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Golfweek Comp Issue June 8, 2015 : Page 38

SUMMER READING GOLF LIFE GREENS AND GRAYS Eclectic figures anything but black and white by Bradley S. Klein “Men in Green” flows from a neat conceit: road-trip journalism following the lives of a mixed bag of golfers – some famous, others less so, but arguably more interesting. Veteran Sports Illustrated golf writer Michael Bamberger, a former PGA Tour caddie and author of several memoir-style books as well as co-author (with Alan Shipnuck) of a rollicking novel about Tiger Woods, “The Swinger,” here takes us on a journey in search of golf legends. It’s partly a journalistic “Citizen Kane,” sifting through various accounts as that 1941 movie did. In terms of sports commemoration, Simon & Schuster, 2015 272 pages, hardcover $27 there’s also some emulation of Roger Kahn’s famous “where are they now” paean about the post-World War II Brooklyn Dodgers, “The Boys of Summer.” And all along, there’s Bamberger’s trusty sidekick along for the ride as muse and color commentator, Mike Donald – yes, the one who lost the 1990 U.S. Open in a 19-hole playoff to Hale Irwin. Among the more famous they encounter, Arnold Palmer comes off as open-minded and gracious. Ken Venturi, by contrast, interviewed months before his death in May 2013, sounds like a bitter and unforgiving fellow who can’t escape his conviction that Palmer cheated his way to his first green jacket in 1958 with a suspect drop at the 12th hole. Venturi should know, because he was there, and in the process lost that Masters. But he doesn’t know. Though he is certain. The ones who didn’t quite make it are even more s s s interesting than the ones who did. There’s Dolphus “Golf Ball” Hull, a legendary caddie a generation or two ago who looped for winners such as Raymond Floyd and Calvin Peete and went through money like it was water in the desert. He’s on his last legs here in a Mississippi nursing home and doesn’t regret a minute of his life. In typical “Rashoman” effect, conflicting accounts as to whether Floyd actually traveled to Mississippi to pay his respects to an ailing Hull are never resolved here. Which is how it should be. Experienced journalists know that it’s not possible to resolve contending accounts of the same events. Instead of trying to explain things, sometimes it’s better to let the mystery just sit there unraveled. In Bamberger’s hands, these men (and women) in green never appear in black and white. Gwk 38 G O L F W EEK .C O M • J U N E 8 , 2 015

Summer Book Club

Bradley S. Klein

SUMMER READING

GREENS AND GRAYS

Eclectic figures anything but black and white

“Men in Green” flows from a neat conceit: road-trip journalism following the lives of a mixed bag of golfers – some famous, others less so, but arguably more interesting.

Veteran Sports Illustrated golf writer Michael Bamberger, a former PGA Tour caddie and author of several memoirstyle books as well as co-author (with Alan Shipnuck) of a rollicking novel about Tiger Woods, “The Swinger,” here takes us on a journey in search of golf legends. It’s partly a journalistic “Citizen Kane,” sifting through various accounts as that 1941 movie did.

In terms of sports commemoration, there’s also some emulation of Roger Kahn’s famous “where are they now” paean about the post-World War II Brooklyn Dodgers, “The Boys of Summer.” And all along, there’s Bamberger’s trusty sidekick along for the ride as muse and color commentator, Mike Donald – yes, the one who lost the 1990 U.S. Open in a 19-hole playoff to Hale Irwin.

Among the more famous they encounter, Arnold Palmer comes off as open-minded and gracious. Ken Venturi, by contrast, interviewed months before his death in May 2013, sounds like a bitter and unforgiving fellow who can’t escape his conviction that Palmer cheated his way to his first green jacket in 1958 with a suspect drop at the 12th hole. Venturi should know, because he was there, and in the process lost that Masters. But he doesn’t know. Though he is certain.

The ones who didn’t quite make it are even more interesting than the ones who did. There’s Dolphus “Golf Ball” Hull, a legendary caddie a generation or two ago who looped for winners such as Raymond Floyd and Calvin Peete and went through money like it was water in the desert. He’s on his last legs here in a Mississippi nursing home and doesn’t regret a minute of his life. In typical “Rashoman” effect, conflicting accounts as to whether Floyd actually traveled to Mississippi to pay his respects to an ailing Hull are never resolved here.

Which is how it should be. Experienced journalists know that it’s not possible to resolve contending accounts of the same events. Instead of trying to explain things, sometimes it’s better to let the mystery just sit there unraveled. In Bamberger’s hands, these men (and women) in green never appear in black and white. Gwk

FRIENDS AND FOES

Watson, Nicklaus rivalry defined era

by Adam Schupak

Less than 10 pages into

“The Secret of Golf”, Joe Posnanski recounts the time he was working as a young columnist at The Kansas City Star and received a call from hometown hero and avid Star reader Tom Watson, who sensed Posnanski was phoning it in on occasion.

“This is Tom Watson,” he said. “Let me ask you a question. What do you want to be? Do you want to be great? Do you want to be thought of the way the great sportswriters are thought of?”

Posnanski stumbled and stammered, but eventually confirmed he wanted to be considered in the same pantheon as Red Smith, Jim Murray and Frank Deford.

“Then stop writing those damned list columns,” Watson said before hanging up.

Watson never lacked the drive to be great, and he pushed himself to win eight major titles and unseat Jack Nicklaus as the game’s best player for a period of time before his putter betrayed him. Posnanski, a prolific writer, blossomed into a favorite of many, including me. In his fourth book, he captures the depth of the Nicklaus-Watson friendship, their quests for greatness and a rivalry that defined an era.

If there’s one knock, other than the banal title, it is that while Posnanski presents Watson warts and all, those shortcomings are glossed over and fail the show-don’t-tell test. Posnanski can be forgiven because he doles out short lessons from Nicklaus and Watson between each chapter. I found these interludes from the main narrative entertaining and helpful when applied to my game. During one such lesson entitled “Make the Putt,” Posnanski recounts how Watson’s father, Ray, instilled in his son the importance of being an aggressive putter. You can’t make a putt if you leave it short. You can’t be a good putter when you’re defensive.

Fast-forward 20-odd pages and Posnanski, that master storyteller, is describing how Watson is about to clinch his elusive U.S. Open title at Pebble Beach in 1982. All that stands in his way after the famous chip-in birdie at 17 is two putts from 25 feet at the last. Only Watson doesn’t tap the downhiller. He’s aggressive. Too aggressive. Yet somehow the ball dives right into hole.

The first thing Watson did, Posnanski tells us, was phone his father.

“Why the hell didn’t you lag that putt?” Ray scolded.

“It went in, didn’t it?” Tom replied. “Happy Father’s Day.”

CIVICS CLASS

Until the final putt settles at the 2015 U.S. Open, the star of this year’s national championship is going to be the golf course. Some of the players will hate its quirkiness and scale. Others will revel in its evocation of links-style demands and in the beauty of its setting by Puget Sound. But as “America’s St. Andrews” makes clear, no one can dispute what an interesting story it is that this course ever got built.

At the risk of engaging a neologism, a golf course biography is an awkward genre. Most golfers know of a golf course from what they see and confront during a round. Yet the success of that playing surface depends upon lots of hidden processes, some of them buried in time, much of it sunken below ground and part of the infrastructure.

Blaine Newnham, a long-time and prominent chronicler of the Pacific Northwest sports scene, conveys not some epic drama but a more sober, factual and welcomingly detailed account of how Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg prevailed upon a suspicious public and managed to land a U.S. Open only eight months after opening day.

In a story of this scale – it goes from Ice Age through centuries of gravel mining to the refinements of designing and growing in a golf course – it’s easy to get lost in details or personalities or to revert to civic cheerleading. A wealth of photography, maps and sketches allows the story to be told in a visually powerful way that text alone cannot fully capture. That imagery is enough to offset the occasional repetition or disjuncture of the written narrative.

SCOTCH AND YODA

by Martin Kaufmann

Like scotch. A lot. Probably too much. I’m especially fond of the smoky, peaty, earthy scotches so distinctive, from their initial pour, that they could have been produced only on Islay, the southernmost island of Scotland’s Inner Hebrides chain.

So I instantly was intrigued by this little book. It ostensibly is about the inaugural Lord of the Isles Challenge, an event combining a round of golf on Machrie Golf Links, which dates to 1891, with a marathon. Underlying this is a quirky cast of characters – Caballo Blanco, Guapo, Grahame, Gustav and Alasdair, the ancient, Yoda-like wise man – dealing with life’s big questions.

Author Robert Kroeger succeeds on the first part; I’ve daydreamed about whether I could will my body into shape for the next LOI Challenge in September. As for the tale of Caballo and company, it probably would have benefited from a storyteller’s narrative, rather than extended, and occasionally stilted, dialogue.

But on the whole, Kroeger’s tale only confirmed why some of us view Islay as a bucket-list experience.

Read the full article at http://www.mydigitalpublication.com/article/Summer+Book+Club/2022732/260972/article.html.

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