The Ball In The Air Book Review

The Ball in the Air Book Review. Pictured Ball In The Air Book Cover

The Ball In The Air Book Review

The Ball In the Air
by Michael Bamberger
Grade: A
Teachers’ Comments: A refreshingly different book about golf.

Amazon Link

Most golf books seem to fall into one of four categories: instruction, biographies of notable players, accounts of notable events and travelogues.

In The Ball In The Air, veteran golf writer Michael Bamberger has taken a different tack: focusing on how golf has affected the lives of three people most golf fans have never heard of (plus one they might have):

  • Pratima Sherpa grew up in a maintenance shed at Royal Nepal Golf Club. Her discovery of golf leads her from Kathmandu to college golf in Southern California
  • Sam Reeves is a golf-loving amateur who rises from Depression-era rural Georgia to become an international cotton tycoon. His connection — and reconnection — to the game leads to a life well played.
  • Ryan French is a collegiate player out of the golf-obsessed state of Michigan. When faced with a series of difficult life challenges, Ryan and his father try golf therapy: travelling the country to caddy in mini tour golf tournaments. Those experiences lead him to create one of golf’s best-loved Twitter feeds.
  • And then there’s the author Michael Bamberger (the one you likely know). In this book, Bamberger recounts his own meandering through golf as a reporter and amateur player.

Bamberger employs an interesting narrative structure in telling these stories. The Ball In The Air is presented as a series of episodes, each of which leads to cliffhanger of sorts before switching to another person’s story. The technique propelled me through the book, as I had to get through the Reeves, French and Bamberger segments before I could find out what happened to Sherpa. And of course, I had to get through the French, Bamberger and Sherpa segments to get back to what happened to Reeves.

I also kept thinking that — at some point — these four stories had to come together to neatly tie the whole thing up. They didn’t. But that’s ok.

All these people’s stories are worth reading, for they remind us of the power of the game of golf — not for the pros — but for the rest of us. In the book, Bamberger writes the sort of thing I try to do here in this blog, which I tag as the “blog for golf’s 99%”

Golf is the people’s sport. One could happily spend an entire life in golf without ever watching a minute of the pro game. While the stories in this book are all peripherally related to pro golf — French, for example, finds his niche in life covering the mini tours — they are not pro golf centric.

The Ball In The Air‘s publisher says that the book is Bamberger’s “valentine golf.” Valentines, however, are short and trite. The Ball In The Air is more of a paen — a song of praise.


The Ball In The Air book review first appeared on GolfBlogger.Com on March 28, 2022.

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