This past summer was a season to celebrate Eddie Lowery and Francis Ouimet. At the U.S. Open, there was much fanfare marking the 100th anniversary of their rags-to-riches triumph at the 1913 Open, when the 20-year-old amateur Ouimet beat the best pros of the day with a massive assist from his pint-size caddie, Lowery, age 10. A new book, Francis and Eddie, emerged to tell the tale from a fresh perspective. And there was yet more pomp in August at the U.S. Amateur, held at the site of their impossible victory, The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. But behind all the salutes, a slight remains. Though Francis and Eddie are honored together on a bronze plaque in the clubhouse at The Country Club, and though they live on side by side in a sculpture that welcomes visitors to the World Golf Hall of Fame, inside the Hall the pair part company. Ouimet was inducted in 1974, but Lowery remains on the outside looking in.
Over the past decade Peter Butler, a retired insurance executive, has led a grassroots campaign to get Lowery into the Hall. Butler has moved back to his hometown of Dubuque, Iowa, but for much of his life he resided in Pebble Beach, where he was neighbors with Lowery's widow, Margaret. Butler has a thick binder of letters from notable members of the golf establishment supporting Lowery's candidacy, which began with a formal nomination by Byron Nelson, the only time the golfing gentleman deigned to wade into the politics of the Hall.
If the 1913 U.S. Open is the single most important moment for establishing golf in this country -- two million people picked up the game in the decade that followed -- Lowery might warrant consideration for the Hall of Fame strictly for his prominent role in history. Yet he went on to an extraordinary life in golf, beginning with a victory at the 1919 Massachusetts Golf Association Junior championship. He won the state amateur in 1927 and was runner-up in 1931 and 1933.
Part of the mythology of the 1913 Open is that both Francis and Eddie were from the wrong side of the tracks; Lowery never finished high school, but he became a millionaire as an automobile entrepreneur and was a member at some of America's greatest golf clubs, including Augusta National, Cypress Point, San Francisco and Seminole. He served on the USGA executive committee, working tirelessly to improve the science of turf management. Lowery chaired the 1956 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship and served as president of the Northern California Golf Association and later the International Seniors Amateur Golf Society. He was a fixture at the Crosby Clambake, often pairing with the semi-retired Nelson. (They won the 1955 pro-am.) Behind the scenes Lowery served as a gatekeeper for the coveted amateur invitations. He was a mentor to many aspiring golfers, including Tony Lema, Bob Rosburg, Harvie Ward and, most famously, Ken Venturi. In 1956 Lowery brought together four friends to orchestrate what has become one of the game's greatest pieces of folklore: The Match at Cypress Point, which pitted Venturi and Ward against Nelson and Ben Hogan. Lowery died in 1984, at 81, but his legend has lived on thanks to the book The Greatest Game Ever Played and the subsequent movie adaptation. On the page and the silver screen, Lowery was the most memorable character in the tale, which isn't surprising to anyone who has looked at the iconic photo of Francis and Eddie amid a throng of admirers taken in the giddy moments after their U.S. Open victory. Ouimet is on the shoulders of the crowd, nearly cropped out of the picture. Your eyes always go to the center of the photo, where Lowery stands with a bag slung over his shoulder and a look of startling self-assurance. Years after their victory Ouimet made plain his feelings when he inscribed a copy of the photo to Lowery: "This is the boy who won the 1913 Open."
Given his myriad contributions to the game, Lowery would be right at home in a Hall of Fame that in recent years has become diversified with course architects, members of the media, a former President (George H.W. Bush, whose involvement with the sport was largely ceremonial) and, in the case of 2013 inductee Ken Schofield, the former commissioner of the European Tour, a B-list bureaucrat. "It is unconscionable that they've kept Eddie out of the Hall all these years," Butler says. "It defies logic or reason."
In fact, the Lowery candidacy hinges on a half-century-old court case, the byzantine Hall of Fame voting process and the very notion of whether a caddie belongs in the Hall.