Tuesday, March 4

‘The Match’ by Mark Frost

From the author of The Greatest Game Ever Played, The Match tells the story of a 1956 private match between two legendary pros –- Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson –- and two top amateurs –- Harvie Ward and Ken Venturi.

The match was arranged by Eddie Lowery, a millionaire who caddied for Francis Ouimet in the 1913 U.S. Open (The Greatest Game Ever Played), and George Coleman, a baron of industry and close friend of Ben Hogan. The setting is Cypress Point Golf Club on the Monterey Peninsula just prior to the Bing Crosby Pro-Am.

I had read about this famous match over the years, but, to my knowledge, Mark Frost is the first to tackle it in book form. The subtitle (The Day the Game of Golf Changed Forever) struck me as hype, but Mark makes a case by explaining golf's professional-amateur paradigm of the mid-20th century.

If you know nothing about it, the match itself was an unbelievable day of golf that has become legend. Mark Frost writes pretty sentences, and he escorts the reader around Cypress Point with his usual skill.

I was curious to see how Mark would stretch the material into a book. The answer is he intersperses the personal stories of the four players, Lowery and Coleman. I’ve read fairly extensively about this period and managed to pick up new information, particularly on the colorful, fun-loving Harvie Ward.

If you like a well-told story from the early era of professional golf, you’ll certainly enjoy The Match.

The Armchair Golfer


Rudy said...

Thanks for the review. I might just pick up the book, or *gasp* wait for the movie. ;-)

Steve Powers said...

I just finished reading The Match. It was a very good book, but not much because of the story of The Match, but because of the biographical details interspersed between the narrative of the duel between the amateurs and pros. It also really shows why the era of the amateur golfer on the pro tour faded out. I can't imagine a Tiger Woods choosing to remain an amateur and why would he, with the mega millions he makes at golf and in endorsements. The story of how Harvie Ward lost his amateur status was particularly fascianting...that would not happen in today's world.

Steve Powers

Rudy said...

Well, being an amateur means "for the love of it" but nowadays that just means "you have a high handicap". Tiger Woods really can't pass up the chance for the millions. You're right, it's all about commercialism and making money. You won't get drama with Tiger.