Renowned novelist and screenwriter Mark Frost turns his eye for golf to an event so famous that it’s grown to the stuff of legend. In 1956, a casual bet between two millionaires eventually pitted two of the greatest golfers of the era—Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan—against top amateurs: Harvie Ward and Ken Venturi. Frost recounts this dramatic tale from start to finish, detailing the match that vaulted golf out of the shadows and into the national spotlight.
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"Frost has a penchant toward the florid, but he captures an elusive magic in this improbable matchup and what it meant for those who played and witnessed it." (Publishers Weekly)
When the match that forms the core of this book occurred, I was a week from my fourth birthday and eight years away from the beginning of my interest in golf. This enthralling book traces the personalities and progress of what became one of golf's epic moments, and, as the author stresses, the event that provided the transition from golf's domination by the gentlemen amateurs to the astonishing wealth enjoyed by today's touring professionals. For those who play golf and who have an interest in the game's development in America, a phenomenon barely more than a century old, this book leads its readers or listeners inside the ropes at some of the earliest tournaments when the participants played for the joy of the game for there were not many economic advantages at that time. But more than a book about golf, as with Mark Frost's outstanding The Greatest Game Ever Played, this book explores the intersections between the nascent sport and the American milieu in which it struggled to gain a foothold. From the economics, politics, and social stratification of the Gilded Age to the impact of television advertising on the wealth of today's players (Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson each earned a total of half a million dollars in their entire careers, far less than the top prizes at single professional tournaments today), this book provides an understanding of the labors of those players in the first half of the 20th century as the foundation on which players like Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Tiger Woods built professional golf into the financial juggernaut it has become.
Not to be overlooked is the excellent appendix that provides a history of the Monterey Peninsula, the place where The Match occurred and which most who visit it understand is its own little world. The history of Pebble Beach and the 17-Mile Drive as well as the development of each of the Monterey communities, like Pacific Grove and Carmel, whets the appetite to visit for the first time or to return for subsequent experiences.
The writing is vivid and the narration by Richard Poe is again outstanding. He is a consummate story teller and has the ability to make the characters live in the mind's eye. The book and the audio production are both outstanding in every respect and well worth the time spent in listening. Highly recommended!
I'm a huge golf enthusiast and while I dream of being great, this book makes it possible. I wish there was a time machine to transport back and watch "the match"...really well done!!
outstanding. A great story that keeps your attention the whole time. more than just a golf book
A look back to a by gone era. A match that was mostly overlooked became a transitional portal to modern day golf. What I would have given to be a witness.
I was captivated from start to finish. Will purchase the rest of Mark Frost's books.
Every so often I purchase an audio that I just can't walk away from. Richard Poe does a fantastic job narrating. He is as entertaining as he is informative and brings the experience over the top. Must read for any golf enthuse
People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.
The premise of The Match is that a friendly bet between four great golfers and a couple of millionaire golf dilettantes set the stage for a watershed moment in how golf is played at its highest level. Two professionals -- Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan, among the best ever after rising from working class roots -- go up against a pair of amateurs -- Ken Venturi and Harvie Ward, representing the business class who played for love of the game rather than money.
I can't imagine that this book would appeal to anyone who doesn't golf -- Mark Frost takes us through a shot by shot recreation of the 18-hole match, providing every last detail of each hole of the Cypress Point course on which it was played. But for golfers, this is pure manna from heaven. With chapters on the backgrounds of the participants in between the recap of the match, this will appeal directly to the serious golfer who also likes to watch top level golf.
That said, I have two criticisms that I will temper by calling them missed opportunities to make a very good listen even better. The first has to do with style. Frost admits that there is no actual record of this match, that he is recreating the tale based on sometimes conflicting accounts. He recounts it entirely as an omniscient third person narrator. I wish he quoted his sources, the story would feel that much more real.
Perhaps one reason he opted not to do this is that the eyewitness accounts conflict even down the final score -- some of the shots and scores Frost presents are in dispute, but you don't know that from this book. There is only one spot where he details a conflict in the way different people remember the event. By quoting eyewitnesses, he could have explored the relevance of these differences.
The other issue I have is the connection between this match and the subsequent explosion in the popularity of pro golf. Although the pros won the match and took over the sport, the amateurs are presented as having done extremely well, despite losing by one miraculous Hogan eagle. Hardly a case for the pros having definitively put down amateur golf forever. The pros are backed by an old money millionaire, the amateurs by a self-made man from humble roots, so class distinctions are blurry. And one of the amateurs was stripped of his status because he was nevertheless getting financial support for golfing. So I just didn't fully buy into the class angle of the story.
Despite this, for golfers, and as an entry into the surprisingly rich genre of golf literature (fiction and non-fiction), The Match is a nice listen.
This was a great read, not just about golf but also about a time period in America, 1935 to 1955. The author tracked the lives of several persons, some prosper and live long happy healthy lives why other end badly in self destruction and despair. Also tells the history of the Monterey Peninsula.
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