The Match by Mark FrostI just finished Mark Frost’s new book, The Match: The Day the Game of Golf Changed Forever, and while I was excited to read the latest from the author of the amazing and invaluable true golf tale, The Greatest Game Ever Played, this new book exceeded my expectations. I was moved to tears several times and another, perhaps even more important, slice of golf history was illuminated.

I also looked forward to this read because I had heard that “The Match” takes place at Cypress Point and I’ve always dreamed of playing that course, so it was a treat to walk and play it with some of the greatest golfers of all time. In case you haven’t heard, the center piece of this story is a casual best ball match play round between Ben Hogan and Bryron Nelson (representing the pros) and Ken Venturi and Harvie Ward (representing the amateurs). The time is 1956 and Venturi and Ward are the last of the gentleman amateurs playing at the highest levels of the game. The event is precipitated by a bet instigated by none other than Eddie Lowery, the pint-sized ten-year old caddie from “Greatest Game” who has (believe it or not) become a millionaire California car dealer. This connection to the earlier book is more than a coincidence and Lowery becomes more important to the story than one might expect.

I’m going to go so far as to say that this book is required reading for any serious golfer. On one level learning more about the life story and personality of these great players as well as that of Cypress Point and the Crosby Clambake are quintessential elements of the glory of golf in America. As before, Mark Frost does an amazing job illuminating this background (including the best recounting of the famous Hogan comeback after his accident that I’ve ever read.) But there’s much more beyond all this.

I can’t summarize that essence better than the last paragraph of the book:

“No four men will ever play such a match again. No four men like like these. The genuine way they lived their lives makes most of today’s fast and frenzied sports and entertainment culture seem like so much packaged goods, a self-conscious, inauthentic hustle. In their best and worst hours alike each of these four stood his ground, put all he had on the line, and for better or worse lived with the consequences of his actions and moved on. Some green, untested souls might be tempted to wonder why one should still care, but none of us are here forever, we’re not even here for long; and if it’s true that our collective past exists inside all of us, unless we take time to bear witness to the best of those who strived before us, our chance to learn from their lives will be lost forever, and we will be the poorer for it.”

That’s why I call it “required reading”… not to mention that it’s totally fun and a complete delight! Thanks so much, Mr. Frost.

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