The Edmond Sun

Local News

June 23, 2014

Famous golfer lends name to championship trophy

EDMOND — Lord Stanley of Preston, Vince Lombardi and Francis Ouimet are members of a fraternity more exclusive than any Hall of Fame. Each man is recognized as major contributor to their respective athletic association, but more importantly each has their name indelibly etched on a championship trophy.    

While even the most pedestrian of sports enthusiasts can quickly connect Lord Stanley with the National Hockey League and Lombardi with the National Football League, few, if any, can even identify Ouimet or his contributions to American golf.

“No,” replied Jerry Joyner, 49, of Oklahoma City when asked if he knew of Ouimet. “I can’t recall even hearing his name.”

Frances Ouimet was the former caddy and amateur golfer who at the age of 20 ignited America’s passion for golf with an unexpected victory in the 1913 U.S. Open. His subsequent accomplishments earned him the title of “the father of amateur golf.” Ouimet was also the subject of the 2005 feature film “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” Perhaps the most appropriate tribute to Ouimet was in 1980 when the United States Golf Association dedicated its U.S. Senior Open Championship trophy as the Francis D. Ouimet Memorial Trophy.

This trophy will be awarded to the top golfer at this summer’s U.S. Senior Open championship event at Oak Tree National. Tournament play begins in Edmond on July 10.

Even with impressive credentials and Hollywood connections, Ouimet and his namesake silver cup are largely unknown. Lombardi’s trophy has annual dousing of champagne, and Stanley’s cup, well those stories range from it being used as a vessel for not one but two baptisms, several trips to gentlemen’s clubs and a two-story drop. And that’s all under the watchful eye of at least one Hockey Hall of Fame representative.

Ouimet has Loralyn Werkmeister and Brayden Barnthouse of the Bruno Event Team.

“When we have it, it’s pretty tame,” Werkmeister, 21, said when asked if the trophy comes with any colorful anecdotes. “Most people want to come out and take their picture with it. And they ask if this is the one that will be presented to the winner or just a replica.”

“If there are stories about it,” Barnthouse added, “we haven’t heard them.”

The trophy, on display at the Tinker Air Force Base Star Spangled Salute Air Show and Open House Saturday, is the authentic award. Once it is bestowed to the 2014 U.S. Senior Open champion July 13, the USGA will reclaim the cup until next year. But until then, the Bruno Event Team has a list of protocols to follow.

“When we are handling it,” Barnthouse explained, “we like to keep the white gloves on.”

White gloves are only the start. When not on display, the trophy is encapsulated in a steel reinforced case, travels in a company car and spends its nights secluded in the offices of the Bruno Event Team.

It seems all the extra precautions are for not. The hardware has been in the area for more than a month without incident. That also includes a drama free bedlam baseball visit. With more than 10 stops left on its promotional tour, both Werkmeister and Barnthouse don’t expect any complications because, “It’s been tame.”

It is fitting that such a prestigious event featuring high profile talent such as Vijay Singh, Kenny Perry, Bob Tway and Fred Couples would have such an unassuming trophy. Ouimet was an unknown in 1913 and not expected to overcome the might of the British duo of Ted Ray and Harry Vardon.

And it appeared Ouimet couldn’t break through the air show crowd Saturday.

“If it was named after Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer you would recognize that,” claimed Joyner.

Joyner’s statement was quickly struck down by his son Nicholas. More than a century after Ouimet’s meteoric rise, Nicholas, 20, offered a shock of his own. He knew about the 1913 Open and Ouimet’s impressive feat.

Nicholas isn’t a golf historian. He is more of a passive researcher. The kind of person that flips through channels and stops to watch “The Greatest Game Ever Played.”

“It was just on the other day,” he said. “I’ve seen it before so I thought I would watch it again.”

The Francis D. Ouimet Memorial Trophy is far from matching Stanley or Lombardi, but then again the leader in the clubhouse isn’t the one that always wins.

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