Golf is blessed to draw talented writers into the fold; see: P.G. Wodehouse, Agatha Christie, John Updike, and Ian Fleming. Alongside such august writers we can add the name of Mark Frost.
Frost is a best-selling novelist and wrote for the TV drama Hill Street Blues. He also created the popular show Twin Peaks. Frost wrote a trilogy of golf books. The first was about Francis Ouimet’s victory in the 1913 US Open at Brookline; his second was about Bobby Jones and the Grand Slam; the third is The Match. The book is one of the most popular ever published on the subject and was a New York Times bestseller.
It has all the elements needed in an engaging book. First and foremost, a compelling story, which is enhanced by a master storyteller. The fact that the underlying subject is a match played at the dreamy Cypress Point only adds to the enticing nature of the narrative. Perennially ranked as one of the top three golf courses in the world, Cypress Point is located adjacent to Pebble Beach in California. Designed by Dr. Alister Mackenzie, the elite club has a small membership and an invitation to play is very difficult to secure.
The story revolves around a match played at Cypress in 1956 which paired up two of the best amateurs of the day (Harvie Ward and Ken Venturi) against two of the best professionals ever to play the game (Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson). Among the many themes in the book is the amateur v. professional match-up, one that was uncommon at the time since professional didn’t want to risk being beaten by their perceived juniors. Frost weaves in the compelling life stories of all the main players throughout the fast paced book. At 250 pages, The Match is a more compact and digestible book than The Greatest Game Ever Played, which stretches to 475 pages.
The story is made richer by the other cast of characters in the drama, including Francis Ouimet’s caddie from the Brookline surprise victory (Eddie Lowery), the millionaire and Cypress Point and Augusta National members George Coleman, and because it is centered around Ben Crosby’s Clambake tournament. Of course, the match comes down the to final shot as you would expect in any great drama. But who wins, and how do the underlying back-stories add to the suspense?
With good reason, The Match is among the most popular of golf books and is worth your time and attention to read. It also makes a great gift for the golf fan.
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