Golf writer Sampson (Golf Dads: Fathers, Sons, and the Greatest Game, 2008, etc.) recounts the tale of the 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island, S.C., perhaps the most famous edition of the biennial contest.
The Ryder Cup began in 1927 as a competition between golfers from the United States and Britain and was dominated by the U.S. for the first 50 years of its existence. The tide began to shift, however, when, in 1979, the format changed to include players from the rest of Europe. By 1991, the European side had won three in a row, and there was no love lost between many of the players on both teams. The Kiawah Island “War by the Shore” had its share of controversy, including the continuance of a feud between Spanish star Seve Ballesteros and American Paul Azinger and accusations of jingoism after U.S. players Corey Pavin and Steve Pate wore camouflage hats with “Desert Storm” labels. But for all the controversy and nationalism, the tournament’s fame rests mainly on the excitement of the matches, a hard-fought competition that came down to a single putt on the final hole, an excruciating 6-foot miss by German Bernhard Langer. Sampson does a nice job recreating the frenzied atmosphere, with input from most of the major participants and a wealth of behind-the-scenes information that adds much to readers’ understanding of the events of that week. He should also be credited for avoiding the usual hushed, reverent tones of many sports historians, though some readers will be put off by the narrative style, which occasionally feels like being cornered at the 19th hole by the slightly drunk know-it-all who fancies himself a raconteur.
An entertaining read for golf fans that sheds light on an important chapter in golf history.