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Forget Me Not: Why isn't Eddie Lowery, Francis Ouimet's celebrated caddie at the 1913 U.S. Open, in the Hall of Fame?

Eddie Lowery, Francis Ouimet, 1913 U.S. Open
Courtesy of the USGA Archives
Lowery was just 10 years old when he caddied for Francis Ouimet at the 1913 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.

Edward Edgar Lowery was the fifth child born to a working-class Irish-American family in Newton, Mass. His older brother, Jack, was supposed to caddie at the Open for Ouimet, the son of a gardener at The Country Club. On the day of the first round, the Lowery boys cut school, but only Eddie was crafty enough to elude a truant officer. Eddie talked his way onto the bag, then immediately set Ouimet at ease. "My little caddie...not much bigger than a peanut, was a veritable inspiration all around," Ouimet later wrote, "and a brighter or headier chap it would be hard to find. His influence on my game I cannot overestimate."

Ouimet ultimately got into an 18-hole playoff against the legendary Harry Vardon and long-hitting Ted Ray, the reigning British Open champ. Before the playoff a Country Club member tried to persuade Ouimet to ditch Lowery for a more seasoned caddie, with a fistful of dollars as an added inducement. Ouimet stood by his guy.

Ouimet would win two U.S. Amateurs and become a beloved member of the golf establishment, captaining six Walker Cup teams and being honored as the first American to serve as captain of the R&A. But Lowery had to blaze his own trail. He landed a job as the caddiemaster at Woodland Golf Club in Auburndale, Mass., and he later fell into a profession almost as disreputable as caddying: He became a sportswriter, for the Boston Traveler. This led to a gig in advertising, where he began to make real money. In 1937, Lowery moved to San Francisco to take a management position at Van Etta Motors, and in the ensuing years he bought the company and turned it into the largest Lincoln-Mercury dealership in the country.

Around California, Lowery became known as Mr. Golf, a ubiquitous presence in club championships and big-money games. Wherever he went he arrived in a new Lincoln and dressed like an old-world banker, in a suit and tie, a fedora and shiny shoes. He ran with the best golfers of the day and counted Hollywood royalty among his close friends. He and Bob Hope traveled together to compete in the 1951 British Amateur.

Lowery was a member at Thunderbird Golf Club in Palm Springs and occasionally teed it up with President Ford, who would later write a letter of support for Lowery's Hall of Fame candidacy, saying, "His story is a great American story, reminiscent of Horatio Alger, but with an emphasis on golf."

Just as Ouimet forever altered the trajectory of a caddie's life, Lowery enjoyed reaching out to up-and-comers. Venturi was his most prized protégé -- Lowery arranged a membership for him at the Cal Club and gave the future U.S. Open champion a job as a car salesman, though most afternoons were spent playing golf with the boss. Venturi's son Matt has vivid memories of Lowery from his youth. "He was rough on the outside but a softy on the inside," Matt says. "If you didn't know Eddie he could come across as a curmudgeon, but he had a good heart and helped out so many people in the game."

Lowery played the same avuncular role for Harvie Ward, the 1952 British Amateur champion and 1955 and 1956 U.S. Amateur champ. Lowery lent Ward $11,000 to help him move to the Bay Area in 1953, arranged a membership for him at San Francisco Golf Club and set him up in a cushy sales job. As it turned out, it was a little too cushy. A 1955 union grievance charged that Ward made $1,100 a month for sales he did not complete. An arbiter ruled for the union, and Lowery was forced to pay damages. Things would only get messier for both of them.

In 1955 Lowery was indicted by a San Francisco grand jury for tax evasion. A key aspect of the case was the $50,000 a year Lowery claimed for promotional expenses tied to golf. Under oath, Lowery testified that, among many other things, he paid for Ward's expenses to the 1952 British Amateur and a handful of domestic tournaments, as well as Ward's dues at SFGC. The case generated a considerable amount of publicity, and one can only imagine the heartburn among the USGA blue bloods -- at the time, Lowery was serving on the executive committee. He resigned under pressure, and although three hung juries failed to reach a verdict on Lowery's tax-evasion case, the ax fell on Ward in June 1957 when the USGA put him on probation for violating its rules for amateurism. Barred from competition for a year, Ward was unable to chase a third straight U.S. Amateur title at -- drumroll -- The Country Club.

A chastened Lowery retreated from his public roles in golf. Those who want him in the Hall of Fame believe that he's still paying the price for his trespasses with Ward. Don Callahan became friends with Lowery while serving as the head pro at Thunderbird, and he has been Peter Butler's wingman in the Hall of Fame letter-writing campaign (along with Monterey based historian Neal Hotelling). "We've sensed a lot of resistance from the USGA," says Callahan. "Those old boys just can't let it go. It was a technicality. The punishment doesn't fit the crime."

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