MacKenzie: Returning to The Country Club
I am returning to The Country Club of Brookline in a few short weeks to watch a practice round for the 122nd U.S. Open, the national open golf championship of the United States.
This will be the fourth U.S. Open Championship at The Country Club, having previously hosted the tournament in 1988, 1963 and 1913.
I attended a practice round in 1988, the year Curtis Strange defeated Nick Faldo in a playoff to win his first of two consecutive Open titles.
Of course, the last big event at The Country Club was the Ryder Cup in 1999.
That was the memorable comeback win of the U.S. under captain Ben Crenshaw.
In 1963, Julius Boros won at Brookline in a playoff beating Arnold Palmer and Jacky Cupit.
The most memorable U.S. Open Championship in Brookline was in 1913 when Francis Ouimet had a bogey free back nine to shoot a one under par 72 to beat Harry Vardon by five and Ted Ray by six shots in a Saturday playoff.
Ouimet was a caddy at The Country Club.
At 20 years old, Ouimet was the first amateur to win the U.S. Open beating two British Professional golfers, Vardon and Ray.
The New York Times published its first article about golf, claiming that a working class amateur golfer, the son of a Gardner, beat the Brits at their own game.
Francis showed the world that golf wasn’t only for the affluent.
As a student at Boston College, I was living off campus on the third floor of a triple decker with 3 friends. Our Brookline apartment was just a few blocks from The Country Club.
My best friend, Mal Najarian, was getting his law degree at Suffolk and I was getting an MBA at BC.
Mal and I grew up together playing golf and caddying at Pawtucket Country Club.
After classes, Mal and I would throw our golf bags in the trunk of my car and drive 5 minutes up the road to the front gate at The Country Club. We would start our round on the 17th tee and then cut over to the 2nd tee.
We would play until it was dark. We would play several times during the week, always avoiding the
first, tenth and 18th holes, because those holes were close to the club house.
Some days we would have other friends join us and play as a foursome.
What a great golf course to play after finishing classes for the day. We only were asked to leave one time.
One afternoon in March, Mal and I had just hit our tee shots from the 17th tee when a member who was driving from the clubhouse stopped and said, “I don’t have to ask you boys if you are
members because members can not play the course until April 1 when the course opens. Pick up your balls guys. We’ll see you in a few weeks.”
I am sure that Francis Ouimet would have better known the course restrictions when he was playing the old course.
The last amateur to win the Open was John Goodman in 1933. The great Bobby Jones won the Open as an amateur four times in 1923, 1926, 1929 and 1930.
There will be a few amateurs playing this year, but it’s unlikely there will ever be another amateur that will beat the professionals.
The first professional golf tournament I attended was the 1988 US Open at the Country Club in Brookline . It was by happenstance. My brother’s friend could not attend Sunday’s round and had two tickets to sell. I bought two of them for face value for the princely sum of $20 each (a dollar short of the $19 beers they were selling this week at Southern Hills). We walked around and saw most of the course. We found great seats in the 18th grandstands and watched the last few group coming in. I vividly remember Faldo taking forever from the fairway to hit his second shot and also how good Stange’s bunker shot was to force the Monday playoff.
I remember having seats to watch that last hole that seemed to be as good as watching it on TV.
I had two tickets for the Monday playoff but had to work.
Rod…Great article & You brought back fond memories of Mal…..John O
Pingback: GolfNewsRI’s Top 10 Pro Golf Stories of 2022 | GolfNewsRI