Analyzing the legend and lore of golf's most celebrated tournament has become something of a cottage industry of late, but Owen, who displayed his personal golfing affections, frustrations, and obsessions so marvelously in My Usual Game
, now goes where his competition hasn't gained access: to the source--via access to Augusta National's archives, records, and membership. The result is a sympathetic, yet still critical and complex portrait of the club and its founder, Clifford Roberts, to whom golf history has not been particularly kind. Indeed, for better--and for worse--Roberts and Augusta remain linked throughout what is essentially a volume that weaves biography with social history played against a sporting canvas. Naturally, finance, ego, Bobby Jones, television, and President Eisenhower figure into the tale, but Eisenhower's not the only leader of the free world to use the club's exclusivity to his benefit; Owen uncovers the delicious bit that Ronald Reagan and George Schultz helped finalize the invasion of Grenada there.
Of course, there is also some great golf. Augusta National would be just another golf club with a fancy pedigree and history of exclusion were it not for the remarkable tournament that it hosts every year. Owen, a graceful writer, tees up plenty of detail and anecdote in a hole-by-hole tour of the track, lined with perspective. Owen explains,
If the Masters seems older than it is, that's largely because the tournament, alone among the majors, is conducted year after year on the same course. Every important shot is played against a backdrop that consists of every other important shot, all the way back to 1934. Every key drive, approach, chip, and putt is footnoted and cross-referenced across decades of championship play. Every swing--good or bad--has a context.
The context that Owen provides makes The Making of the Masters
as indispensable as a hot putter. --Jeff Silverman
From Publishers Weekly
Revered today as the most prestigious and tradition-rich tournament in American golf, the Masters, like the Augusta National Golf Club at which it is played, sprang from humble beginnings. As every ardent golf fan knows, Augusta National was the brainchild of legendary golfer Bobby Jones Jr., who teamed with stockbroker Cliff Roberts to build what is considered to be the cathedral of American golf courses on the site of a former flower nursery in Georgia. What is less well known is that financial problems nearly prevented the course from ever being built, and that Roberts conceived of the Masters as a way to promote the club, which was having trouble attracting members during the Depression. In describing the growth of the tournament, New Yorker staff writer Owen (My Usual Game) centers his story on Roberts, the hard-driving "benevolent dictator" who served as chairman of both the Masters and Augusta National from their inception until he committed suicide in 1971 at age 77. Owen portrays the often controversial Roberts in the most favorable light possible. In particular, he defends the Masters' (and by extension Roberts's) record of not having the first black golfer participate in the tournament until Lee Elder broke the barrier in 1975. Indeed, Owen treats everything connected with Roberts and the Masters in reverential terms, dismissing critics as ill informed. Despite this shortcoming, Owen has unearthed enough details and colorful anecdotes about the tournament and its playersAboth on the course and behind the scenesAto make this nearly irresistible reading for devoted golfers and weekend duffers. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.