Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Greatest Game Ever Played

I thought that with winter lingering around most of the country/hemisphere it might be a good time to review golf books. Ludicrous as it may sound, golf books were popular items under the tree for me this year. Mark Frost’s, The Greatest Game Ever Played, found its way from the tree to my carry-on bag during my return trip. A layover and 498 pages later, and it made its way to being among my favorite books.

The book is primarily about the 1913 U.S. Open and its players. Harry Vardon and Francis Ouimet are the two major characters, and Frost guides the reader through their respective careers and personal lives up to their historic meeting at Brookline. In doing so, Frost chronicles what he believes were the major events that gave birth to “modern golf.” Along the way readers are introduced to numerous personalities highlighted by the likes of Walter Hagan and Ted Ray.

Frost is an excellent storyteller. His focus throughout the book is on its characters and his ability to emotionally attach the reader to them is remarkable. The book would be enjoyable to a person with no concept of the Open or the game of golf. Frost, however, is certainly a golfer. His book, although fit for a casual reader, is riveting to anyone who plays the game.

As a golfer, reading this books lets you feel as if you were caddying or keeping score for these men. It attempts to revisit the thoughts created in a golfer by the pressure of an Open. Beyond that, it takes you off the course and into the characters’ family lives, gives insight into their professional concerns, and helps frame an understanding of the challenges they faced in forging the basis for professional golf in America. Frost tone is clear. The men and events surrounding the 1913 U.S. Open did more for Tiger Woods and the modern PGA than most realize.

Although his tone can be sanctimonious and sometimes smacks of “the good old days,” the author has a genuine appreciation for the game and its well-being both then and now. The Greatest Game Ever Played is a title that not only references a particular Open, it is a title that describes the game of golf.


The Undaunted Duffer said...

Currently, I am reading the same book. I am close to being finished with it. I really enjoyed the first half of the book, and how the author introduced us to the main characters and their beginnings as golfers.

However, I know that the book is about the 1913 U.S. Open, but it seems that it just keeps going and going. The chapter covering Day 1 of the Open was like, what, 60 pages? I am determined to finish the thing though.

Greg said...

Having not read the book, but having seen the movie (with my kids), I'm wondering how they compare?

I thought the movie was pretty good. My kids were not as into it as I was... They did say, "Easy peezy lemon squeezy" for a few days though ;^)


CB said...

Greg: Actually I haven't seen it. I wanted to check it out after finishing the book but it is in that limbo between theatres and Netflix. I can't imagine the movie could do the back stories as thoroughly because of the sheer volume of info Frost gives you. I do want to check it out though.

U. Duff: As for the detail he gets into about the players' rounds, it did get a little thick. I enjoyed it, and I felt that once they got through the first two rounds it became much more dramatic. Kind of like the Open.