TO WIN AND DIE IN DIXIE by Steve Eubanks


The Birth of the Modern Golf Swing and the Mysterious Death of Its Creator
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The story of J. Douglas Edgar (1884–1921), inventor of the modern golf swing and a rising star before his untimely death, the victim of what newspaper heir Comer Howell and others believed was murder.

Edgar was found bleeding in an Atlanta street and died moments later. Eubanks (Golf Freek: One Man’s Quest to Play As Many Rounds of Golf As Possible. For Free., 2007, etc.) tells how Howell and some co-workers came upon the dying golfer and how, despite some odd circumstances surrounding his death, many people quickly concluded that Edgar was the victim of a hit-and-run auto accident. The book then alternates between an account of Howell’s involvement in the unfolding investigation of Edgar’s death and the story of Edgar’s life, from his early struggles in golf to his rise to prominence after inventing “the movement” that is considered the modern golf swing. Armed with archival material, family lore and notes from a veteran reporter friend who wrote about Edgar 40 years ago, Eubanks creates highly detailed scenes of his two protagonists’ lives. After some erratic performances on the course, writes the author, Edgar said to his assistant, “let’s gan straight up to me room an’ you can have a look at the way I’m swingin’ the cloob. It seems every bloody iron shot’s gannin left o’ the green.” The invented dialogue often makes the narrative read like a novel. Though the author notes that he relied on diaries, letters and transcripts when possible, and on family history elsewhere, he admits that “how accurate those conversations are after ninety years of retelling is anybody’s guess.” Readers who can tolerate periodic detours into tangential topics like World War I and Howell family history may find the book diverting on a rainy afternoon.

A mildly interesting though dubious, discursive account of one of modern golf’s pioneers.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-345-51081-5
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: ESPN Books/Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2010