An award-winning TV writer (Hill Street Blues) turned novelist Frost (The Six Messiahs, 1995, etc.) proves just as skilled at nonfiction in his affectionate recreation of the dramatic 1913 US Open Golf Championship.
Beginning with interwoven biographies of Harry Vardon and Francis Ouimet, Frost slowly builds to the dramatic finish at the Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts. Born on the Channel Island of Jersey in 1870, Vardon had won five British Open titles by 1913. He had contracted tuberculosis in 1903, but returned to top-level golf despite neurological damage in his right hand caused by the disease. With a demure, stay-at-home wife and a brother gone to America, Harry battled loneliness. On this side of the Atlantic, 20-year-old Ouimet was the Massachusetts state amateur champion and had been a caddie at the Country Club; his invitation to the Open was unexpected. The long, wonderful second portion of the story dramatizes the exciting week in September when Vardon, Ouimet, and others battled for the coveted title. Frost paints a lively supporting cast. Ouimet’s mother, brother, and sister were supportive, but his father had no truck with the silly game. English newspaper publisher Lord Northcliffe was blatantly nationalistic. Bernard Darwin, the scientist's grandson, found his niche as a first-generation golf journalist. Ted Ray, a big bear of a man, punched out a fellow English golfer before joining friend Varner and Ouimet in a three-man playoff. Walter Hagen was the first American playboy golfer, and ten-year-old caddie Eddie Lowery almost stole the show with his pugnacious confidence and sage advice for Francis. The shot-by-shot account of the 18-hole playoff captures the excitement of the day with its appreciation of the subtle shifts of the game and of the beauty of the Country Club. Throughout, Frost demonstrates a detailed knowledge of the different rules, equipment, and terminology used in 1913. Striking photographs complement the first-rate narrative.
Captivating entertainment. (26 b&w photos, throughout)