Thursday, July 1, 2010

Book Review: "The Match" by Mark Frost

I picked the right time of the year to read this book. It just fit very nicely to take in a book that is largely about Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson while the PGA Tour was playing it's Dallas events that are so closely tied to those golfing greats.
"The Match" is about a round of golf played on Cypress Point in 1956, which pitted a pro team of Hogan and Nelson against the top amateurs of the time Harvie Ward and Ken Venturi. The round was played during the buildup to Bing Crosby's clambake, which at that time was a major event on the PGA Tour.
"The Match" was published in 2007.
Mark Frost is a bestselling author as well as a producer and director in both TV and movies. He worked on such significant creations as Hill Street Blues, Twin Peaks, and Fantastic Four. Other books about golf include "The Grand Slam" about Bobby Jones, and "The Greatest Game Ever Played" about Francis Ouimet's US Open victory.
In the 1950's, the golf world was still debating whether the game belonged completely to the professional tour players, or if there was still a chance the amateur game could be competitive. Bobby Jones had retired decades earlier, and nobody had stepped up to be the champion of the amateur cause.
The money on the PGA Tour was growing, but it was not a sport in which you were able to accumulate great personal wealth. If you were very good, you could make it go around, but that was about it. Some in the golf community held on to the amateur ideals with great passion and fervor, while others had hitched their wagon to the pro train.
Eddie Lowery was a San Francisco car dealer, and a rich one at that. He was also a great fan of golf, and amateur golf in particular. He often employed top amateur talent at his dealership, and his support made it possible for them to attend the major amateur tournaments and to work on their game.
In one of the many parties leading up to The Clambake in 1956 he got into an argument with fellow rich guy George Coleman. Eddie claimed that his best amateur players could beat any two professionals. George and Eddie decided to put some money on it, and George went about finding himself a couple of pros. Lucky for him, he was close to the Texas golf contingent, and he was able to round up none other than Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan.
"The Match" is about the ensuing game. Every shot is covered in great detail. Interspersed with the retelling of the round the author covers the personal history of the four golfers, as well as how their lives turned out after this round.
VERDICT - Birdie
I must admit, when I first heard about The Match I was a little sceptical. It's a book about one round of golf. Surely there's no way to make that spellbinding in any way.
Well, Mark Frost manages to do just that. By weaving the personal histories of each of the players in and out of his retelling of the round itself he keeps every chapter fresh and the story moves forward at a very comfortable pace. His writing is casual and easy to read.
As I was reading it I had to wonder how much of this story was truly real. Because of the setting and the participants, it sort of felt like "Magic and Bird One-On-One at the YMCA on the corner". At the end of the book he retells the research he did in writing the book, and by all accounts it's a true representation of a great day of golf. I think he would have been better served to have this documentation up front.
I highly recommend "The Match" to any golfer or golf fan.

1 comment:

  1. Kilt, thanks for the review. picking the book up this weekend. I'll let you know my take.