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.
Review of the Movie
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
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.
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
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.
YOUNG TV ANNOUNCER
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
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
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.
INSERT. NEWSPAPER HEADLINE AND SUBHEADLINE
“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.”
BACK TO SCENE
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
BACK TO SCENE
We see surrounding golf course covered in snow,
and the old club house. Smoke is coming from
chimney. A room upstairs is lighted.
INT. MEETING ROOM IN THE COUNTRY CLUB - NIGHT
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
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.
What is Myopia Hunt Club paying?
They’re stuck on twenty cents still, but
they may change. Anyway, twenty five
cents is what I propose for the 1900
A general murmur of assent.
OK, all who agree we raise
the fee to twenty five cents
a bag, say Aye.
General sound of Aye’s.
INSERT. PARTIAL LIST OF CADDIES, HANDWRITTEN ON
PIECE OF PAPER
“Caddies, The Country Club, 1900
MONTAGE. EXT. THE COUNTRY CLUB. Winter
turns to spring. The snow melts away on
the course and golfers begin to appear.
EXT. ACROSS STREET FROM THE COUNTRY CLUB.
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
Francis, when you finish I
want you to help me with
the firewood today.
EXT. OF HOME. LATER THAT MORNING.
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
October 16, 2002.
Anyone interested in reading the entire
screenplay please contact
Harry Vardon (left), Francis Ouimet (center), Ted Ray (right) after
Ouimet's 1913 U.S. Open victory, Brookline, MA.
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