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'The Upset' by Al Barkow

By: Dr. John Wagner


Some time ago I wrote that I have a 35-page rule. If you cannot get me to want to read more of a book in 35 pages, you are not a writer. This book is the reverse of that. After the first 35 pages I was so enjoying it that I recommend it just for those opening pages.

I love reading about life stories and gleaning background information about famous golfers, and here's a book that is the best with that type of material. It's about Jack Fleck and Ben Hogan and the 1955 U.S. Open (I won't spoil the ending).

I learned a lot about how Fleck grew up in the Depression and had to work hard to support his family. Great stuff. He falls in love and declares himself a professional golfer without ever being an amateur. Now that's different. He was on a ship lobbing shells during D-Day and the invasion of Normandy and saw the English Channel turn red with the blood of his fellow soldiers. Barkow provides a lot more background on Fleck.

I learned that Hogan had an interesting betting game when he played with other pros; I'll let your read about this fascinating stuff. Hogan meticulously studied all U.S. Open courses and knew beforehand where he would play drives to better position himself for approaches to the par-4s. Compare what he did to the preparation of today's pros for the Open.

It's ironic that in a recent issue of Golfweek, Curtis Strange commented on how much easier the U.S. Open is becoming. In this book, Hogan relates how difficult the Open is and why his preparation and study of the courses was so important.

If, like me, you like reading about great golfers and their ways of thinking, Barkow has written one of the best books ever on those subjects. I loved the first 35 pages and the rest of the book is even better.

"The Upset," by Al Barkow, 230 pages, $24.95, Chicago Review Press, ISBN 978-1-61374-075-0

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. A 7 handicap, John is currently a member of the USGA Green Section and a Director of the WSGA.

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