Bobby Pope

Pope: A good, quick read on golf

Golf is one of those sports that I enjoy more watching than playing, and if you ever saw me play the game, you would understand why. I have had some exciting times on the links, and two quickly come to mind. Years ago, playing with former Georgia quarterback Mike Cavan at a course in Gay, I gave him a bruise that he has never forgotten and is quick to bring it up whenever I see him.

He was in front of me, and one of my errant shots tattooed him in the gluteus maximus. There was no “fore,” but as I recall a “duck,” and he did and left his rear end exposed, which my shot found.

And last year playing at The Brickyard at Riverside, the golf cart that I was driving collided with a maintenance truck, sending me through the windshield of the cart and on to the emergency room. I came away from that encounter battered and bruised, but fortunately nothing was broken other than the golf cart, which failed to survive.

I do love the history of the game and some of the players. My all-time favorites are Arnold Palmer, Fred Couples and Phil Mickelson, and I think I am about to add Jordan Spieth to that group. Russell Henley is a given, and I keep up with his scores in every tournament in which he plays.

I have just finished reading “Men in Green” by Sports Illustrated writer Michael Bamberger, and if you enjoy golf, this is a must read. Bamberger, who has former Georgia Southern golfer and 1990 U.S. Open runner-up Mike Donald as his traveling partner on the interviews for the book, has chapters on nine living legends and nine secret legends. The living legends are Palmer, Couples, Jack Nicklaus, Hale Irwin, Tom Watson, Ken Venturi, Ben Crenshaw, Curtis Strange and Mickey Wright. There’s no need to give you the secret legends because for the most part you wouldn’t recognize the names.

Bamberger gives you an unfiltered interview with Palmer. I didn’t know that Palmer asked his future wife Winnie to marry him just four days after meeting her, and she accepted. I also didn’t know that Venturi and Palmer didn’t get along because Venturi thought Palmer “cheated” to win the 1958 Masters. You’ll find out how. He took Palmer’s cheating a step further, claiming his first wife, had an an affair with Palmer. The late Venturi is mentioned throughout the book and in my opinion, comes out with a tarnished image. According to Bamberger, he had a penchant for embellishing stories to his benefit, and he was portrayed as a heavy drinker and a womanizer. He also came across as not being a big fan of the Masters.

Other tidbits of interest I gleaned from the book that I didn’t know were that Masters co-founders Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts did not get along at the end of their lives, primarily because of who should be in control at Augusta National Golf Club. The reclusive Wright, who won more than 80 times on the LPGA Tour, would not meet with Bamberger about the book and neither would Crenshaw, so he went to other sources like Crenshaw’s first wife Polly. You will also find out what losing the edge means. Palmer says losing the edge cost him at least four U.S. Open titles. He won just one.

A lot of living legend ego comes out during the interviews, but that doesn’t appear to be the case with Nickaus. Bamberger’s portrayal of the Golden Bear is one of humility and grace.

From the secret legends, you will enjoy stories about caddies, PGA Tour officials and Donald, who won just once on the PGA Tour and lost out to Irwin in that playoff for the 1990 U.S. Open. You can feel Donald’s bitterness about that loss in the book.

“Men in Green” is a a quick read and an enjoyable book.

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