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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 1 (April 1, 1935)

The Battlefields of Sport. — The Rise of a Nation

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The Battlefields of Sport.
The Rise of a Nation.

It was the magic of the name of Vardon which had brought the great crowd to Brookline that September, just a year before Europe became a shambles and the graveyard of seventeen million men. For Vardon's fame was world-wide, he was the supreme artist of the game, swooping gracefully at the ball while on his toes like a ballet dancer; he had won championships innumerable and had really converted the United States to golf. That tour of 1900 when he had won over fifty matches of the sixty played, though in most cases he had to face the best ball of two rivals, was still fresh in memory. And with him was the great iron player, Edward Ray.

These two veteran golfers had faced the field in the American Open, a trifle tired from their visits to a dozen courses and had seen their names at the top at the close. But those names were not alone. With them was that of a young man of twenty-one, an amateur, Francis Ouimet, who worked in a golf shop in Boston and was attached to the Woodland Club near that city. The largest field that had ever entered for the event, 170 competitors, with other famous golfers from England and France, had narrowed down to these three, the two finest players in England and this unknown boy from a sports goods store. MacDonald Smith, Jerome Travers, Wilfred Reid, these were some of the famous golfers who had failed. In the qualifying round Ray had led the field with a total of 148, but at the beginning of the championship proper he fell into a period of general slackness and his morning round on the first day was a 79, eight strokes behind the leader. A brilliant 70, a new course record, in the afternoon, retrieved some of the lost ground, placing him two strokes behind Vardon and Reid, another Briton. Four places lower was the unassuming Ouimet, who was to make history a few days later, but to-day he did not attract any attention because all eyes were on the cracks from overseas who were naturally expected to win the event. The young American began with a 77, he followed that with a 74 which was better, but nothing to grow excited about. And what was more he began with two 6's at holes which were comparatively simple 4's.

But the following day there had been a change of scene. The fine weather vanished and from two o'clock in the morning the rain descended in sheets. The sudden need for an alteration in touch caught the cracks out. Vardon's putting deteriorated, his confidence deserted him. He took 41 to play the first nine holes and though he came back in 37 it was valuable ground lost. Ray had also been 41 out, but his homeward journey was better and he stood two strokes better on the round giving him the same aggregate as Vardon—225. But in the afternoon both the British players crashed heavily. Vardon began with figures of 55655, unbelievable for him. He finally had to smoke for the first time in his life when playing a match, in order to steady his nerves. Ray was as bad. Both of them escaped an 80 by the skin of their teeth and when they returned to the club-house it was to consider that their hopes had vanished.

But as time passed it became clear that it was a day of disaster. Player after player returned to report undreamed of scores made on the slushy fairways and sodden greens. The most feared Americans, it seemed, had crashed, too. Then gradually there spread the news that Ouimet was achieving great things somewhere out on the course. Anxiously a new gallery ran out to find a desperate position. Ouimet was four holes from home, they were holes of 370, 125, 360, and 410 yards, and he had to play them in one stroke better than 4344 to tie. He almost lost a stroke at the first hole when he pushed out his iron to the green, but his chip was on the very edge of the hole and all he had to do was tap it in for a 4. He got his 3 at the sixteenth without trouble and at the seventeenth he picked up the stroke he needed when he sent down a thirty-six foot putt for a 3. Everything then depended on the final hole. Amidst the silence of a tense crowd the young American played soundly, holed a five foot putt and got his 4 to tie with Vardon and Ray.

The question on this final day was not so much if he would win as whether he would make a good showing. At
(Railway Publicity photo.) Arrival at Tauranga of the Frankton Railway Employees' Excursion Train on the occasion of their annual picnic, 27th January, 1935.

(Railway Publicity photo.)
Arrival at Tauranga of the Frankton Railway Employees' Excursion Train on the occasion of their annual picnic, 27th January, 1935.

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(Railway Publicity photo.) Geraldine, South Canterbury, New Zealand.

(Railway Publicity photo.)
Geraldine, South Canterbury, New Zealand.

the third hole he outdrove both Ray and Vardon, waited about as they played fine, straight seconds to the green and then played a still better one himself. At this point he and Vardon were even, with Ray, who took three putts on this green, a stroke behind. At either of the next two holes Ouimet might have crashed had he been the least bit uncertain of himself. At the fourth his tee shot was pushed out into the rough and he played a good shot out and determinedly holed a longish putt for his 4. At the fifth his second shot with his brassie soared out of bounds and the crowd groaned. He calmly dropped another ball, played a magnificent shot and got a 5, which, on this 420 yard hole, was all that Vardon and Ray could do. At the sixth 275 yards Vardon ran down a putt for a 3; at the next hole Ray did the same, but Ouimet kept on marking down 4's and at the eighth, which was near 400 yards, he roused cheers by getting his 3 in turn, a pitch landing absolutely dead. At the long and perilous ninth, with a tee-shot which is downhill and a brassie second which is up a slope, with bunkers and rocks looming on every side and need for care in distance as well as direction, all got their 5's and then came the little island tenth, a hole which had so much to do with the final result of the match.

This tenth is quite a short hole—140 yards—no more than a mashie-niblick pitch, but without any concession to the man who is off the line and with a green which looks horribly small from the tee. Everywhere are woods and bunkers and in front there is first a stream and then a big bunker with a timbered face. All three players reached the green with their tee-shots, but both Vardon and Ray had to putt over the holes which their balls had made in the muddy surface before jumping backwards. Ouimet's ball was extremely muddy, but he got it down in two putts, whereas the others needed three and he took the lead. It was to prove the turning point, for he never let that lead go again. At the twelfth he was two strokes up. Vardon got one of these back at the thirteenth by a good pitch and putt. The pace was hot now and it was obvious that someone would crack soon and the someone proved to be Ray. He was bunkered, took two to get out and was four strokes down to Ouimet. That was the end of him, but Vardon was still only one stroke behind, he was in fine form and he had the honour at the sixteenth, a not extremely easy short hole. The old master unwound himself and played a beauty. Ouimet's caddie wiped the grip of his club with a towel before handing it to the American, and the young amateur roused cheers as his ball soared high and true. Amidst deafening noise from the rocks and promontories where men with red flags waved wildly and megaphones boomed, the ball fell beside Vardon's on the green. Ouimet got his 3 and Vardon could do no better. Ouimet one stroke up and two to play.

It was the seventeenth which ended it all. Vardon could see now that there was no hope of him winning on the nerves of his youthful rival. The finish in the fourth round had shown that and now Ouimet was playing the man which was never so hard for him as playing the score. Vardon took a short cut for the hole and was trapped. He could not get better than 5. Ouimet played perfectly again. He steered his tee-shot to the right of a looming hazard, put his second eighteen feet from the hole and had to putt downhill. The green was fast in spite of the weather. Ouimet might not even lay the putt dead, in which case Vardon would have the chance of picking up his lost stroke on the last hole. But the American surveyed the scene calmly and then hit the ball with perfect judgment and caressing gentleness so that it trickled downhill slowly and then trickled into the hole to the accompaniment of a shout of delight. It was all over now if the American finished the course at all for he had a lead of three strokes. The last hole must have tried his nerves, however. There was a wait while the two Britons, outdriven from the tee, played their seconds. Ray put his on the green, Vardon, from a heavy lie, went into the bunker. Ouimet shaped up to the ball confidently and with a click sent it soaring over the bunker and onto the putting surface. So Vardon was beaten by five strokes and Ray by six.

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