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While I enjoy an occasional round of golf and watching PGA tournaments on TV, I'm not much of a golf history buff. When I heard an interview with Mark Frost on a podcast, discussing The Match, I knew I had to read it.
The Match is the story of a "friendly" round of golf instigated by Eddie Lowery, the boy caddie of Francis Ouimet, whose story was chronicled by Frost in his earlier book The Greatest Game Ever Played (Grade: A+). What made The Match unique, was the foursome that played: Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Ken Venturi, and Harvie Ward. Nelson and Hogan were legendary professional golfers, though somewhat past their prime. Venturi and Ward were a couple of young amateurs who "worked" for Lowery at his car dealership (an arrangement that proved detrimental to Ward).
The book casts this battle as one between golf professionals and amateurs for the future of golf. Contrary to the current climate, the PGA tour was hardly a jetsetting high-paying profession. It was a grind that saw pros driving from tournament to tournament, staying in cheap motels, and hoping to earn enough money to buy their meals and repay their backers.
The Match took place at Cypress Point Golf Club, an apparently extraordinary course that is no longer host to PGA events. It was played prior to the 1956 Crosby Clambake, which has since become the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. The backstory about Cypress Point and the Clambake is fascinating enough in its own right. But what makes the book a page turner is the tension of The Match itself. The four golfers played an almost unbelievable round of match play, in which neither side ever led by more than one hole (I won't spoil the story by telling you which team won.) Interspersed are the life stories of the four protagonists. While I knew of Nelson, Hogan, and Venturi, I didn't know the story of their lives and how they intertwined. I hadn't heard of Ward, which is a shame, because he was an incredible amateur golfer who was seen as the successor to Bobby Jones.
My one complaint with the book was the prose Frost occasionally used in describing the golfers' lives. For example:
You didn't need a crystal ball to see that worldly success waited just down the road for Harvie; he wore the "can't miss" sign in neon lights a mile high and exuded the rare intangible confidence of a man supremely comfortable in his own skin. That future appeared all mapped out; Harvie just had to fill in the details on the requisition; sign on the dotted line; and start living the life of Reilly.
I'm not sure what exactly bothers me about the language, perhaps the use of cliches or hyperbole. However, this is outweighed by the way Frost paints the picture of Cypress Point and The Match.
If you have even a passing interest in golf, or appreciate the competition of elite athletes, you owe it to yourself to read The Match.
Reviewed by Stephen
-BOOK SITE: The Greatest Game Ever Played
-BOOK SITE: The Greatest Game Ever Played (Hyperion)
-INTERVIEW: with Mark Frost (Allan Hunkin, Written Voices)
-INTERVIEW: Writer-Producer-Novelist Mark Frost (Luke Ford)
-FAQ -> Mark Frost (Twin Peaks Online)
-FILMOGRAPHY: Mark Frost (Imdb.com)
-BIBLIO: The Many Works of Mark Frost (Wow Bob Wow: Twin Peaks Fanzine)
-PROFILE: Mark Frost knew a great golf story when he saw it (BRIAN LAMBERT, Dec. 14, 2002, Pioneer Press)
-ARTICLE: What is 'The Greatest Game Ever Played'?: Author chronicles momentous match that changed golf (Todd Leopold, 12/12/02, CNN)
-REVIEW: of Greatest Game Ever Played (David Owen, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW: of Greatest Game Ever Played (Bill Ott, Booklist)
-REVIEW: of Greatest Game Ever Played (Ron Kaplan, Book Page)
-REVIEW: of Greatest Game Ever Played (Scott Bernard Nelson, Boston Globe)
-REVIEW: of Greatest Game Ever Played (Kevin Mitchell, The Observer)
-REVIEW: of Greatest Game Ever Played (Sports Book Review Center)
Book-related and General Links:
- Pebble Beah Pro-AM Wikipedia Entry
-Pictures of Cypress Point Golf Club from GolfClubAtlas.com