Flipping pages as the calendar turns

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I am not certain how you may have passed the time in 2020. I know the Mrs. and I played more golf and did a fair amount of binge watching, but I also read more books than in most years.

It is no secret I am a self-professed nerd and avid reader of all things golf. I read five trade publications regularly and last year added the USGA’s relaunch of Golf Journal. The first three quarterly issues were well done in my opinion.

Whether it’s golf history, golf course architecture, biographies, or other golf-related fact or fiction tales, I enjoy them all. And I thought with winter still around for a few more months, I would share some of my favorites from this past year.

For the golf course architecture buffs, I read “The Spirit of St. Andrews” by Alister MacKenzie, “Golf Course Architecture in America” by George C. Thomas, and “The Architectural Side of Golf” by Wethered and Simpson. I was inspired to reread “The Spirit of St. Andrews” shortly after the Masters didn’t take place in April. Anyone who appreciates great golf course architecture should have this book on their shelves.

I reread “The Architectural Side of Golf” in early fall as it was to be featured on an upcoming Good-Good Golf Podcast “book club” episode with Adrian Logue and Derek Duncan of Feed the Ball fame. But that episode hasn’t happened as of this writing, so there still may be time if you’re interested.

One of the best books I read last year was “Scotland’s Gift: Golf” by Charles Blair Macdonald. Can you imagine living in St. Andrews and attending St. Andrews University as a teenager? Or what about learning the game of golf from Old Tom Morris and Young Tommy Morris! Mr. Macdonald lived an incredible early life and later was instrumental in sowing the seeds of golf in America.

“A History of Golf” by Roger McStravick was published in 2017 and features a wonderful collection of old paintings and photographs from golf’s earliest days. Chronicling the history of golf is no easy task but Roger’s edition is wonderfully done and an excellent book for display too.

If you are into biographies, I read three last year that are outstanding. “Caddy for Life: The Bruce Edwards Story” by John Feinstein is the tale of how young Bruce made his way onto the PGA Tour as a caddie in the 1970s and worked for two players to reach World No. 1 in Tom Watson and Greg Norman. Bruce and John got together to tell this story before Bruce succumbed to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in April 2004.

“The Last Stand of Payne Stewart” by Kevin Robbins was published in 2019 and is a wonderful look back at 1999. You will need tissues with this one too. “Monarch of the Green: Young Tom Morris: Pioneer of Modern Golf” by Stephen Proctor is exhaustively researched and beautifully illustrates a playing career that was Woodsian more than 100 years before Tiger teed off.

I had the pleasure of meeting and hosting Mr. Proctor for a round of golf at Carolina Golf Club this past September and was inspired to read his masterpiece again after enjoying it the first time shortly after it was first published in 2019.

“Turfgrass Management” by A.J. Turgeon and J.E. Kaminski published in 2019 is probably the best turf-related publication in recent years. One of the great things about this newest edition of the classic text is many of the photos were submitted by your peers through the power of social media.

So, what is the best book I read in 2020? It was a new release by Luke Reese titled “One for The Memory Banks.” Luke worked for Wilson Sporting Goods in Europe in the early 1990s. He played tennis collegiately and knew very little of golf. Scottish-born salesman Allan Bond (Bondy) takes Luke under his wing and they forge a beautiful friendship as Luke discovers a mutual love for links golf.

The story is part travelogue, adventure, love affair, friendships and more. It is masterful storytelling from a first-time storyteller. I learned of the book listening to Reese on The Fried Egg Podcast. A portion of the proceeds from the book’s sale benefits The National Links Trust. I read the whole thing one lazy Sunday in November.

Luke’s story inspired me to quickly reread an old favorite: Michael Bamberger’s “To the Linskland: A Golfing Adventure.” There’s a faint similarity between the two, but I believe Luke’s story might just be the best golf story ever told.

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG, is the superintendent at Carolina Golf Club in Charlotte, North Carolina and past president of the Carolinas GCSA. Follow him on Twitter @CGCGreenkeeper.

January 2021
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