Book Reviews: The 100 Greatest Ever Golfers; Two Good Rounds
You may not be aware that someone other than Hank Haney has written a golf book in the last three months, but it’s true.
Here are two more light-hearted alternatives to the inside story of you-know-who that I recently read.
The 100 Greatest Ever Golfers, by Andy Farrell ($22.95, Elliott & Thompson):
The best part of any book of golf lists is going to be the debate about who’s on it and who got left off. So go ahead and warm up your rants. Because Farrell has had a nice career writing for various golf magazines and newspapers in the U.K., including The Independent, his list has a decided British tilt. So right away, his 100 aren’t going to be your 100… and that’s OK.
Farrell wisely doesn’t try to rank them 1 to 100 -- that’s just impossible. But he does offer his top ten in his conclusion in order of his final five twosomes. I won’t give away his list, but the last pairing is pretty obvious -- Jack Nicklaus and Bobby Jones.
Not so obvious, and wonderfully debatable, is how Byron Nelson and Sam Snead didn’t make the top ten. Or should they have? Did Tiger Woods make the top ten? You’d better buy the book to find out.
This book isn’t really about the list, though. Farrell writes a short recap of each player, usually only two pages in length. It’s a nice little reference work and a readable capsule summary of golf’s greats, some of whom you may not be all that familiar with. And he’s done his homework. You’re sure to find some surprises.
Norman von Nida, for example, the great Australian player, started out working as a caddie and what was the equivalent of a slaughterhouse. His pleasant job was to break open the heads of sheep after their skulls had been partially split by a machine.“My forearms, hands and fingers became incredibly strong,” Von Nida said.
It reminds me of baseball legend Hank Aaron, who delivered ice blocks in the days before refrigerators, and often carried the blocks up several flights of stairs, holding the block with tongs. Was it any wonder he had the fastest wrists in baseball?
More tidbits: Louise Suggs was the daughter of John Suggs, who pitched for the New York Yankees. She was resentful of the way publicity-magnet Babe Zaharias overshadowed everyone else in women’s golf and thoroughly enjoyed beating her in the 1949 U.S. Women’s Open by 14 strokes -- still a record.
For Bernhard Langer, Farrell repeats the mythical anecdote of his Ryder Cup pairing with Colin Montgomerie, who told Langer the yardage on an approach shot. “Is that from the front of the sprinkler head or the back?” Langer supposedly asked.
Fortunately, the author has looked ahead and therefore included youngsters Rory McIlroy and Yani Tseng in his 100. Tseng, he points out, at 22 was the youngest golfer to capture five majors since Old Tom Morris.
Forgetting the ancient Brits, some of the more interesting contemporary inclusions among the 100 greatest are John Daly, Sergio Garcia, Charlie Sifford and Darren Clarke. The missing include Horton and MacDonald Smith, Denny Shute, Gene Littler, Doug Sanders, Craig Wood, Jumbo Ozaki and Henry Picard.
It’s fun reading, the kind of book you can pick up, read a couple of pages and put it back down, saving something for later. As for the list, go ahead and begin discussing among yourselves …
Two Good Rounds, by Elisa Gaudet ($19.95, Skyhorse Publishing):
This book’s subtitle says it all, 19th Hole Stories from the World’s Greatest Golfers. What you will learn is what your favorite players like to drink after a round, where they like to drink it and in some cases, memorable shots or hole-in-one tales.
It sounds suspiciously like a fluffy book you might dismiss, especially when you see a number of photos of the author posing with a golfing legend. But the funny thing is, this book is like a salted nut -- it’s full of interesting if not terribly important nuggets that keep you turning the page to find just one more.
For instance, Matt Kuchar really likes a good root beer float. Sounds about right. And when Kooch goes for something stronger, it’s a Ketel One Tee Time -- basically an Arnold Palmer with vodka. Hmm, he’s more sophisticated than that grin would indicate.
You won’t be shocked to know that Nancy Lopez’s absolute favorite drink is milk. It really is. Fuzzy Zoeller drinks vodka -- preferably his own brand. Did you know he spent four years developing it with a distillery in Oregon? It’s called Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka.
Jesper Parnevik said vodka and schnapps are popular in his home country of Sweden and drinkers often sing a short song before they down a shot. Sounds like a nice pub tradition. By the way, Parnevik once made an ace during the World Cup and won free Heineken beer for a year, which fueled many of his parties.
Ernie Els is a wine drinker-- I guess he finally graduated from beer -- which is why he started his own winery and now has six labels. They’re available, by the way, at The Big Easy Restaurant and Wine Bar in Stellenbosch, South Africa, in a historic house that Els had restored.
Jack Nicklaus tried to claim he prefers water but admitted he has the occasional red wine and also told the story behind the famous photo of him dancing with Arnold Palmer while wearing a woman’s wig (it’s included). Adult beverages may have been a factor.
Even before you hit the Table of Contents, there’s a full-color reproduction of Ben Hogan in a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer print advertisement and at the bottom, a sequence of Hogan tipping his mug back. This page alone is almost worth the price of admission.
Boo Weekley likes light beer and enjoyed his first hole-in-one because it happened at Tanglewood Golf Club in Milton, Fla., “by my ma and pa’s house,” he said.
Keegan Bradley remembered making an ace at Bethpage Red during a college tournament while his mom was watching. When I talked to Keegan last year, I reminded him of that ace because he was paired with my son, Mike, who played for Marquette. Keegan did, indeed, remember that Mike was there and birdied the hole --- but didn’t get honors on the next tee.
If you want to call this entertainment book a guilty pleasure, go ahead. Somebody, somewhere, will drink to that.