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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Book Review: Draw in the Dunes

Draw in the Dunes coverIt's been a while since I did a book review but with the Ryder Cup just around the corner, I feel this is a timely one.

Some of you will recognize Neil Sagebiel's name. He writes the Armchair Golf Blog (he has for many years, and I've had a link to it in my blog sidebar since I launched this blog) and you may also be familiar with his first book, The Longest Shot, which was about the upset victory of Jack Fleck over Ben Hogan at the 1955 US Open.

Neil recently released (actually, it's scheduled to start shipping next Tuesday) a new book called Draw in the Dunes, about the 1969 Ryder Cup at Royal Birkdale. This event is probably best remembered for the legendary concession Jack Nicklaus made to Tony Jacklin on the final hole of the final match, which resulted in the first tie in Ryder Cup history.

If you saw the recent Ferherty episode with Sam Torrence, you heard Sam say that it was the 1969 Ryder Cup that truly got him interested in the event. And yet it was an event that nearly didn't happen. It was in 1968 that the tournament-playing members of the PGA became dissatisfied with their parent organization and tried to secede from the PGA, a bitter battle that eventually resulted in the creation of the current PGA Tour. The Ryder Cup, dominated by the American players up until that time, was on the verge of becoming irrelevant and possibly even ended.

Knowing how big and important the Ryder Cup has since become, that can be a hard thing for newer generations to believe. And most of those who are aware of the history of the event would probably name 1979 -- the year that the GB&I Team added Continental Europe to the mix, with legends-to-be like Ballesteros and Langer -- as the pivotal year in Ryder Cup history. But had it not been for the 1969 event, the Ryder Cup might not have survived that long.

Unlike many history writers, Neil's prose is never boring. Personally, I thought his decision to frame the story itself within another related story that happened 30 years later really made the importance of this event clearer. And if you want to know how the book is being received by the folks involved, consider that Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin themselves wrote the book's foreword.

I'm fortunate. Neil got me an advance copy, so I can tell you this firsthand: If you enjoy golf history, his book is definitely one you'll want to read. Although it's not shipping until next Tuesday, you can pre-order it online now.

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