Ouimet: An American Hero

Note: This is NOT the script for The Greatest Game Ever Played, which was written by Mark Frost, based on his non-fiction book of the same name. My script was actually written before his book came out, and well before the movie based on his book was produced. For anyone wishing a full account of this 1913 US Open Match, I highly recommend the Frost book and movie.
(Lawrence Martin, February 2009)

What follows is a movie review and part of a screenplay, of a movie not yet made. The movie is Ouimet: An American Hero, screenplay by Lawrence Martin. The subject is Francis Ouimet, who won the U.S. Open golf tournament in 1913, in Brookline, MA. Ouimet's win has long fascinated golf buffs, and I envisioned a movie based on his early life and the tournament itself. Ouimet, a 20-year-old American amateur, beat the two best players at the time, British professionals Harry Vardon (of the "Vardon grip") and Ted Ray.

Ouimet's 1913 win is often said to have jump started golf in America, for it certainly captured the public's imagination and led to a large growth in golf's popularity. More people attended that U.S. Open (in miserable weather, I might add), than any previous golf match.

While putting together the script I also wrote the fictional review, as it might appear in your local newspaper. Both the review and the first few pages of my screenplay are included in this site, plus a photo of the three players from 1913.

Lawrence Martin
Posted October 16, 2002

Review of the Movie
The Screenplay
Photo of Ouimet, Vardon, Ray

Movie Review: Ouimet: An American Hero

Every few years a movie appears based on a real sports event that captures the heart. The personality of the protagonist - inevitably the underdog - is developed so that you can't help but root root root for him. In 1979 there was Breaking Away, built around a bicycle race at the University of Indiana, won by the cutters or town locals. Chariots of Fire (1981) was based on a 1924 Olympics' sprint race won by a British underdog. Rudy (1993) was the story of an undersized young man hugely determined to play Notre Dame football; against all odds he got into one game, which was his (and the movie's) triumph.

Ouimet: An American Hero is in this genre. Francis Ouimet was born 1893 in Brookline, Mass., to a working class family of French Canadian origin. It is likely only golf history buffs know about this guy, but apparently it's quite a story. Ouimet lived across the street from Brookline's famed The Country Club, one of the first golf country clubs in the U.S. TCC is well known for having hosted the Ryder Cup in 1999 and other major tournaments. Indeed the movie opens with the 1999 Ryder cup, then segues back in time to the early 20th century.

In the first decade of the 20th century Francis and his older brother Wilfred worked at The Country Club as caddies, and often sneaked on the course to hit balls. They also played on a makeshift course in a pasture behind their house. Francis developed quite a game, and in May, 1913 won the Massachusetts state amateur title. As a result, he was invited to play in the U.S. Open that September.

For Ouimet, this U.S. Open was special in two ways. First, it was held at TCC, so was simply a walk across the street for him. Second, playing in the tournament were Harry Vardon (age 43) and Ted Ray (age 36), both from England and two of the world's top golfers. Ouimet had grown up admiring the much older Vardon, studying his 1905 book The Complete Golfer, and playing his ball, the 'Vardon Flyer.'

Vardon and Ray had traveled to America to give exhibitions in 1913, but also with the avowed goal of winning the U.S. Open. Everyone expected one of them would take back the trophy (the odds were two to one the Brits would win). Vardon had already won the U.S. Open in 1900 (the only one he entered before 1913), plus 5 British Open tournaments. In 1912 Ray had won the British Open and come in second in 1913. (The U.S. Open dates to 1895, the British Open to 1860.)

Ouimet, then only 20, was employed as a sporting goods salesman in Boston, and unlike Ray and Vardon, an avowed amateur. In fact he had just used vacation time to play in the U.S. Amateur on Long Island (he lost to the eventual winner, Jerry Travers). Ouimet's boss (an enlightened fellow) let him off a few more days to play this most important of American tournaments. Only one native born American had previously won the U.S. Open, the young professional John J. McDermott, in 1911 and 1912. Apart from McDermott, all the other winners were professionals born in Great Britain. No amateur had ever won.

For an American amateur to win would be quite a story. The rest, as they say, is history. We know Ouimet won, in a dramatic playoff. At the time it was considered the greatest sports upset of all time. The only modern day analogy that comes to mind is the U.S. Hockey team's 1980 Olympic triumph (besting first Russia then Finland to take the gold). It is a tribute to Director Hector Smith's skill that the story is nail biting even when you know the outcome. Ouimet's incredible 15-foot birdie putt on hole #17 of the final regular round put him into a three-way playoff with Vardon and Ray. This is not fiction like, say, the putt Matt Damon made in The Legend of Bagger Vance to end in a 3-way tie with Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen.

Francis Ouimet is played engagingly by newcomer Litch McDonald, whose previous credits include the Disney movie A Tisket A Tasket. Seasoned actors Howard McManly (Ted Ray) and John Dugan (Harry Vardon) show their characters as gentlemanly, no-nonsense Brits, all golf and very little humor. Particularly appealing is Maurice Merritt as 21-year-old Walter Hagen, an American Professional who in the decade to come would dominate the game (he won the U.S. Open in 1914). Hagen was known for flashy clothes and a bon-vivant spirit, and in personality was the antithesis of the other top players. Rounding out the cast are Johnny Golden, who plays Ouimet's 10-year-old caddy Eddie Lowery; Jessica Smithson as Ouimet's mother Mary; Jacques Duard as his father Arthur; and Natalie White, Ouimet's girlfriend Stella.

Golf scenes were filmed at The Country Club, and the period is authentically recreated. Boston in 1913 was a major port of immigration and the city was bustling with the poor, the downtrodden, the seekers of fortune. Only a few miles from downtown, the Country Club was (and remains) a bastion of tranquility, old money and prestige. Into this mileu stepped a young American who, some say, changed the course of golf history with his U.S. Open victory. He captured the imagination of ordinary citizens like no other golfer at the time. From that point, golf in the U.S. began an extraordinary growth spurt.

Whatever the tournament's long range impact, by the last scene it's clear we have seen more than just another golf tournament dramatized. We have been entertained by a slice of real Americana circa 1913. The movie ends shortly after the tournament, but I for one wish it would have continued. Ouimet had a long life and some more dramatization, while no doubt anticlimatic, would have been welcomed. A brief trailer informs us about his remarkable career (and the further exploits of Vardon and Ray).

You don't have to be a sprinter to appreciate Chariots of Fire, or a bicycler to like Breaking Away, and you certainly don't have to play golf to be captivated by this movie. Unless you are a diehard golfophobe, do not miss Ouimet: An American Hero.

Rating: 4/4

Ouimet: An American Hero

(An original screenplay)

by Lawrence Martin

Included below are the first few pages of the full movie script, posted October 16, 2002. Anyone interested in the complete script should contact



EXT. BOSTON. DAY (before credits). Modern Boston’s skyline. Camera pans from downtown Boston to Brookline and the suburb’s venerable The Country Club, located at 191 Clyde St. It’s a Sunday in September 1999, the last day of the Ryder Cup golf tournament between U.S. and Europe. We see the golf course neighborhood, particularly the street across from the 17th fairway, which will figure prominently in the story.


On the course a large crowd is clustered around the seventeenth green. Beyond, we see flags of European nations and the U.S. An important tournament is taking place.


Cut to actual televised footage of the 1999 Ryder cup held at Brookline. American professional Justin Leonard is getting ready to putt from one end of the large green. His rival in this match, Spain’s Jose Maria Olazable, is stone faced, waiting for Leonard to putt. Some 45 feet from the ball, Leonard’s caddy holds the flag sitting in the cup.

    Cut to network TV booth set up at The Country Club

                   YOUNG TV ANNOUNCER

Can you believe it? Going into today’s singles matches, the U.S. was down seven and a half points! It looked hopeless for the Americans. What a comeback! The U.S. has now won eight singles matches today, and merely needs to halve this match between Justin Leonard and Jose Maria Olazable to win the Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993.

                   OLDER TV ANNOUNCER

Yes, Justin Leonard was down by four after eleven holes of play, and now has drawn even. The match is all square to this point. Olazable has a twenty-five foot putt for birdie, but Leonard’s put is about forty-five feet.



Yes, Leonard has to keep the match all square, or win any of the last two holes, for the U.S. to win the Ryder Cup. This is nerve biting! He has an almost impossible uphill putt for birdie Getting the ball anywhere within three feet of the cup will be a great putt. If he two putts and Olazable misses his birdie putt, then it will all come down to eighteen, which Leonard will need halve or win outright.

                     OLDER TV ANNOUNCER

Yes. Leonard's got to avoid coming up too short or going too long so he can sink his second putt.


Televised footage continues. Justin Leonard sinks his long putt for birdie. Pandemonium breaks out, as fans and players storm the green.

Cut to TV booth.

                     YOUNG TV ANNOUNCER

Oh, my! What jubilation. Olazable now has to sink his putt and win the next hole, or the U.S. will win back the Ryder cup. The fans need to get off the green, to give Olazable a chance. But one can certainly understand their outburst. I’ve never seen anything like it.


Camera cuts back to wildly cheering crowd on and around the seventeenth green. The green clears while Olazable prepares his putt. He misses. More wild cheering from the crowd.

                     YOUNG TV ANNOUNCER

The U.S. will win the cup! I bet this venerable old club has never seen such, what shall we call it, spontaneous elation over a golf match.

     Camera cuts to show both announcers in booth.

                   OLDER TV ANNOUNCER

Well, this is truly fantastic. But you know, The Country Club has been around over a hundred years. Actually it’s one of the oldest courses in the U.S. and has seen a lot of top tournaments. This display of national pride reminds me of what happened right here at the 1913 U.S. Open. [YOUNG TV ANNOUNCER nods in agreement.] If I’m not mistaken, I believe one of the crucial holes back then was also number seventeen. Supposedly it was quite a scene, in 1913. Yes, quite a scene. [His voice trails off, and we come to the opening credits.]

    Begin Credits


Ouimet - An American Hero



EXT. DOWNTOWN BOSTON. DAY. Camera pans from downtown Boston to single street, then to newspapers for sale with date clearly visible, January 2, 1900.



“World welcomes the 20th century.

          New Year's Day Celebrations

          Held in Paris, London, New York.


         Pres. McKinley predicts a new era,

         free from wars common in last century.”



Downtown Boston and then over to suburban Brookline. Snow is on the ground. Camera stops on snow-laden sign next to winding lane.




“The Country Club, Brookline,

              Mass., founded 1882. Members




We see surrounding golf course covered in snow, and the old club house. Smoke is coming from chimney. A room upstairs is lighted.



Several men are sitting around table. Golf photos are on wall, cigar smoke in the air. This is a meeting of the golf committee. Enter an on-going conversation.

                   COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN

Well, then, looks to be shaping

up like another great golf season. We’ll again have the finest caddies

              around, most of them from Brookline,

              I might add. To keep it this

way we must increase their fee per bag,

              and I propose we go up a nickel.

                   ANOTHER MEMBER

              What is Myopia Hunt Club paying?

                   COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN

They’re stuck on twenty cents still, but they may change. Anyway, twenty five cents is what I propose for the 1900 season.

    A general murmur of assent.

                   COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN

OK, all who agree we raise

              the fee to twenty five cents

              a bag, say Aye.

    General sound of Aye’s.




“Caddies, The Country Club, 1900


              William Knowles

              James Bohannon

              Kelly O’Reilly

              Wilfred Ouimet

              Mike Hall

              Billy Dykeson

              Everett Washington”



    turns to spring. The snow melts away on

    the course and golfers begin to appear.




Outside of the Ouimet residence. None of the houses seen in 1999 are evident. The Ouimet home is a modest frame house, surrounded by open

    spaces and a few other houses.


INT. KITCHEN. Mrs. Ouimet is serving breakfast to Mr. Ouimet and their two boys, Wilfred

    (age 11) and Francis (age 7). Mr. Ouimet is a

    gardener at The Country Club, and is dressed in

    his work clothes.


(In American accent). Wilfred,

              what time do you have to be

              at the golf course?


Mr. O’Riley has an 8 o’clock tee

              time. I’ll leave in a few



Est M. O'Riley un bon golfer?


Je ne sais pas le papa, je n'ai pas

caddied pour lui avant.


              (Scornfully). Does this

              Mr. O’Riley speak French?



              I don’t know, why?


              Because he won’t understand you,

that’s why. You are an American, Wilfred. Speak French to French Canadians if you wish, but stick

              to English at the club.


(Chuckles, then speaking

              English with a heavy French

              Canadian accent) Don’t worry,

              Mary. It won’t matter.

              Golfers don’t talk to their

              caddies. In fact, they don’t

              much talk to ordinary folk at



Is that so Wilfred?


Well, sometimes they do.

              Like (mimics a Country Club

              member): “Sonny, did you see

              where my ball went?” or

              “Sonny, give me a niblick.”


Francis has been eating breakfast silently, absorbing the family conversation.


              What’s a niblick?


               It’s one type of golf club.

They all have different names.

              You have to know them

              all to be a caddy.


Les sons m'ont compliqué.


              No, papa, it’s not

              complicated at all. It’s  

              actually fun. Well, gotta go!



Wilfred gets up and runs out of house; crosses street to enter golf course through trees lining the fairway.


Francis, when you finish I

              want you to help me with

              the firewood today.


              Yes, mama.



Francis is seen stacking firewood in a shack behind the house. In the shack he discovers an old golf club and two balls, presumably his brother’s. He takes them to the back yard and tries to hit one of the balls, holding the club like a baseball bat. Francis is a wisp of a boy, awkward in manner. He swings twice and whiffs both times. He clearly has wrong technique, but on third try he connects and ball goes a modest distance. His eyes light up, in a revelation.

- - - - - - - - - -

This ends first few pages of Ouimet: An American Hero, an original screenplay by Lawrence Martin. These pages posted October 16, 2002. Full script registered with Writers Guild, October 16, 2002.
Anyone interested in reading the entire screenplay please contact


Vardon, Ouimet, Ray

Harry Vardon (left), Francis Ouimet (center), Ted Ray (right) after Ouimet's 1913 U.S. Open victory, Brookline, MA.

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