IN HONOR OF PRESIDENTS DAY, I’m giving away an autographed hardcover edition of First Off the Tee: Presidential Hackers, Duffers, and Cheaters from Taft to Bush by Don Van Natta Jr. This lively and authoritative story of presidential golf was a New York Times bestseller and Sports Illustrated book of the year.
Due out in June, Don’s new book is Wonder Girl: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias. Zaharias was an athletic phenom and one of the 13 founders of the LPGA. More here
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(The drawing is now closed. A winner has been selected. Keep reading ARMCHAIR GOLF for more chances to win cool prizes.)
To enter the drawing for First Off the Tee, send an email to email@example.com that includes your name and mailing address. I’ll notify you if you’re the winner, and Don will autograph and mail your book. Good luck!
Following is an encore of the Presidents Golf Championship (my fictitious matchplay tournament) that appeared at ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG in January 2009. Don was the guest analyst.
EISENHOWER WINS PGC IN SUDDEN-DEATH PLAYOFF
BY HOLING A 40-INCH PAR PUTT on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff, Dwight Eisenhower conquered his putting demons to upset top seed John F. Kennedy on Sunday in the Presidents Golf Championship (PGC) at Augusta National Golf Club. It was a redemptive stroke for Ike, who had three-putted the 18th hole to allow Kennedy to even the match and send it to extra holes.
“I thought I had lost it on the low side,” Eisenhower said of the match-clinching putt, “but it caught the edge and fell in, thankfully.”
JFK bunkered his approach on the 10th, the first playoff hole. The 35th president left his long bunker shot well short and his uphill 18-foot par putt stopped inches shy of the hole. Ike played his third shot from the depression in front of the sloping green, a nifty pitch and run that rolled to within throw-up range for the general, who backed away twice before nervously jabbing his Titleist into the cup.
How Ike Prevailed
Eisenhower was clearly the underdog, and many on hand were shocked that the match had gotten away from the youthful, athletic Kennedy, who had dominated his opponents in earlier matches.
Theories abounded. JFK was overconfident. He was tired. His chronically bad back ached from too much golf in recent days. Or, as one Kennedy aide suggested with a wink, JFK was distracted by the many attractive spectators in the large gallery.
Perhaps the most reasonable explanation for Eisenhower’s upset victory was that the old general knew the ground better than his opponent. A longtime member, Ike had recorded more than 100 rounds at Augusta National. The former Commander of Allied Forces knew his way around the former tree nursery. He also knew his own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of his opponent, and he put that knowledge to work.
“In match play, I really felt like I had a chance against him,” Eisenhower said, “especially here.”
Kennedy shrugged off the defeat. “That’s golf,” he said. “What can you expect? Ike had a good day. He knows where to hit it around this place.”
Onlookers knew better. Underneath his smooth veneer, JFK was furious that the rival he had labeled “duffer-in-chief” and once called “that old asshole” had bested him. Sometimes the wrong man wins, Kennedy thought, whether in politics or golf.
Ike thought the same thing, and was glad it didn’t happen on Sunday.
#2 Eisenhower defeats #1 Kennedy, 1-up (19 holes)
#1 Kennedy defeats #13 Nixon, 10 and 8
#2 Eisenhower defeats #3 Ford, 3 and 1
#1 Kennedy defeats #8 Obama, (match score not disclosed)
#13 Nixon defeats #5 George H.W. Bush, 1-up
#2 Eisenhower defeats #7 Clinton, 9 and 7
#3 Ford defeats #6 George W. Bush, 4 and 3
#1 Kennedy defeats #16 Grant, 10 and 8
#8 Obama defeats #9 Reagan, 1-up
#5 George H.W. Bush defeats #12 Wilson, 4 and 2
#13 Nixon defeats #4 Roosevelt, 2 and 1
#6 George W. Bush defeats #11 Taft, 5 and 4
#3 Ford defeats #14 Johnson, 6 and 5
#7 Clinton defeats #10 Harding, 1-up
#2 Eisenhower defeats #15 Coolidge, 9 and 7
−The Armchair Golfer