Golf books cover plenty of turf

Tuesday, June 13th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

This summer's best golf books run the gamut from the most famous names and places to unknown faces and obscure courses. But all are delightful reading:

St. Andrews & The Open Championship, by David Joy, with photography by Iain MacFarlane Lowe (Sleeping Bear Press, $45)

This lovely marriage of words and photos celebrates the birthplace of golf, the quaint and quirky Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland, and the sport's oldest major championship. It's a fine send-off, and nifty send-up, as golf swings into a new century.

By the way, don't call it the British Open over there, laddie. In the British Isles it forever will be "The Open."

Writer David Joy, a fourth-generation St. Andrean, and photographer Iain MacFarlane Lowe, a skilled RAF veteran, delight in presenting the legends and lore of St. Andrews and all the opens it has hosted since the first in 1860. That's when Old Tom Morris, whose entire life was entwined with St. Andrews' storied links as caddie, player, professional, course designer and ball-maker, finished second to Willie Park by two shots but was delighted to receive 3 pounds sterling in prize money. Mr. Park got no money but had the honor of being known as The Champion Golfer of the year.

Mr. Joy's pleasant prose guides you through the ensuing 140 years with anecdotes and history about the famous and the unknowns who have challenged the Old Course. He describes the "Americanization" of The Open, starting in 1921 when Jock Hutchison, a St. Andrews native who became a U.S. citizen shortly before World War I, took the title and the hallowed Claret Jug across the Atlantic for the first time. Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Tony Lema and Jack Nicklaus also won there, and we learn how each cherished his achievement.

Mr. Lowe's camera captures the quirkiness of the Old Course: "The Beardies," a group of three bunkers unseen from the 14th tee, waiting to punish you for an errant drive; "the Principal's Nose," three severe bunkers off the 16th tee; and the notorious Road Hole bunker, that devil on No. 17, which has turned a lot of potential champs into chumps.

Put it all together for a golfing journey like no other.

Arnold Palmer: A Golfer's Life, with James Dodson (Ballantine, $15)

Still the people's champion 40 years after his incredible comeback to win the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills, Mr. Palmer closes this warm, humorous and candid book by saluting his fans: "Thank you for letting Arnold Palmer be Arnold Palmer," he says.

The countless troops in Arnie's Army will tell him the pleasure was all theirs.

From the earliest recollections of his growing up in a house off the sixth hole at the Latrobe (Pa.) Country Club, where his father was greenskeeper, to his recent battle with prostate cancer and then his learning that his wife, Winnie, was dying from ovarian cancer, Mr. Palmer tells his story straight from the heart.

Mr. Palmer takes you on a neat journey through his rare life. He talks of five golfing presidents he has known: Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, George Bush and Bill Clinton. He offers special insights on Mr. Bush ("plays fast and takes no prisoners") and Mr. Clinton ("best ballstriker of any president I've known").

Blue Fairways, by Charles Slack (Henry Holt, $23)

The subtitle, "Three Months, Sixty Courses, No Mulligans" neatly sums up the author's enviable odyssey.

Mr. Slack, a newspaper reporter with a dream of leaving his job and playing on public golf courses running the length of the East Coast, did just that. This chronicle of his journey takes you down the length of Route 1 - from the cool, rocky potato fields of northern Maine to a tropical sunset in Key West.

He uncovers the changing faces of American cities and towns as reflected in their individual courses, and enriches his stories with anecdotes of the diverse personalities he meets along the way. As one golfer puts it: "I love the challenge; I love the courses. But the best thing is the people you meet."

Tin Cup Dreams, by Michael D'Antonio (Hyperion, $23.95)

Esteban Toledo, a gutsy kid from a poor Mexican family who made it on the PGA Tour, won't make you forget Lee Treviño, the grandson of a gravedigger who went from a dirt-floor shack in North Dallas to win six major championships and $13 million in his professional career. But the story of Mr. Toledo's struggle is memorable in its own right.

Denied his dream of becoming a world-class boxer when a botched appendectomy bounced him from the ring as a teenager with a 12-1 record, Mr. Toledo focused on pro golf and started a long, hard climb. He spent almost 15 years playing in Asia and on American minitours before winning his Tour card at Qualifying School for the 1998. Now in his third year on the main Tour, he has earned almost $2 million and the respect of his fellow pros. As Peter Jacobsen said, "Esteban Toledo is a poster child for how to make it."

Q School Confidential, by David Gould (St. Martin's Press, $25.95)

This takes you inside what has to be golf's cruelest tournament, where hundreds of wannabes struggle each fall to earn a place on the PGA Tour.

Mr. Gould chronicles Q School's heartbreak, black humor, back-room politics and magnificent golf under dire circumstances. He tells you about raw rookies, aging veterans and every dreamer in between. These players sleep in their cars, vomit their breakfasts, practice on interstate ranges, lose golf shoes, forget contact lenses and make fateful decisions based on faulty information. It's an ugly life, but all of them share a wonderful goal: someday, somehow to make it big "out there."

The Fine Green Line, by John Paul Newport (Broadway, $24)

The author describes his year of adventure on the golf minitours. He travels from Florida to New England, from South Dakota to California, joining the army of hopefuls on the Nike, Hooters and even lesser-known minitours in hopes of qualifying for the PGA Tour. He brings to life the gonzo, bush-league underbelly of professional golf, far removed from the glory-filled world of huge endorsement deals and five-star hotels.

Mr. Newport, who grew up in Fort Worth and began his journalistic career as a feature writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, gives us an intimate look at the colorful goal addicts who sacrifice everything trying to make it to the big time. And along the way, he discovers the nature of his own obsession with the game.

Royal and Ancient, by Curt Sampson (Villard Books, $25.95)

Ennis resident Curt Sampson, gifted author of Hogan and The Masters, scores again with his tale of blood, sweat and fears at the British Open. He paints a definitive portrait of the incredible tournament when the best golfers try to beat the weather, the pressure and some of the toughest golf courses in the world.

Mr. Sampson captures the British Open in his splendid style - descriptive and factual. The reminiscences of past and current players combine with behind-the-scenes stories from caddies, groundskeepers and club superintendents to give an in-depth view of this unique competition.

Tiger Woods Made Me Look Like a Genius, by Don Crosby with James Dale (Andrews McMeel, $12.95)

Mr. Crosby, Tiger Woods' high school golf coach, and writer Dale tell you five simple ways to take 10 strokes off your game in an easy-going, storytelling style. Ready?

1. The Practice Range - good for two shots off your game.
2. The Short Game - The surest way to lower your score is to chip away at it.
3. Putting - Imagine no 3-putt greens.
4. Course Management - A course you know is two shots easier than one you don't.
5. Stats - You can't get better unless you know how you're doing.
In case you may scoff at Mr. Crosby, remember his words: "I'm a golf coach, not a golf pro. I don't get paid by the lesson. If I win, I keep my job."

Golf Astrology, by Michael Zullo (Andrews McMeel, $10.95)

Can the zodiac tell you more about your golf game than the scorecard does? This book is designed to give you a celestial boost on the course, shaving strokes from your game and getting more enjoyment from golf by exploiting your astrological traits.

You can identify similarities in personality, style of play, and other characteristics among pros who share your sign. FYI, Tiger Woods is a Capricorn: self-disciplined, goal-oriented, persistent, patient, dependable. Jack Nicklaus is an Aquarius: complex, analytical, inventive, eccentric, personable.

I Remember Ben Hogan, by Mike Towle (Cumberland House, $18.95)

As Mr. Towle, another former sportswriter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, says in his introduction: "Few people really knew Hogan. But a few hundred million know of him." Given that, Mr. Towle sets out to present personal recollections and revelations of this invisible legend from the people who may have known him best.

He brings more than 100 of them together in this unusual book. Contributors include Ken Venturi, Lee Treviño, Jacqueline Hogan Towery (Mr. Hogan's niece and his closest surviving relative) and many of Mr. Hogan's Fort Worth "inner circle," including business partners, his personal physician, secretary and attorney. In the end, you still realize that many people were touched by Mr. Hogan, but few really connected with him.

Sam Blair, who was a writer and columnist for The Dallas Morning News for 41 years, has won numerous awards for his golf writing, including four first places in the Golf Writers of America competition.