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US Open

It hasn’t happened since 1913, but can a first-timer win the US Open this week?

“It’s the hardest one out there” was Sean Crocker's response when asked why no first-timer has won the US Open since 1913.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

BROOKLINE — Of all the ties that connect Francis Ouimet to the US Open at The Country Club, one has somehow stood the test of time for 109 years.

Since Ouimet won here in 1913 in a playoff, no other US Open first-timer has won the event.

With first-timers finding success at the other three majors through the decades, how could it be that no US Open rookie has ever duplicated Ouimet’s feat?

There’s no perfect or profound answer, but the simplest one might be the best.

“It’s the hardest one out there,” said Sean Crocker, 25, one of 47 US Open rookies in this year’s 156-man field. “When I qualified a couple of weeks ago, I said I’ve been looking forward to seeing what frustrates the best players in the world so much with this event.”


The words of former USGA president Sandy Tatum — “Look, we’re not trying to humiliate the best players in the world, we’re simply trying to identify who they are” — helps explain why the USGA tries to make its US Open venues play as tough as possible.

High rough, narrow fairways, fast greens — the more treacherous, the better.

“The US Open is probably the toughest test in golf. I mean, that’s at least what you see on TV every year, that’s what you hear growing up, that’s what everyone says,” said Ryan Gerard, 22, another newbie. “It’s pretty fun to get out here and see for yourself, to get a chance to test your game on the best stage and against the best players. And that’s kind of been a dream of mine forever.”

Making the US Open field is easier than winning it, at least in a golfer’s first crack at it.

Ryan Gerard will be trying to tackle The Country Club for the first time this week.Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press

Hopkinton’s James Hervol, 24, made his US Open debut last year at Torrey Pines and missed the cut.


Hearing that no one has duplicated Ouimet’s first-time feat did not come out of left field for Hervol.

“I’d say it’s very believable. The playing conditions at the US Open have got to be the hardest major,” he said. “The rough was ridiculously long and thick — it was just kind of a bear playing out there, and I think guys who don’t have the experience playing in that environment every week, it’s just tough to go out there and manage your expectations and not keep the right mind-set. It’s a lot to take in.”

Worcester’s Fran Quinn, 57, will be making his fifth US Open appearance.

Well-acquainted with the Ouimet story — “It’s hard to believe that that’s actually not a fictional story,” he said — Quinn believes that with the USGA rotating US Open venues, the familiarity veteran golfers have with many of the courses helps lengthen the odds of a newcomer outfoxing and outplaying the field.

“A lot of us have played those golf courses numerous times, so you acquire X amount of knowledge,” said Quinn. “You get a week to play there, three practice rounds and then the tournament proper means seven really full days’ worth of experience, and that builds over time.”

Given that The Country Club has not hosted a US Open since 1988, Quinn said this year “may be a little different.”

“Although it takes an incredible amount of patience and experience to win, you may happen to see somebody win one in their first fight only because there’s not a lot of familiarity with the venue itself,” said Quinn, before adding quickly, “But I would bet on the veterans coming through.”


Worcester’s Fran Quinn, seen here during a Tuesday practice round, will be making his fifth US Open appearance.Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

The case could be made that Ouimet, who grew up across the street from The Country Club, caddied there, and played there often, had a lot more experience, course-wise, than virtually any US Open newcomer.

And while Matt Parziale, 35, of Brockton knows it would be silly to say a first-timer could never win a US Open again, he’s wary of comparing Ouimet’s feat to today’s game.

“That was 110 or so years ago, so if it was going to happen, it was going to happen back then, more frequently, when there was only maybe a dozen or two dozen guys who could actually win, and that’s your competition all over the world,” said Parziale, who tied for 48th in the first of his two previous US Opens in 2018. “And now you’ve got 2,500, 3,000, maybe more than that, golfers that are competitive and trying to make it as a living and are working on their games every day. It’s just so much deeper and obviously it’s just a much different time.”

Neither Gerard nor Crocker experienced anything approaching buzz kill hearing that a newcomer has not won here since 1913.

“I love the underdog story, if that’s what you’re going for,” said Crocker. “First US Open, to be out here with that story, with the history in this place, I don’t think I’d really be able to ask for a better venue to start up, my first major, the US Open. Overall, I’m just stoked to be out here.”


Gerard was equally nonplussed.

“Makes sense, I mean, it’s hard out here, it’s different than what you’re used to, everything’s bigger but I mean, I don’t see a reason why that’s going to stay that way forever,” said Gerard. “I’m sure another first-timer will win at some point. Hopefully it’ll be this week.”

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