The Greatest Game Ever Played Book Review

The Greatest Game Ever Played: Harry Vardon, Francis Ouimet, and the Birth of Modern Golf

Grade: A
Teacher’s Comments: A wonderful book. It’s compelling even though you already know the outcome.

Mark Frost’s is one of a genre of popular histories that I really enjoy. It takes a single event or item—in this case, tthe 1913 US Open—and uses it to illuminate an entire time and place. (similar books that I’ve enjoyed were Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883 and Salt: A World History

The Greatest Game Ever Played is compelling story of two lives that collide at the US Open: Francis Ouimet, a young working class amateur, and Harry Vardon, winner of six Open (British) Championships.—who, ironically, came from a very similar background to Oiumet’s.

It is a tribute to the author that—even though we know the outcome—he is able to build tension throughout the book. Ouimet’s achievement is one of the greatest in sports and this book does it credit.

Its a hard task, because the true story takes us through one of sports oldest cliches: unknown amateur beats the world’s best. It’s a Rocky Balboa story if there ever was one.

But the book is more than a blow-by-blow. Throughout, Frost takes the reader on side trips through golf and period history. He explains the origins of the word bogey, the development of equipment, the professionalization of the game, how it moved from the old world to the new, and more.

And in addition to Vardon and Ouimet, Frost also introduces us to other fascinating characters, such as Ouimet’s 10 year old caddy, Eddie Lowery; American golf pro Walter Hagen; and Englishman Ted Ray. Eddie Lowery may be one of the best sidekick characters in history.

The “Greatest Game Every Played” is scheduled to be released as a movie in September 2005, which is not surprising, given that its author was a writer for Hill Street Blues, and Twin Peaks. Still, you will want to read it before going to the theature. I can’t imagine that the movie could be half as good as this book.

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