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Ryder Cup 2012

October 1, 2012 Leave a comment

The first post on Ron’s View, just over four years ago, had the 2008 Ryder Cup as its subject. I wrote the post in the evening after the three-day competition ended. With this year’s edition ending yesterday, it seems only appropriate that I return to the subject.

The Ryder Cup competition takes place every two years, between a US team of 12 golfers and a European team of 12. You can read the history in many places. The short version: competition starts in 1927, matching US and British players. Along the way, Northern Irish and Irish golfers are added. After World War II, the US always wins. People lose interest. In 1979, the GB&I team is expanded to include continental Europe. Suddenly, the competition heats up. Europe begins to win, thanks to a new generation of golfers who are at the same time winning their share of the four annual major tournaments. Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam, José María Olazábal, Colin Montgomerie (well, he never won a major, but he came close, and was a strong Ryder Cup player). The European team typically doesn’t have the depth of the US team, but they keep finding ways to win. Interest expands. TV coverage increases. Fanatical fans show up. Rowdiness ensues. It becomes a major international sporting event, attracting the interest even of people who otherwise pay no attention to golf. It’s a happening. People dress like morons and hoot and holler. Along the way, some extraordinary golf is played.

Why is it so exciting? I’d say the format. Not that I’m striking out into new territory with that suggestion. But it’s the correct explanation.

First of all, the scoring is match play. In any given match, you count holes won, not strokes played. That makes each hole a mini-match. Second, on Friday and Saturday, the players compete in teams, two against two, four matches each morning and four each afternoon. One daily session consists of foursomes competition, surely the coolest golf format in existence. Each pair alternates playing a ball on each hole. If you’re my partner, you tee off on hole 1 and we alternate until one of us gets the ball in the cup. On the next hole, I tee off. Then you, then me, etc. The other daily session features fourball — each of the four players plays his own ball and the best one of the four, if there is a best one, wins the hole. This opens the door to one player taking risks while another plays it safe, introducing additional opportunities for strategy.

There’s nothing like Ryder Cup Sunday. The twelve players on each side get matched up and go out in singles matches, one against one. Twelve simultaneous matches are played, each having its own drama of as many as eighteen mini-matches. (I should explain that in match play, if let’s say you arrive at the 18th hole having won 6 holes while your opponent has won 4, with 7 holes drawn or “halved” 7 holes, then you are 2 up. There’s no point playing the 18th. The match is over and you have won, 2 and 1, which is to say you are 2 up with 1 hole to go. In the most extreme case, if you win the first 10 holes, your opponent can’t catch up and the match ends there, with you having one 10 and 8.)

The excitement of the last day is intensified because the overall team score can shift back and forth in the blink of an eye. One team may have 6 players ahead, another 4 ahead, with 2 even, but the margins may be just 1 or 2 holes one way or the other in each match, so that in half an hour perhaps the status of half those matches can flip. A missed put here, a dramatic chip in there, and the overall complexion changes instantly. Which is pretty much what happened yesterday.

Just one example. In the match between Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose, Mickelson was up 1 on the 16th hole and poised to go up 2 unless Rose could sink a hard putt, which he did to halve the hole and keep himself just 1 back. On 17, Mickelson thought he sank a devilishly difficult chip from off the green, which would probably win the hole and match, but it didn’t go in. Rose then sank his 40 foot putt to win the hole instead and draw even. The ever gracious Mickelson smiled at Rose and applauded. Then, on 18, Rose made another great putt for birdie to win the hole and, in fact, the match. It was that kind of day for Europe, which came from way back to win the cup.

An extraordinary day of golf. But not one I can celebrate openly, unless I’m looking to move. Gail isn’t as charmed by the greatness of the moment. She’s in mourning mode. I must tread carefully.

For the closing word, I turn to Taiwan’s Next Media Animation, or nma.tv, which in its inimitable way put together a video that captures the excitement of Ryder Cup 2012. I’ve embedded the video up top. (Hat tip: Geoff Shackelford. I have written previously about NMA’s work here.)

Categories: Animation, Golf

Masters 2013, Here We Come

August 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Augusta’s 12th hole

Augusta National Golf Club is in the news this week because of its announcement Monday that it has admitted its first female members. (I just wrote about the announcement, expressing my disgust regarding one of the two new members.) But that’s not the only news.

The club runs The Masters, one of men’s golf’s four major tournaments, and for many players and observers, the best. I have had the good fortune of attending the three other majors: The Open Championship (familiarly known in the US as the British Open) at St. Andrews in 1990 and Troon in 2004, the US Open at Bethpage on Long Island in 2002, and the PGA Championship here at nearby Sahalee in 1998. But I have never gone to the Masters.

There’s a reason. It’s just about the hardest US sports ticket to get hold of. Tickets for the other three majors are made publicly available, but the Masters is like season tickets for team sports: ticket holders can renew their subscriptions, receiving tickets for life. Since the club isn’t interested in making a ton of money through ticket sales, a modest number of tickets is sold compared to other golf tournaments, and ticket prices remain low. Thus, ticket turnover is low too.

Ticket holders are barred by Augusta’s rules from re-selling their tickets, but of course many do, and the resulting prices are high. Once you get on the course, food prices are low. Indeed, the food is flat out cheap. Not cheap just by the standards of a sporting event, but cheap like turning the clock back a few decades.

There used to be a waiting list for available tickets, but the club abandoned that recently. Intead, it makes a small number of tickets available by lottery. You have to set up an account, log in, give them some information, and apply separately for tickets on tournament days (Thursday through Sunday) and on practice days (Monday through Wednesday). There’s a limit, 2 tickets per day on tournament days, 4 per day on practice days. I applied for both a year ago for this year’s Masters and struck out. I applied again a few months ago for next year’s tournament, learning a month ago that I would not be getting tournament tickets.

Now for the big news: Last night, I got an email informing me that I had won the practice round lottery. I was asked to log in for details. On doing so, I learned that I’ve won 4 tickets for Tuesday, the second practice day. Only Tuesday. I need to pay by September 15 or release them.

Not exactly what I was hoping for. Imagine flying all the way to Georgia, finding a hotel, and staying just for one day. It hardly seems worth the trouble.

Then again, the Masters! I can go! I can see the 12th hole at last. And the 13th. And the 14th. All of them! The holes any golf fan has memorized from years of watching the coverage on TV. (I failed to make this point — the other three majors rotate among courses. The Masters is always in one place. Players and fans come to know the course intimately.)

What to do? I have no idea. My cousin John has told me for years that however hard it is to get tournament tickets, or however expensive, obtaining practice round tickets is a breeze. I could pay for the Tuesday tickets and count on finding Wednesday tickets, so we could attend for two days, not just one. Or wait for the year that we win the tournament ticket lottery. Or, after a few more years of failure, just pay the big bucks.

Meanwhile, here’s an article by WSJ sportswriter Jason Gay that I just found, written on the eve of last April’s Masters.

The Masters may be one of the hardest tickets in sports – daily tournament tickets are awarded by lottery, and though the price is a relatively modest $75, the reselling market can be many multiples of that (on Stubhub.com, there were Sunday tickets available for $745 each; Thursday’s were going for $590).

But once you’re inside the grounds, Augusta is weirdly inexpensive. The general rule of the modern sporting event is the “quintuple gouge” – gouge you for a seat, gouge you to park, gouge you to eat, gouge you to drink, and gouge you once more if you’re daffy and flush enough to want a souvenir. But the Masters is charmingly anti-gouge. Official parking is free, though if you want to be a cowboy and park at a private lot, there are plenty for $10. Food is astonishingly cheap – not just cheap in the sporting event context, but just cheap, cheap. The famous Pimento cheese sandwich is a buck and a half; two of them will have you napping under a shade tree. An egg salad sandwich is also $1.50. The Masters club sandwich is $2.50. For big spenders, you can go wild with a grilled chicken wrap at $3.00.

And beer? This will make you cry: $3 for domestic, $3.75 for imports.

At those prices you should have a few clams left over for a stop at the souvenir stand, where the prices are not discount den, but hardly grim. Official cotton Masters hats are $24, visors are $15; a commemorative glass is $7; you can buy a Masters carry-on bag for $99, but it comes with free shipping. Probably the most useful and travel-friendly gift is the official ball marker, which goes for $8. Last year’s Masters winner Charl Schwartzel raked in $1.44 million for his performance – good enough to purchase 180,000 ball markers, or 960,000 Pimento sandwiches.

If only today’s well-moneyed athletes played for Pimento sandwiches. Sports would be a different, cheesy place.

Some day. I don’t think I even like pimento cheese sandwiches, but I look forward to buying one.

Categories: Golf

The Good Life, War Criminal Division

August 23, 2012 Leave a comment

2012 Masters winner Bubba Watson receiving his green jacket from 2011 winner Charl Schwartzel

[AP]

I should have seen this one coming. What? I’ll get to it. Some background first.

Augusta National Golf Club is home to the most famous golf course in the country and host of The Masters, one of the four major men’s golf championships. It’s not your typical local golf club, with membership drawn primarily from the region around Augusta, Georgia. Rather, as the name suggests, it is a national club, with a membership including many CEOs and political leaders.

Membership is by invitation only. Asking to join is a good way to ensure that you won’t be invited, at least not for a while. Supposedly this happened to Bill Gates. That’s the story that got told a few years back anyway.

The lack of African-American members was a source of controversy a couple of decades ago, in the context of the PGA Tour having a policy of not holding tournaments at clubs without black members. The club soon admitted some. More recently, the absence of women among the membership had become national news, thanks especially to the attention Martha Burk, former chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, drew to this issue in 2002. She called for a boycott by the Masters tournament advertisers, to which the club’s long-time chair Hootie Johnson responded by preempting her, announcing that there would be no TV ads (and reducing whatever fee CBS pays for coverage of the tournament). The Masters exercises tight control over the broadcast as it is, with strictly limited advertising and no CBS promos of upcoming shows. It is far and away the best golf broadcast of the year.

This year, the spotlight fell once again on the absence of women among club members, for an entirely different reason. As Jason Gay explained in the WSJ:

Augusta National is again confronted with a question that gets elevated as a “cultural moment” but really just sounds absurd in 2012: Why aren’t there any women members?

The subject has been pushed to the forefront by the appointment of Virginia M. Rometty as the CEO of IBM. IBM is a prominent Masters sponsor, and Augusta National has a history of inviting the company’s top executive to join its club. Ms. Rometty is a golfer. She spent late Sunday afternoon at Augusta sitting in a second-row chair behind the 18th green. Her jacket was pink, not green [green being the color of jackets that members receive].

Hootie Johnson’s successor as club chair, Billy Payne — whom you may remember running the Atlanta Olympics in 1996; he did a good job, maybe he should run for president — insisted at the time that membership is a private issue, and they would invite women when they were ready.

As Gay points out, the club sounded absurd, if not worse. The betting was that they wouldn’t be caught in the same position come April 2013 and the next Masters tournament.

No surprise, then, that three days ago Augusta National finally announced two new female members. One is Darla Moore. On reading about her (here and here), I realized that she was always the “obvious” choice for first female member of Augusta National. She’s a long-time friend of Hootie, fellow graduate of the University of South Carolina, and fellow major USC donor (for whom the business school is named).

Which brings me, at last, to the point of this post — the conventional, predictable, but sickening choice of the other inaugural female member: Condi Rice. Ah, the rewards of directing a regime of torture.

Let’s see. This will do, from an article in 2009:

Condoleezza Rice approved ‘torture’ techniques:

Condoleezza Rice, President George W. Bush’s Secretary of State, personally approved a CIA request to use “waterboarding” and other harsh interrogation techniques.

She verbally agreed to allow the methods to be used on Abu Zubaydah, an al-Qaeda suspect, in July 2002, a Senate report has revealed.

Miss Rice’s role was outlined in a narrative released by the Senate Intelligence Committee as the controversy over alleged torture by the CIA continued to rage.

The information indicates that the programme was approved at the highest levels of the Bush administration.

The new timeline suggests Miss Rice played a more significant role than she acknowledged in written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee submitted in the autumn.

No matter. She’s now a member of the most exclusive golf club in the country.

And let’s not forget Obama telling us nine days before his inauguration that “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.” Okay then. I’m good. Condi, enjoy.

Categories: Golf, Politics, Torture

Ty Cobb at Olympic

June 11, 2012 Leave a comment

The US Open golf championship is being held this week at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, prompting articles in magazines, newspapers, and websites about the club’s history and the four previous US Opens that it has hosted. Each of these Opens is famous as the occasion of an upset, each worthy of a lengthy re-telling. That’s not the purpose of this post, but let me at least review briefly.

1955: One of the greatest upsets in sporting history. Jack Fleck, a muni pro, ties Ben Hogan in regulation, beating him the next day in a playoff. Hogan was never the same. Fleck, still alive, has been in the press a lot the last couple of weeks.

1966: I remember this one. Not exactly an upset when Billy Casper wins, except for the fact that Arnold Palmer led by 7 with nine holes to go. Casper tied him, both finishing 7 strokes ahead of third place Jack Nicklaus, with Casper beating Palmer in the playoff the next day.

1987: Sigh. I remember this one too. My hero, Tom Watson, entered the last round a stroke ahead of Scott Simpson, but Simpson putted like crazy to edge Watson by a stroke, with Ballesteros, Crenshaw, and Langer another 4 strokes back. It was Father’s Day, I was at Gail’s brother’s apartment watching with Gail, Jessica, her brother, and her father. Joel was there also, sort of, a week away from entering the world. I couldn’t get them to understand that we were watching history. They were too busy talking about everything but golf.

1998: I can’t forget this one, not because of what we watched, but because we didn’t. We were in South Dakota on the occasion of Gail’s father’s 60th high school reunion. The reunion was in Groton on Saturday of Open weekend. We were staying with her dad’s sister-in-law in Claremont. He was with Gail’s cousin in Britton. (See if you can find these places on a map.) We all drove down to Groton for the reunion, returned to Claremont for a bit, during which I caught the end of the third round, then drove all the way back to Groton and on west to Aberdeen for the festive dinner. Sunday was one of the crazier days of our lives, as we drove all over eastern South Dakota and even a bit of Minnesota in search of Gail’s cousin’s son’s baseball tournament. When we finally got there, in some park on the outskirts of Sioux Falls, the food available for sale was gone. No lunch. After the games, we had dinner at a gas station-restaurant-store just off the interstate, Gail’s other cousin having made the drive up from I-don’t-remember-where so we could all be together. I was going crazy. I just wanted to get to our hotel and see the end of the golf. But this was a huge family reunion, so that wasn’t about to happen. And I didn’t yet have a smart phone to keep up with the action.

So, anyway, we got to our downtown Sioux Falls hotel, went up to our rooms (Gail and me in one, Joel and grandpa in another), and the golf was still on. We got to see Payne Stewart’s crushing loss to Lee Janzen. Having led by 3 going into the round, with a 5-stroke gap over Janzen, Stewart would lose by a stroke. (A year later, Stewart would famously defeat Phil Mickelson by 1 with a dramatic putt on 18 at Pinehurst. This is the tournament where Mickelson stood ready at any point to fly home for the birth of his and Amy’s first child, who ended up waiting until the next day to show up. We were in New York that day, celebrating Father’s Day with my father. Another missed last round, except for that putt, which Joel and I saw on tv at the club where we were eating dinner.)

It turned out to be a lovely evening. After the golf, Gail and I walked around downtown, got a sense of the city, then returned for dessert in our hotel restaurant with the guys. And the next day, we drove across the state to Rapid City, with many fascinating stops along the way, such as Mitchell’s Corn Palace, the crossing of the Missouri, Badlands National Park, Wall Drug, and, just for scenic effect, the scariest weather I ever saw for the final 30 miles or so along I-90 into Rapid City, with tornadoes in the distance.

I’m straying. The theme of the US Open review: Olympic, where golfing dreams go to die. A course with a painful history. What famous golfer will lose by a stroke or in a playoff this year after having victory in his hands?

Ty Cobb is in the post’s title. Let’s find out why.

The AP’s Antonio Gonzalez had a piece Friday (hat tip: Geoff Shackelford) on The Olympic Club’s history beyond the Opens. He explains at the beginning:

Next week’s U.S. Open host has conquered far more than golf’s greatest.

Little black books buried in the archives of The Olympic Club reveal a place that groomed gold medalists and heavyweight champions, whipped writer Mark Twain into shape and whose members teased Ty Cobb so much after he lost to a 12-year-old that the baseball great rarely returned.

Farther down, we get the Cobb story. It’s short, lacking in detail, but too good to pass up:

Cobb, a hot-tempered and aggressive slugger who received the most votes on the original Hall of Fame ballot, played 12-year-old Bob Rosburg in the first club championship in 1939. Although Cobb had retired from baseball more than a decade earlier, his competitiveness never cooled.

Cobb lost 7 and 6. Rosburg later won the PGA Championship in 1959. And while popular lore is that Cobb resigned in furor, the club has no record that he gave up his membership. Rosburg told Golf Digest in 2010 that Cobb was gracious in defeat but “guys at the club rode him unmercifully for losing to a child. He disappeared and didn’t come back to Olympic for years.”

“He was just so embarrassed,” Olympic general chairman Stephen Meeker said of Cobb, recalling the story.

Another painful Olympic loss.

Gonzalez’s summary of Cobb’s baseball greatness is incomplete, to say the least. A study of Cobb’s stats, here, might help, for those who need help. Check out the career .366 batting average, or the 4189 hits. There’s good reason he was an inaugural Hall of Famer. As for Rosburg (“Rossy”), he had a distinguished golfing career, becoming even more widely known during his decades as a roving commentator on ABC’s golf broadcasts.

Categories: Golf

American Triumvirate, II

March 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Two months ago, I wrote about Jim Dodson’s upcoming book American Triumvirate: Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, and the Modern Age of Golf. A year ago, I had read his 2005 biography Ben Hogan: An American Life, writing about it a month later and quoting from that post in January. As I explained in January, “since finishing the book, I have thought that I would enjoy reading more about the golfers of that era. A biography of Byron Nelson perhaps. You can understand, then, how pleased I was to read a month or two ago (I don’t remember where) that Dodson would have a new book coming out on Hogan, Nelson, and Sam Snead.” My one concern was that having just read the Hogan biography last year, I would find this book repetitious. But with the Masters approaching, another historical golf excursion would provide a good warmup.

The Dodson book was due out a week ago today. The week before, I was reading Jim Baggott’s The Quantum Story: A History in 40 Moments (which I have written about here and here). When I finished it two twelve evenings ago, I had to decide whether to start another book or distract myself otherwise for five days while waiting for American Triumvirate to appear. Remembering that I had pre-ordered it on Amazon, I checked but failed to find evidence of that. This reprieve led to the creative idea that I could actually wait before buying it, allowing myself to read another book (or more) first and turn to Dodson at my leisure.

So it was that I downloaded Orlando Figes The Crimean War: A History, one of the books I was trying to decide among two weeks earlier before selecting Baggott’s quantum mechanics history. (And by the way, what do you make of that subtitle? Might I have thought the book was a comedy without that little tip? Or should I take this as a sign of the perceived ignorance of US readers? The original title in the UK was the more useful and informative Crimea: The Last Crusade.) I will write about it separately. It’s superb. Also long, and dense. As I made slow progress, I realized that I wouldn’t be ready for Dodson for a while.

And then a funny thing happened. On Monday night, eight days ago, the eve of American Triumvirate‘s publication date, I got an email from Amazon informing me that American Triumvirate was now being sent to my Kindle. But I didn’t pre-order it! Then I remembered that my Kindle account purchases aren’t listed together with my book purchases in my Amazon account information. When I checked a few days earlier to see if I had pre-ordered it, what I found was that I hadn’t pre-ordered the book. But I had pre-ordered the e-book, which I now owned. Curious, I picked up my Kindle, got out of The Crimean War, and found American Triumvirate as promised. I went back to The Crimean War, finished chapter 2 (60 pages in) so that I would be at a good pausing point, then began reading American Triumvirate.

Dodson sure does draw the reader in. He’s an excellent companion when proctoring a final exam, as I did Wednesday morning. Unfortunately, he’s also an excellent companion when trying to grade said final exams.

The conflict between reading Dodson and grading felt familiar. Checking, I discovered that sure enough, I had read the Hogan biography at exactly the same time last year, finishing it the weekend I needed to get my final exams graded. And this year I did the same, finishing American Triumvirate late Saturday afternoon, grading tests the rest of Saturday and all day Sunday.

I should explain that the logic behind publishing a book about Snead, Nelson, and Hogan now is that they were born months apart in 1912, making this a centennial year. Yet, as Dodson’s subtitle (“the modern age of golf”) suggests, he aims to tell us a wider story than that of these three contemporaneous golfers. A Prologue plunges us into the middle of the 1954 Masters, but Chapter 1 takes us back to 1912 for an overview of life and golf in America at that time. Soon we go back farther, to 1900 and golfing great Harry Vardon’s visit from Britain, then still farther, to the 1840’s, St. Andrews, golf pro Allan Robertson, and his assistant Tom Morris. From here, time moves forward again, as we return to the turn of the century and the original Great Triumvirate of Vardon, John Henry Taylor, and James Braid, learning about the development of new golf balls and clubs, the growth of the game and of golf courses, andy the births of our heroes-to-be.

Eventually Dodson narrows his focus to our boys, but with the growth of the American pro game a continuing theme. I should note that these aren’t just three of the century’s greatest golfers. They are three absolutely fascinating men. It is a continuing wonder that the Hogan and Snead families both settled not far from the same golf club in Fort Worth, with Byron and Ben heading over just two weeks apart to find out about caddying, eventually to compete in the club’s annual caddy golf tournament. As happened again and again in the coming years, Byron got the upper hand, edging Ben in a playoff. Only after Byron’s miraculous year of 1945, his early retirement a year later, and then Ben’s stunning recovery from the February 1949 accident in which he and wife Valerie collided head on with a Greyhound bus would Ben finally become the unquestioned greatest golfer in the world.

There’s Sam too, but it becomes clear where Dodson’s heart lies. He is, after all, the official Hogan biographer. Despite my fear that I would find the book repetitious, I happily read again of Hogan’s recovery, his peak golfing years of 1950-1953, his painful defeat in the 1955 US Open, and his success as a businessman. He is a towering figure, his story a great piece of American history. However much I admire many of today’s golfers, I don’t see an equal. By all means read American Triumvirate, but even better, read Ben Hogan: An American Life.

Categories: Books, Golf

American Triumvirate

January 11, 2012 Leave a comment

When I got my first Kindle in October 2009, I had to decide what books to put on it for our trip to France and Italy. It occurred to me that I always wanted to know more about Ben Hogan; maybe I could find a biography with a Kindle version. A search through Amazon and I found myself looking at Jim Dodson’s 2005 biography Ben Hogan: An American Life. At 500+ pages, maybe more than I had in mind, but I downloaded it and “carried” it around Europe. I didn’t get to it on that trip, or on a few more, but last March its time came, as I wrote in a post in April. Here’s what I said:

I’ve read so much about the period from late 1930s to mid 1950s during which Hogan, Sam Snead, and Byron Nelson dominated the US golf tour. I had never, however, developed a coherent understanding of those years. In particular, I knew of Ben Hogan’s near-fatal car crash in 1949 and his miraculous return to golf in 1950 (he wasn’t even expected to walk again), culminating in his US Open victory that year at Merion. And I knew of his amazing 1953 season, winning the Masters, the US Open, then heading over to Scotland to appear for the lone time in his career at the British Open, winning at Carnoustie. But the details had eluded me. Now was my chance to learn more.

Dodson’s book is the ultimate in breeziness, a style of writing to which I needed to adjust. Especially when I stumbled into errors such as the one early in the book in which Herbert Hoover is described, “during the long hot days of 1921″ as “Cal Coolidge’s new secretary of commerce.” Surely I’m not the only reader who knows that Coolidge was the vice-president in 1921, not the president. Warren Harding (War Harding?) would have had to do the appointing.

No matter. Dodson has quite a story to tell, and he’s quite a storyteller. We can breeze on by such errors (Dodson also has FDR serving as president in 1932) when there’s so much else to hold our interest. If I were still reading the book rather than having finished it four weeks ago, I would have so many incidents to retell. At this point, I’ll just say that it’s a rich tale, with highlights such as Hogan’s Texas forebears, his early relationship with Byron Nelson at the club where they were both caddies, his marriage, his multiple narrow losses in major golf tournaments in the mid 1940s, his victories, the crushing playoff loss to Jack Fleck at the 1955 US Open, his battle with Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus at the great 1960 US Open, his later years. And in the background, the story of the growth of Fort Worth during the twentieth century.

Since finishing the book, I have thought that I would enjoy reading more about the golfers of that era. A biography of Byron Nelson perhaps. You can understand, then, how pleased I was to read a month or two ago (I don’t remember where) that Dodson would have a new book coming out on Hogan, Nelson, and Sam Snead.

One of the best ways to keep up with the golf world is to listen to the incomparable Peter Kessler each weekday morning on the PGA Tour radio station on SiriusXM satellite radio. Since I have satellite radio only in my car, I tend to catch just snippets of the show, provided I’m actually in the car driving to school between 8:00 and 9:00 am. If I hear even ten minutes, it’s a good day. Kessler is an immensely talented interviewer. He has that warm voice, and the uncanny ability to make you feel like you’re at home with him listening in on a chat among friends.

Today I got in the car, tuned in Peter’s show, and found myself listening to a guest talking about Hogan, Nelson, and Snead. It didn’t take too much imagination to guess that the guest was Jim Dodson and the topic was his forthcoming book on them. Unfortunately, I had stumbled on the end of the conversation. In another two minutes, the interview was over, with Peter identifying the guest as Dodson and urging us to read the book. I would gladly have heard more of the interview.

From the way Peter talked, I might have imagined the book has appeared already. When I got to my office, I looked it up on Amazon. No, not yet. On March 13, American Triumvirate: Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, and the Modern Age of Golf will be published. The Random House website for the book has the following description.

In this celebration of three legendary champions on the centennial of their birth in 1912, one of the most accomplished and successful writers about the game explains the circumstances that made each of them so singularly brilliant and how they, in turn, saved not only the professional tour but modern golf itself, thus making possible the subsequent popularity of players from Arnold Palmer to Tiger Woods.

During the Depression, after the exploits of Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen and Bobby Jones’s triumphant Grand Slam in 1930 had faded in the public imagination, golf’s popularity fell year after year, and as a professional sport it was on the verge of extinction. This was the unhappy prospect facing two dirt-poor boys from Texas and another from Virginia who had dedicated themselves to the game yet could look forward only to eking out a subsistence living along with millions of other Americans. But then lightning struck, and from the late thirties into the fifties these three men were so thoroughly dominant—each setting a host of records–that they transformed both how the game was played and how it was regarded.

In the interview’s tail end, Dodson spoke about Nelson’s love of life as a club pro and Snead’s never-ending pain at failing to win, by his count, the seven US Opens he could or should have won. (He never won any.) I have many wonderful stories to look forward to.

Categories: Books, Golf

The Art of Golf

January 10, 2012 1 comment

The Ladies' Club, 1886, unknown photographer

[From the British Golf Museum. Reproduced at the High Museum website by kind permission of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.]

We love art. We love golf. And if we can get ourselves to Atlanta some time between February 5 and June 24, we’ll be able to see the exhibit The Art of Golf at the High Museum of Art. Regrettably, I don’t think this is going to happen. But I can dream. And look at the exhibition website.

At the site, the show has the following blurb: “Explore the history of golf through paintings, drawings, and photos by artists as diverse as Rembrandt, Andy Warhol, and Norman Rockwell. Featuring memorabilia from the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, as well as the largest collection of Bobby Jones portraits ever assembled.” We also learn the following regarding the photograph above:

Formed in 1867, the St Andrews Ladies Club grew to include 500 members within twenty years—a total close to that of the exclusively male Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrew’s membership of 795. Strict conventions governing acceptable dress meant that women were obliged to play in the restrictive, tightly laced, full-length clothes then deemed fashionable and appropriate. More practical golfing attire became popular at the turn of the century.

Here’s another work featured at the website:

Winter Landscape, ca. 1630, Hendrick Avercamp

[From the Scottish National Gallery]

Regarding this one, we learn that

Hendrick Avercamp’s winter scene conveys a message about democratic social values: various classes – rich and poor, old and young, male and female – are bound together through leisure. Nevertheless, kolf was connected to elite status in seventeenth-century Dutch society, here evidenced by the players’ colorful, elegant clothing. The copper support, unusual for Avercamp, provides a smooth surface appropriate to the gemlike quality of the depiction. Two thin tree trunks enclosed in the ice provide the goal for the group of four kolfers in the right foreground.

You know, I’m pretty sure I saw this painting at a show in the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., not that long ago. Yes, I must have. I just found this post that I wrote in May 2010 about a visit to the National Gallery, and in it I briefly mention what I describe as an “intimate” temporary exhibition, Hendrick Avercamp: The Little Ice Age. The painting was surely there.

I wonder if we can squeeze in an Atlanta trip.

[Thanks to Tim Murphy for drawing my attention to the exhibition in this week’s Golf World Monday, the online accompaniment to Golf World Magazine. (And, yes, Golf World Monday came out today, even though today is Tuesday, because the PGA Tour’s opening event, the Tournament of Champions, concluded yesterday.)]

Categories: Art, Golf, Museums