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‘Byron Nelson’ by John Companiotte

By: Dr. John Wagner


At first I was not real excited about reading this book as it seemed to be just a whole lot of information about rounds of golf, scores, club used, etc., by one of golf’s greatest players. I find such accounts boring. I much rather prefer knowing more about the main character and what goes on after a round of golf.

However, fearing loss of my huge salary from Cybergolf, I read the book. I was pleasantly surprised at the author’s ability to spin in lots of facts and side stories that made each tournament interesting. That’s not easy to do.

In his section on the now-defunct Seattle Open, Companiotte goes into considerable detail about the underrated golf course architect, Vernon Macan. A former Scot who moved to Canada at the turn of the last century, Macan designed many of Pacific Northwest’s great old courses. Since I’ve played many of them, it was illuminating to get more history about Macan.

Another Seattle angle is a discussion about Harry Givan, who’s mentioned in the Seattle Open section. A lifetime amateur, Givan was a local legend who, after downing three martinis for lunch, would routinely go out and shoot a 67. Tacoma’s Chuck Congdon is also cited. Congdon became one of the best pros in the Northwest at Tacoma Country & Golf Club, one of the nation’s oldest clubs that has hosted many USGA tournaments.

Throughout the book are many interesting tidbits from other parts of the country, including facts and stories about your area. Such detail makes it clear that Companiotte did a lot of research.

Yes, it’s also a great story about Byron Nelson. But in injecting such local lore, you will learn a lot of history about golf and the many people who crossed Nelson’s path. That to me is what makes this an interesting read. Personally, I’d be happy winning just one tournament.

“Byron Nelson” by John Companiotte, Triumph Books, 2006, $24.95, 256 pages, ISBN 10-1-57243-813-4

Dr. John Wagner has been a Seattle dentist for 37 years. He’s been published in several dental journals as well as had several articles appear in the turf magazine for Pacific Northwest golf course superintendents. John has served as a guest lecturer at the University of Washington Business School for several years and as a guest lecturer for several dental societies. Dr. Wagner is the co-designer (with Steve Shea of the Berger Partnership) of a golf course in Japan that cost over $120 million and was built by Wadsworth Golf Construction. He’s a Past President of the Washington State Golf Association and a Trustee of the Pacific Coast Golf Association. John is currently a Member of the USGA Green Section and a Director of the WSGA.