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Chasing Greatness: Johnny Miller, Arnold Palmer, and the Miracle at Oakmont Hardcover – May 4, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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"Reigning in a narrative with so many plotlines is no gimme, but Schlossman, a history professor at Carnegie Mellon, and Lazarus, his former pupil, take on the challenge with aplomb. Through extensive research and interviews, they can easily loop the tales together, and the momentum they build en rote is palpable, an achievement, certainly, since the outcome is no secret. In the end it's the cast of characters themselves- their dramas, comedies, and motives inside the ropes and beyond- that heighten this chase and keep it moving through a series of biographical codas that extend decades past the trophy presentation."
-Sports Illustrated

"There's a reason Johnny Miller never gets tired of reminding us about his final round in the '73 Open: It was that good. But his staggering 63 in the pressure cooker is only one of the compelling storylines that historian Schlossman and his former student Lazarus- a pretty good story right there- weave together in their meticulously detailed narrative of an Open filled with genuine thrills, dramatic subplots, and, in Oakmont itself, the most feared location in the game"

"The 1973 U.S. Open had everything: the most terrifying golf course in the land; an aging but still fiercely competitive Arnold Palmer; Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Gary Player at the top of their games; a brilliant but troubled golfer named John Schlee making his one bid for immortality; and Johnny Miller's final round 63 that remains the Everest of major championship lore. Now that tournament has a chronicle worthy of it, Chasing Greatness, a prodigiously researched, elegantly written, myth-debunking eagle from the fairway by Adam Lazarus and Steven Schlossman. Fore!"
-Ron Rapoport, author of The Immortal Bobby: Bobby Jones and the Golden Age of Golf

"In 1973, Oakmont was the stage for one of the most riveting sports stories of the 20th century, and in Chasing Greatness Adam Lazarus and Steven Schlossman deliver a grand re-telling of a U.S. Open finish like no other. A week after Secretariat made history at the Belmont, Johnny Miller's final turn of 63 shocked the world, denied the hometown hero, Arnold Palmer, a magical punctuation to his prime, and left an impossibly difficult game looking downright vulnerable. This is a must read for fans of golf, and for fans of the human spirit."
-Ian O'Connor, author of the New York Times bestseller Arnie & Jack: Palmer, Nicklaus, and Golf's Greatest Rivalry

"Informative, engaging, and entertaining... captures the excitement of the 1973 U.S. Open and explains why it was so special in the history of golf."
-George B. Kirsch, Professor of History, Manhattan College, and author of Golf in America

"Authors Adam Lazarus and Steve Schlossman recreate the 1973 U.S. Open with a drama worthy of the event itself... Every sentence here is rich with detail, all woven into an intimate play-by-play. Four days of golf changed lives and careers, and in this precise account, you understand why."
-Chico Harlan, Washington Post staff writer

"If you want the most thorough history of a most memorable championship, this is it."
-Al Barkow, former PGA broadcaster and author of Golf's Golden Grind and Gettin' to the Dance Floor: An Oral History of American Golf

About the Author

Adam Lazarus is a freelance sports journalist.
Steve Schlossman is a professor of American social and cultural history at Carnegie Mellon University, where he teaches a course on the history of golf. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: NAL; 1 edition (May 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451229878
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451229878
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,113,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really can't stand books that have factual errors throughout them, as if the authors really couldn't care less about being accurate. And one of these authors is ostensibly a college professor. Yikes! Same thing with poor or dumb writing, and they are also guilty of the latter.

Some of the errors I have found so far: First, they make reference to Jack Nicklaus, Jr., who is supposedly 10 years old. At the time of this tournament, he was closer to 12 years old, 11 1/2 to be exact. Was this so hard to get right? You could find out his age by Googling it.

They also use the first Ali-Frazier fight (1971) metaphorically at one point, and they write that this is when Joe Frazier "won the world heavyweight title." Wrong! Is it so hard to get something like this right-- it was only the most famous fight and biggest sporting event of the last 75 years, a huge worldwide event at the time. Joe Frazier DIDN'T win the heavyweight title against Ali in 1971, he was ALREADY the heavyweight champion, now defending it, having won the crown vs. Jimmy Ellis in February, 1970. Ali had been stripped of his title in 1967, and in 1971 was fighting Frazier to get it back. Frazier did not win even a "portion" of a title or consolidate portions vs. Ali in their 1971 fight; instead, he was the champion going in and he simply retained his championship (i.e, defended his title successfully) in this bout.

Early on in the book, I couldn't believe my eyes as I read where the authors referred to Gary Player's "British" accent. British? Do they know NOTHING about golf, and about one of its greatest players ever? Player is from South Africa, and sounds every bit like it--not British.
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Format: Hardcover
No one is supposed to win the United States Open by shooting a 63 on the final round. That's done at the Bob Hope Desert Classic, or the Greater Hartford Open, or some event like that. The U.S. Open is won by consistent play, hanging on to a score a couple of under par as the other contenders wilt under the pressure.

Except, no one told Johnny Miller that in 1973.

Miller fired a 63 on a Sunday at Oakmont, one of the nation's top courses, to pull out a stunning victory that turned out to be the signature win of his career. The tournament is fully chronicled in "Chasing Greatness," by Adam Lazarus and Steve Schlossman.

The author has have a great supporting cast to use in the story. Some of the contenders on that weekend were Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Weiskopf, Lee Trevino, Julius Boros, Jerry Heard and Lanny Wadkins. That's pretty much a who's who of the time.

Palmer gets more coverage than anyone here, and deservedly so. He hadn't won a major since the Masters in 1964, and he was running out of chances to do so. Oakmont was near Palmer's home in Western Pennsylvania, and the place where he lost a playoff for the Open title to Nicklaus in 1962. "Arnie's Army" was out in full force.

Of all the contenders in that particular weekend, the most interesting character might be someone named John Schlee. He obviously showed great talent growing up, but went through the early parts of life thinking the rules didn't really apply to him. That made him plenty of enemies. Still, he could play golf well, and had a little success on the PGA tour despite being in some ways a bit of a lost soul. He went through such topics as astrology and biorhythms in a search for some peace of mind, but probably never did find it completely.
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Format: Hardcover

Steve and Adam did terrific research on every facet of this memorable event. Great background, super history, enjoyable color and commentary. Puts heart and soul into the rigors of professional golf and then ties a neat bow with the deep-seated feelings shared in all of their player interviews.

Too much fun as a golf history lesson, a drama, and personal stories all wrapped together.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very compelling telling of a great moment in golf history. The authors offer new insights into both the history and evolution of Oakmont, and the championship itself. I am a fair golf historian and appreciate books like this that add to the scholarship and show me something new, instead of just regurgitating what has been written about before. For example, Barnett's book Miracle at Merion, published in 2010, that deals with Hogan's comeback at Merion, is a nice book but I didn't learn too much new. The narrative in Chasing Greatness flows well, along the lines of Herbert Warren Wind and Al Barkow, who get into the personalities of their subjects. Schlossman and Lazarus weave a number of stories masterfully, telling us about the main characters - Miller, Palmer, Trevino, Nicklaus - but also Julius Boros, who came close to winning at age 53, and the eccentric character of John Schlee, a disciple of Ben Hogan whose life after the Open turned into a sad affair. We also get an excellent history of the development of Oakmont into a brutally difficult monster, one that the members wanted to not only test, but punish, the best players in the world. The rain that fell that week of the Open softened the greens, allowing Miller to charge to victory with his historic final round 63, yet coming down the stretch we learn that he was afraid of hitting a shank and losing the tournament, shaken by the trauma of doing just that in the 1971 Crosby. This, along with other nuggets, gives us the satisfaction of stepping inside the world of these players, and seeing their vulnerabilities as well as strengths. If you want to learn something new about golf history, I encourage you to read this book.
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