We don’t often recommend book on sports, but this one is the stuff of legends and a truly uplifting read.
‘The Match’ is a superbly researched and written book on the background, as well as a hole-by hole account, of probably the greatest game of golf that ever took place.
An accident of history from the 1913 U.S. Open at Brookline, Massachusetts is that Francis Ouimet's caddie for the week was a diminutive 10-year-old boy named Eddie Lowery.
Lowery grew up to play a formative role in ‘The Match’. By the mid 1950s, he had become a wealthy car dealer in California, and a benefactor of amateur golf, often giving jobs to top amateur golfers to help support their games.
At a party in 1956 just before the Bing Crosby Pro-Am, Lowery and George Coleman, another wealthy businessman were talking golf. Lowery boasted that he had two amateurs working for him who could beat any two golfers in the world Coleman could come up with. A private bet was placed and the following morning, the legendary match that forms the basis of this book - Ken Venturi and Harvie Ward vs. Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson - was played at Cypress Point Golf Club. That four-ball match, while sometimes called the greatest match ever played, has been practically invisible in golf history up to this point.
The Match will change that.
Cypress Point Golf Club
In the mid 1990’s I was visiting my long time friend Kevin McNeely in Sonoma, to the north of San Francisco. After a few days there Kevin and I drove south to the Monterey Peninsula to visit his father Donald who spent the summer months in his lovely house on Seventeen Mile Drive, across the road from Pebble Beach Golf Links.
The area was busy because it was the day before the AT & T Pro-Am at Pebble Beach started. After a morning game of tennis which the infamous January sea mists brought to an abrupt halt, Donald made reservations for lunch at the prestigious Cypress Point Golf Club. After we’d eaten, the three of us walked from the clubhouse to the 18th green, down the 18th fairway and around to the 17th green. Over these holes we had watched Arnold Palmer, Ben Crenshaw and Vijay Singh play with their celebrity partners including Don Johnston and Clint Eastwood.
As we approached the 16th green, Kevin started to tell me a little about the hole. As he spoke it dawned on me that I was walking toward the most legendary golf hole anywhere in the world; the Sixteenth at Cypress Point! We sat for a few minutes on a bench there and watched the seals and otters play amongst the waves; whales breached offshore as they migrated north. I looked toward the 16th tee and watched three players tee off.
Each tee shot landed smack onto the green. As they approached I realised the players were Jack Nicklaus and two of his sons. I have never before or since watched three golfers play a par 3 with such precision. All three of them birdied the hole. Some days just stick right there in your memory.
‘The Match’ starts on the 16th hole at Cypress Point where I stood. By the time I was on the final pages there were tears of pleasure rolling down my cheeks in celebration of the amazing lives and times in which these people had lived.
During the greatest game of golf that had ever taken place, I had walked with legends.