Open, Curtis Strange made it three-point on the green, forcing himself to fall again, but the next day he won the playoffs for the first of two consecutive wins at the U.S. Open. Also on the 17th, the 1999 Ryder Cup gave a lively celebration after Justin Leonard made a 40-foot putt to win the hole against José Maria Olazábal, causing the American team and its fans to flood the green area.

The Country Club has given a lot of drama. Frost, the author, said he thought there was something else at work at the club.

“The course is an enduring classic American, with perfectly designed dramatic finishes,” he said, “but my most mystical side believes that Francis may have something to do with it.”

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