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NORTON, Massachusetts – As part of its 100-year anniversary next year, Charles River Country Club in Newton has been selected to co-host the 54th Francis Ouimet Memorial Tournament with Woodland Golf Club.
Charles River last served as a host site for the Ouimet Tournament in 2011, and next year will mark the 19th time the club has hosted the exemption-only event, more than every other club except Woodland. The tournament will take place from July 28-30, 2021. Charles River will host Rounds 1 and 2, and, as always, Woodland will host Round 3 on the final day.
The 54-hole, stroke-play tournament became a Mass Golf Championship and Women’s Championship event in 2018 and features an exempt-only field of top junior, amateur, mid-amateur and senior players who belong to Mass Golf Member Clubs.
“Charles River has a rich tradition of supporting amateur golf and a strong connection to the Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund,” said Jim Hunt, President of Charles River Country Club. “It is fitting that in the year we will celebrate our 100th Anniversary as a club, that we join in hosting this storied amateur tournament once again.”
Francis Ouimet, the American golf legend most famous for winning the 1913 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, became a bond-holding member at Charles River in 1922 and later became the club’s first honorary member. He remained an active member until he died in 1967.
One year after his death, friends of Ouimet founded the Ouimet Memorial Tournament to honor his legacy, and it has been played every year since 1968. In 1975, Charles River became the first club to co-host the event with Woodland and has been a site for the Ouimet Tournament at least once every decade since then.
During his life, Ouimet brought notable figures to Charles River. In 1922, he played an exhibition match with Gene Sarazen as the pair competed against Walter Hagen and Joe Kirkwood. Ouimet also used to play a weekly game at Charles River with Joe Cronin, the Hall of Fame player and manager, whose No. 4 is retired by the Boston Red Sox.
Eddie Lowery, who was a lifetime friend of Ouimet’s after serving as his caddie in the 1913 U.S. Open, also became a member at Charles River and was a two-time club champion (1933 & 1936). In addition to the Championship & Women’s Division, the Ouimet Tournament has a Lowery Division, which features the top senior amateur players.
“Charles River and Woodland were special places for Francis Ouimet and Eddie Lowery, and we’re thrilled the tournament will once against take place at both historic clubs,” said Jesse Menachem, Mass Golf Executive Director/CEO. “We’re also grateful for the staff and membership at Charles River for agreeing to host what should be a first-class event to celebrate the club’s centennial.”
Charles River also has strong ties to the Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund, which was founded in 1949 by friends of Ouimet and what was then known as the Massachusetts Golf Association. The Ouimet Fund provides need-based college scholarships for young men and women who have worked at golf courses in Massachusetts. Bob McDonald, a Charles River member who will serve as the Honorary Chair of the Tournament, was in the first class of Ouimet Scholars in 1949 and used his scholarship to attend MIT.
“Receiving the Ouimet Scholarship was no doubt one of the most transformative moments in my life,” McDonald said. “I fortunately had the opportunity to meet and thank Francis Ouimet in person for what he has done for young people affiliated with the game of golf. I am so pleased that Charles River Country Club will co-host the tournament during our Centennial Anniversary as we continue to honor the legacy of Francis Ouimet through the Ouimet Fund and this important amateur event.”
Seven Charles River members have also gone on to serve as president of the Ouimet Fund, while another seven have endowed lifetime scholarships at the Ouimet Fund.
Charles River has had at least one member win the Ouimet Memorial Tournament in all three divisions. Paul Murphy and Skip Barry Jr are past champions in the Championship Division, winning it 1975 and 1989, respectively. In 1999, Charles River’s Tom “Red” Martin won the first-ever Lowery (Senior) Division title, which was added to celebrate the Ouimet Fund’s 50th anniversary. And Pam Kuong won the Women’s Division title in 2015, becoming the eighth person to win it since the Division was added in 2004.
ABOUT CHARLES RIVER COUNTRY CLUB
Located in Newton Centre on the east bank of the Charles River, Charles River Country Club was designed by Donald Ross and opened for play in 1921. During competitive play, the course plays to par 70 with a distance of around 6,657 yards.
The club has also hosted the Mass Open five times and the Mass Amateur six times, including in 1927 when Lowery won it. The club has hosted several USGA qualifiers and was the site of the 2003 Men’s State Team.
In the 1990s, Ron Pritchard helped develop a masterplan that has guided the restoration of the course to its original playing characteristics, removing a significant number of trees, reshaping bunkers and returning the renown “River” greens to their intended sizes.
ABOUT THE OUIMET MEMORIAL TOURNAMENT
The first Ouimet Tournament took place at Woodland Golf Club in 1968, one year the death of Francis Ouimet, the Brookline native who became a U.S. golf legend following his historic victory in the 1913 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline.
The tournament founders were a group of Ouimet’s friends at Woodland Golf Club, the first place Ouimet became a member. Ouimet joined Woodland in 1910 at age 17, seeking club affiliation so he could try to qualify for the U.S. Amateur, which he won in 1914 and 1931.
Since its founding, the tournament has always concluded at Woodland. In 1975, the tournament expanded when it came under the operation of the Ouimet Scholarship Fund, which awards millions of dollars in need-based college scholarships each year to deserving young men and women who have worked at Massachusetts golf courses. New courses were added to the event that year as Charles River Country Club hosted the first round, The Country Club hosted the second and Woodland hosted the final round.
In 1990, former Ouimet Fund Director, Trustee and President Richard Connolly donated the Richard F. Connolly, Sr. Trophy to be awarded to the Championship Division winner. The trophy is built around clubs used by Francis Ouimet, Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, each one contributed to the Ouimet Fund by noted golf historian Dr. Gary Wiren.
In 1999, the Ouimet Fund’s 50th anniversary year, the Ouimet Memorial Tournament introduced a senior division named the Lowery Division, which honors Eddie Lowery, Ouimet’s 1913 U.S. Open caddie who became a frequent Ouimet Memorial contestant. The Lowery’s permanent trophy is a 21-inch bronze figurine crafted by sculptor Bob Pack and based on the iconic photo of Ouimet and Lowery walking during the 1913 U.S. Open. The winner receives a nine-inch version of the statue.
In 2004, the Women’s Division was launched. Alison Walshe won that inaugural year as well as the ensuing two years to become the only contestant — in any of the tournament’s three divisions — to achieve a ‘three-peat.’ The Women’s permanent trophy is a classic centerpiece glass bowl on a wooden base; the winner receives a smaller glass version of the bowl.
Mass Golf took over operations of the event in 2018, and the format of the tournament transformed from a traditional invitational and exemption format that had preceded in the previous decades of the tournament to one that was based on merit in Mass Golf competition and exemptions. The change of operation allowed the Ouimet Fund to focus on key fundraising initiatives, such as its popular Golf Marathon, its bag tag program, and other club relations programs.
Beginning in 2018, the Ouimet Memorial Tournament featured three days of competition for all three divisions, with the first two rounds conducted at the same venue, and in remaining with the original format of the event, the third and final round for each of the three divisions has continued to be played at Woodland.
For more information regarding the Ouimet Memorial Tournament, visit MassGolf.org or follow @PlayMassGolf on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. To join the conversation, use the hashtag #MassGolf.