When the US Open was held at The Country Club in 1963, Eddie Lowery, who had been Francis Ouimet’s 10-year-old caddie 50 years earlier, provided an eyewitness account of Ouimet’s historic victory.
At the time, Lowery was a successful California businessman and a past winner of the Massachusetts Junior Championship (1919), the Massachusetts Amateur (1927), and the Bing Crosby Invitational Pro-Am (1955) with partner and golfing legend Byron Nelson.
“As you know, golf is the one game in the world where you have to do it all yourself,” Lowery wrote prior to The Country Club’s Golden Anniversary celebration, “and while encouragement does help, Francis Ouimet, even at the tender age of 20, had every necessary characteristic to hold his own against the two greatest golfers of his time, namely — Harry Vardon and Ted Ray.’’
The five-page typed manuscript remains a special memento for Lowery’s daughter, Cynthia Wilcox, whose memorabilia also includes photos of her father with his good friend, Crosby; with television personality Ed Sullivan, and with the up-and-coming golfers he supported and encouraged, including Bob Rosburg, Ken Venturi, and Tony Lema.
“They’d stay at our home when they came to town,’’ said Wilcox, Lowery’s only surviving child.
A victory photo taken in 1913 of a jubilant Ouimet with Lowery in the foreground is autographed by Ouimet, his lifelong friend. It also hangs on the wall in her Dedham home.
Another photographic image — of the two walking a fairway at The Country Club — was the inspiration for a statue that was unveiled at the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1999.
Lowery, who was a pallbearer at Ouimet’s funeral in 1967, was a major contributor to the Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund, which honored Lowery and Venturi in 2001 with the Francis Ouimet Award for Lifelong Contributions to golf.
Wilcox spoke on her father’s behalf at the banquet.
“The gist of what I said is that my father probably would have made a success of himself, but if Francis Ouimet had not allowed him to caddie at the Open, his life would not have turned out the way it did.
“Francis was a mentor for my father, whose own father was killed in a factory accident a couple of years before the 1913 Open,’’ added Wilcox, who is married and the mother of two and an interior decorator who golfs at the Dedham Country & Polo Club.
Lowery, twice a widower, met Wilcox’s mother, his third wife, Margaret, in the 1950s. She was his secretary. They adopted two children, Wilcox and her late brother, John.
“My father was nearly 60 when I was born and he was very much the businessman who owned several car dealerships and invested well in other ventures,’’ said Wilcox, who grew up in California and graduated from Pine Manor College in Brookline. “He had a busy life, but he loved watching me ride horses and I enjoyed shagging for him at the range at our club. He had a great sense of humor and was fun to be around.’’
Lowery, who died in 1984, was played by actor Josh Flitter in the 2005 film “The Greatest Game Ever Played,’’ adapted from the book by Mark Frost. The latter also wrote, “The Match: The Day the Game of Golf Changed Forever,’’ in 2007.
A former president of the Northern California Golf Association and a member of the USGA Executive Committee, Lowery arranged the 1956 match chronicled by Frost that pitted pros Nelson and Ben Hogan against amateurs Venturi and Harvie Ward, who worked for Lowery.
Hogan holed a full wedge for eagle and the players combined to record 27 birdies at Cypress Point in California.
Wilcox met Flitter for the first time at the premiere of “The Greatest Game Ever Played.’’
“He was excited to meet me and I gave him a copy of that victory photo from 1913,’’ said Wilcox. “I thought he was spot-on in capturing my dad’s personality and his exuberance.’’
In his 1963 memoir, Lowery said it was “pure accident’’ that he caddied for Ouimet at the Open.
“My older brother Jack had caddied at Woodland Golf Club [in Newton] which was near our home and where Francis was then playing and Jack knew Francis,’’ he recalled. “We read in the paper about the two Englishmen — Vardon and Ray — who were going to play at Brookline.’’
The brothers arrived at The Country Club, and Ouimet asked Jack Lowery to be his caddie because the person he originally had engaged had hooked up with French professional Louis Tellier.
“So Jack caddied for Francis in the qualifying round and I went out to watch Vardon and Ray,’’ wrote Lowery, who along with his brother was caught by the truant officer and then given a stern lecture by their mother.
When Jack balked at caddying the next day, Eddie ran to the railroad station, hooked school, caught the last train to Brookline and subbed for his brother.
“I said to Francis, whatever you decide to do, you keep your head down and I will watch the ball. I have never lost a ball yet,’’ wrote Lowery, who went on to become caddie master at Woodland, a sportswriter for a Boston newspaper, and an advertising executive before moving to California.
Separate endowed scholarships in memory of Eddie and Margaret Lowery have been gifted to the Ouimet Fund and a bronze statue of Lowery and Ouimet stands today at the entrance to the Town of Brookline’s municipal course.
That pose is one of the most enduring and endearing in American golf history.
“My father’s life changed when he met Francis,” said Wilcox, “but what never changed was how he dealt with people who tell me how nice he was to them.’’