- Arnie, Seve, and a Fleck of Golf History: Heroes, Underdogs, Courses, and Championships by Bill Fields
This volume consists of thirty articles Bill Fields published in Golf World between 1994 and 2011, plus a new essay about Tiger Woods’s struggles to recover from his 2009 personal scandal and recent injuries in his attempt to eclipse the records of Sam Snead for PGA Tour victories and Jack Nicklaus for major tournament titles. Fields organizes his book into three sections, each containing ten chapters. The first reflects on the character and heroic performances of many of golf’s legendary male, female, amateur, and professional champions. The second part highlights a few of golf’s greatest individual performances and famous holes, courses, and tournaments. The work concludes with biographical reflections on seven players who never fulfilled the potential that they displayed at the start of their careers, administrators of the United States Golf Association (USGA) and PGA Tour, and one golf journalist. In his introduction, Fields states that his anthology does not cover all of the game’s greatest competitors, courses, or tournaments.
Most golf’s enthusiasts are quite familiar with the celebrated achievements of the sport’s male luminaries. Fields discusses Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Seve Ballesteros, and Tiger Woods. But few know much about female champions, such as Glenna Collett and Mickey Wright, or players whose careers began brilliantly but were cut short by physical or mental illnesses—Willie Anderson, John J. McDermott, Davis Love III, John Schlee, Casey Martin, Bobby Clampett, Jim [End Page 245] Simons, and Bert Yancey. Especially enjoyable are Fields’s riveting narratives of upsets and contests between the sport’s greatest rivals—amateur Francis Ouimet’s stunning victory over English professionals Harry Vardon and Edward Ray in the 1913 U.S. Open at the Brookline Country Club, which had an enormous impact on the growth of golf in the United States; amateur Billie Joe Patton’s near defeat of Sam Snead in the 1954 Masters tournament at the Augusta National Golf Course; Jack Fleck’s come-from-behind triumph over the heavily favored Hogan in the 1955 U.S. Open; Billy Caspar’s remarkable conquest of Palmer in the 1966 U.S. Open, making up a deficit of seven shots with only nine holes to play; Jack Nicklaus’s eighteenth and final major tournament title at the age of forty-six at the 1986 Masters.
Fields highlights one record performance and two unique courses. On August 19, 1962, Homer Blancas, the son of an immigrant who was a greenskeeper at Houston’s upscale River Oaks Country Club, played eighteen holes in fifty-five strokes. The course was outside Longview, in east Texas, which Fields describes as “the funky, claustrophobic, par-seventy Premier Golf Club” (143). Another article features the island green of the seventeenth hole of the stadium course at the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Section two concludes with an essay on the difficulty of putting on the greens at the Augusta National Golf Club during the Masters Tournament.
Fields also pays tribute to two prominent golf administrators and one journalist. Joseph C. Dey Jr. served for thirty-five years as the executive director of the USGA and five more as the first commissioner of the PGA Tour. He played a key role in unifying the rules of golf of the USGA and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. At the men’s U.S. Open, he hired golf architect Robert Trent Jones to make championship courses challenging for the world’s greatest players. Deane Beman competed for six years on the PGA Tour (winning four tournaments and finishing second in the 1969 U.S. Open). In 1974, he replaced Dey as the PGA Tour commissioner. His achievements include recruiting sponsors that would pay higher television broadcast fees, branding the PGA Tour, creating the Nationwide tour for new golf professionals, establishing an all-exempt structure for leading players...