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The Greatest Game Ever Played: Harry Vardon, Francis Ouimet, and the Birth of Modern Golf Hardcover – November 6, 2002

4.8 out of 5 stars 189 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This first nonfiction effort by Frost, who is a novelist (The List of Seven), television producer (Twin Peaks) and scriptwriter (Hill Street Blues), deftly tells the story behind the legendary 1913 U.S. Open, in which Francis Ouimet, a 20-year-old golf amateur from Massachusetts, shocked the genteel golf world by defeating British champion Harry Vardon, the most famous pro golfer of his time and the inventor of what today is still considered the modern grip and swing. Frost knows he has a good story and manages to touch on all the right elements of the plot: Ouimet and Vardon not only represent two different social worlds and two different generations, but also share a number of key personal facts and traits. Ouimet was "the boy-next-door amateur, young and modest and free from affectation," while Vardon was the consummate professional whose record of six British Open victories has never been matched. Yet Frost superbly shows how both shared a steely drive to succeed that helped Vardon overcome a long bout with tuberculosis and Ouimet to overcome a working-class background in which golf was seen (especially by his father) as a wealthy man's game, the perfect example of the evils of capitalism. Frost beautifully weaves history into his narrative, clearly showing the long-term impact this duel had on the game and how it helped propel the U.S. Open into the arena of world-class golf. Frost's final chapters on the last two rounds of the 1913 Open have all the page-turning excitement of a blockbuster novel.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The story of Francis Ouimet, the first amateur to win the U.S. Open golf tournament, is just too good to be true: it's Rocky without the sequels, it's Jack without his beanstalk, it's Tiger without Nike. But it's true, and as told by veteran thriller writer Frost, it's the most compelling sports book since Laura Hillenbrand's best-selling Seabiscuit. Born in 1893, Ouimet grew up poor, directly across the street from The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, where Boston's blue bloods tried their hands at the new sport of golf. The game caught young Francis in its grip, and despite his father's disapproval, he became a caddie at the club and taught himself to play. Frost jumps between Ouimet's story and the surprisingly similar saga of British champion Harry Vardon, who was also born poor and contended with a disapproving father. Frost builds his characters--not just Ouimet and Vardon but also Francis' caddy, 10-year-old Eddie Lowery--with the skill of a novelist (occasionally but believably using invented dialogue). The climax of the narrative--the recounting of the 1913 U.S. Open at Brookline, where the unheralded, 20-year-old Ouimet beat both his idol Vardon and the other reigning British professional, Ted Ray--is genuinely exciting, a marvelous re-creation of a signature moment in golf history. Underdog stories have become among the sappiest cliches in pop-culture's arsenal, but this one reminds us why they worked in the first place. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 9
  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; 1 edition (November 6, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786869208
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786869206
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (189 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #386,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on March 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
After sober reflection, I state my conviction that, if I lived the length of a dozen lives, I should never again be the spectator of such an amazing,
thrilling and magnificent finish to an Open championship.
-Bernard Darwin (1876-1961), The Times of London
Mark Frost has already proven himself a terrific writer, with such television series as the great Hill Street Blues and the innovative Twin Peaks to his credit,
and a few successful novels, including the excellent Sherlock Holmes homage, The List of Seven>, and a sequel, The Six Messiahs. But I don't know that
anything can have prepared even his fans for this book, which, though one must have some reservations about its form, is quite simply one of the best golf
books ever written.
To begin with, Mr. Frost has chosen his topic wisely. Harry Vardon (1870-1937) and Francis Ouimet (1893-1967)--both of whom came from working
class families, had difficult relationships with their fathers, and learned to golf as boys at the local courses where they caddied, Ouimet in Massachusetts, Vardon some twenty-plus years earlier on
the Isle of Jersey--are thoroughly compelling heroes. In 1913 their similar stories converged at The Country Club, in Brookline, MA--the very club at which Francis had caddied--in the United
States Open. Harry Vardon was at that time probably the best golfer in the world and in previous visits to America had been instrumental in marketing the game here. But it was to be the young
amateur Francis Ouimet's playoff victory over the professional Vardon and countryman Ted Ray that, or so Mr. Frost argues, gave birth to the modern golf era in America.
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Format: Hardcover
Mark Frost’s first novel, The List Of Seven, was so meticulously researched, had you not known it was fiction you would believe it to be fact. His latest work, The Greatest Game Ever Played, is so well structured and vivid in its description of characters and events, had you not known it was fact, you would embrace it as a novel. It is a wonderful, captivating, heartwarming yarn. And every detail is true.
It took me nearly two weeks to read The Greatest Game Ever Played - not because I’m a slow reader nor because the book is that long - but, because I savored each chapter, internalized its characters, and then proceeded to go out and shoot a terrific game of golf. Frost’s historical novel actually taught me to play better by inviting me inside the hearts and minds of golfing greats Harry Vardon and Francis Ouimet. I simply didn’t want the experience to end.
Frost’s gift for storytelling is at its best as he tackles a subject he clearly loves. His fascination and enthusiasm are contagious. The Greatest Game Ever Played is a book you will read more than once and want to share with your friends: golfers, golf-widows, and all those who simply think golfers are crazy.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm still entranced by this work. It ties the game many of us are passionate about with two key individuals: Harry Vardon and Francis Ouimet.
From their confrontation at The Country Club emanated modern golf era in America and Bobbby, Jack, Arnie, Tiger et al.
That's just one of many points that struck this reader, the amazing influence Vardon and Ouimet had. The grip, the ball, the fame, the book. Francis taken in by all this. Harry finally taken in by this young golfer from across the street.
The first half is just superb history telling by a master writer who has done the research so well. Amazing chapter on what was going on historically in 1913. Context makes this so riverting reading!
The second half is the Open that started the U.S. modern era.
Parallels abound between Harry and Francis and their love for the game, start and family interest.
From a growing sizeable personal golf library, this will be a most treasured volume, to be reread fondly. Those who follow golf will want to know this heritage which runs from Morris to Vardon to Ouimet to Sarazen to Jones to Venturi to you and me. What a book! What a game!
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Format: Hardcover
Although I drive past the Ouimet museum every day on my way to work, have contributed to the Ouimet Scholarship fund for caddies for many years and thought I knew all about the 1913 Open, this book was an eye opener for me. Almost everything I thought I knew was incorrect in some important detail, and the best parts of the story were unknown to me until I read this well researched and exciting book.
While I'm not sure that the 1913 Open was the greatest game ever played, I do know that The Greatest Game Ever Played was the best sports book I read in 2003. I heartily recommend it to any golf fan and those who love to read about the underdog rising to the top.
Before discussing the Open, let me comment that this book has a format that most will find unusual. There is extensive background on the origins of golf, the backgrounds of the players, the development of golf in the United States and the social history of the time, as well a lengthy section on aftermaths of the players and individuals involved. You will learn about unexpected subjects, such as how tuberculosis was treated before there were antibiotics.
The story-telling style is in the best tradition of fictional dramatizations. Some of the dialogue is invented. The author indicates that "in employing dialogue to bring these scenes to life, I used source material for direct attribution whenever possible. In its occasional absence I attempted to infer intent from prose or reportage . . . . In rare exceptions, with a dramatist's license, and in the utter want of an eyewitness, I took the liberty of elaborating on those perceptions beyond what I could absolutely verify." It's impossible to know which dialogue material is a quotation and what is invented, so don't take the dialogue too literally.
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