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Brookline resident buys Francis Ouimet’s boyhood house, with eye on renovation and preservation

The childhood home of Francis Ouimet on Clyde Street in Brookline, across from The Country Club.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

The boyhood home of the iconic Francis Ouimet now has a permanent address in the world of golf.

After waiting patiently for more than two decades for its owners to take him up on his offer to buy, Tom Hynes last year closed on the house at 246 Clyde Street that overlooks The Country Club in Brookline, where the former caddie’s 1913 US Open victory sparked a revolution in the sport.

“I was not a history buff and I was not a golf buff, but I had an understanding of how that house was important and how to get it back into circulation and into the game of golf,” said Hynes, who also lives on Clyde Street. “It was actually pretty simple: Buy it, and then go figure it out.”

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Ouimet was only 20 years old and an amateur when he shocked the golf world by beating the two leading players at the time, Great Britain’s Harry Vardon and Ted Ray. The story is told in Mark Frost’s book, “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” and in a Disney film by the same name, and undoubtedly will be retold often when the US Open returns to the club this month.

A stand of pine trees now mostly obscures the view from Ouimet’s second-floor bedroom of the course’s famed 17th hole, where his 20-foot birdie putt tied him for the lead with Vardon and Ray on the fourth day, setting up an 18-hole playoff that Ouimet won by five strokes.

Ouimet's bedroom was on the second floor of the house.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

With 10-year-old caddie Eddie Lowery by his side — Ouimet’s usual caddie, Eddie’s older brother Jack, had been nabbed by the local truancy officer — Ouimet recorded a victory that changed the course of golf.

“Up until that, it was a rich man’s game, and if you look at some of the press clippings from their time, it was worldwide front-page news that this kid beat the best in the world,” said Hynes. “The common man and woman figured, ‘Hey, I can play golf — if he can, I can — it’s not just an elite game anymore.’ That’s probably the most important single win in the history of golf in the United States.”

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The interior restoration of the house is intensive, and on a fast track to be completed before the start of the US Open June 16: new electrical, plumbing, and heating systems, insulation, bathrooms, kitchen, flooring, windows, paint, refinished woodwork, sprinkler system, and fire escape.

An interior view of Ouimet's childhood bedroom.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Sitting in Hynes’s garage is a truckload of 1900 period furniture waiting to be moved in.

Also to be part of the house is an antique wall phone; pick up the earpiece and you’ll hear a recording of Ouimet and Lowery reminiscing about the tournament half a century later.

An antique telephone will provide a connection to the past.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

A noteworthy find during the renovation came when two workers were prepping the attic for insulation.

While pulling down a piece of plywood near the top of the eave next to the chimney, a coconut with a monkey’s face painted on it rolled out, nearly hitting the head of one worker. Also coming down was a toy bow-and-arrow — and two putters that appear to be from the early 1900′s Ouimet era.

“They must have been Francis’s, but unfortunately we couldn’t do any fingerprints, DNA, or carbon analysis, anything like that,” said Hynes. “Maybe he and his brother would just go up there and just whack balls around.”

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A pair of golf clubs were found in the attic.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff
A carved coconut also was uncovered.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

After this year’s tournament, the vinyl siding comes down, and new clapboard goes up, along with other exterior work.

After buying the house, Hynes -- who is well-known in commercial real estate circles and is the nephew of former Boston Mayor John Hynes -- and other members formed an LLC in a pro bono effort to eventually gift the house back to The Country Club.

But with The Country Club consumed with staging a major tournament the last couple of years, Hynes understands that his passion project is not a front-burner issue.

Tom Hynes outside the Ouimet house — for now, his second home on Clyde Street.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

“I’ve had a dilemma, which is if the club didn’t want a part of it, I’d have two houses on Clyde Street,” said Hynes. “But I told myself, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ ”

Hynes said the town of Brookline does not have to worry about the house being turned into an Airbnb property.

“My objective was to control it and somehow get it into the hands of The Country Club because of its history,” said Hynes. “The US Open will be here for only a week. But that house is going to be there for at least another 50 years.”


Michael Silverman can be reached at michael.silverman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeSilvermanBB.