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The Longest Shot: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, and Pro Golf's Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open Hardcover – May 22, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Fifty-seven years after the fact (and in time for this year's Open at Olympic), two books about one of golf's most improbable upsets have surfaced simultaneously. Like the clash between Hogan and Fleck, the works pit an established, celebrated veteran against a relative upstart. And as in 1955, the upstart wins. But, unlike in 1955, it's not close. The Longest Shot is the first book from Neil Sagebiel, the founder and editor of Armchair Golf Blog, and he makes a strong bid to create shelf space for himself alongside 21st-century golf literati like John Feinstein, Mark Frost and Don Van Natta Jr. Sagebiel takes his time, working leisurely as golf demands, but does a thorough job. And his narrative pace during the last hour of that final round, as he bounces back and forth between Hogan in the locker room and Fleck on the course, may have a rhythm more suited to a tennis rally, but here it aces.” ―The New York Times Sunday Book Review

“A compelling read…Golf historians can thank Sagebiel.” ―PGA Magazine

“Long before a small circle of American kids dismantled the Soviets' Big Red Machine at Lake Placid, Jack Fleck's defeat of the mighty Ben Hogan at the 1955 U.S. Open was as stunning and stirring an upset as sports had ever seen. In The Longest Shot, Neil Sagebiel not only expertly reconstructs the million-to-one tale of the Iowa muni pro who denied Hogan his chance to become the only man to win the Open five times, he honors the grand tradition of profound and poetic literature in golf.” ―Ian O'Connor, New York Times bestselling author of Arnie & Jack: Palmer, Nicklaus, and Golf's Greatest Rivalry

The Longest Shot is the remarkable story of how Jack Fleck, the improbably named municipal course pro from Iowa, defeated the great Ben Hogan at the 1955 U.S. Open. Moment by moment, Neil Sagebiel lyrically describes the drama of the David-and-Goliath clash at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. Sagebiel persuades a new generation of readers that Fleck's triumph was not only the most unlikely result at a U.S. Open, but one of the greatest upsets in American sports history. The Longest Shot is destined to become a classic of golf literature.” ―Don Van Natta Jr., New York Times bestselling author of First Off the Tee: Presidential Hackers, Duffers, and Cheaters from Taft to Bush and Wonder Girl: The Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias

“Iowa golfer topples big-time golf legend. Zach Johnson over Tiger Woods at the 2007 Masters? Sure, that was a huge upset. But how does it compare to another Iowa golfer taking down an icon? Jack Fleck had never won on tour, was playing a few hours behind the immortal Ben Hogan--who had already accepted congratulations for winning the 1955 U.S. Open--and had to birdie the 18th hole just to tie the four-time Open champion. Then it was on to an 18-hole playoff the next day in which the unknown Iowa muni pro knocked off his idol by three strokes. In The Longest Shot, Neil Sagebiel details how this remarkable outcome unfolded.” ―Bob Harig, senior golf writer, ESPN.com

“Lost in the pages of golf history is a remarkable story of an unknown municipal golf professional who won the 1955 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. Author Neil Sagebiel's account of the courage and determination of Jack Fleck, who late on a Saturday afternoon came out of the pack to tie the legendary Ben Hogan, and then go onto defeat him in an 18-hole playoff, is dramatically recounted in The Longest Shot. It is a Cinderella story of a young professional from Iowa who against all odds wins the U.S. Open. It is also the bittersweet account of Ben Hogan's last hurrah.” ―John Coyne, author of The Caddie Who Knew Ben Hogan

“The Longest Shot is more than the story of the greatest upset in U.S. Open history. It's a book for anyone who's ever risked everything to follow a dream. Golfers owe Sagebiel a thank you for lending a voice to this oft-forgotten tale.” ―Bob Smiley, author of Follow the Roar: Tailing Tiger for All 604 Holes of His Most Spectacular Season

“Upsets are the lifeblood of sports, and golf has provided its share--but arguably none so startling as unheralded Jack Fleck's triumph over the legendary Ben Hogan in the 1955 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. In "Dewey Beats Truman" fashion, NBC proclaimed Hogan the winner of his unprecedented fifth U.S. Open while there was still one man on the course, the unknown Iowan Fleck, who had a chance to tie. He did exactly that, with a birdie on the eighteenth hole, and then went on to beat Hogan by three strokes in the next day's playoff. Sagebiel wrings every ounce of drama and poignancy out of this remarkable sporting event, backtracking to tell the story of the lanky, teetotaling, socially insecure Fleck's improbable rise to success and judiciously reprising Hogan's life and career, including the nearfatal car accident and the inspirational comeback that followed it. And, of course, just like in a movie, Fleck idolized Hogan and was the first professional, other than Hogan himself, to use Hogan-designed clubs. But it's the on-course drama that golf fans will relish, Fleck, "whose long, fluid golf swing wrapped around his lean body like a loose belt," besting the man whose steely determination to win that fifth Open made him seem unbeatable. As fellow player Bob Rosburg observed about the outcome, "It defied everything anybody knew about golf." Great storytelling and great golf history.” ―Booklist

“Neil Sagebiel of Floyd County captures the drama and the ambiance of professional golf in the mid-1950s in a book that will delight golfers but also enhance any reader's understanding of American society in post-World War II America. The story of Iowa club pro Jack Fleck's rise from obscurity to win the U.S. Open is the essence of the American Dream....Sagebiel brings to life the drama of the tournament and the long road to arrive there. He also re-creates a time when golf was just a sport, and the players enjoyed the game without the money and the fame that accompany modern-day athletes. Reading this book is like reading the golf coverage from a major newspaper in the 1950s when a keen ability to describe the players and their venue was the key to having readers.” ―Roanoke Times

“The author's imaginative narrative…gives a fascinating insight into Hogan's character, avoiding death by inches in a 1951 car crash to become one of the game's great icons.” ―GolfMagic.com

About the Author

NEIL SAGEBIEL is the founder and editor of Armchair Golf Blog, one of the top golf blogs on the Internet. A former copywriter for a Seattle advertising agency and major newspaper, he is a freelance writer in Floyd, Virginia.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; First Edition edition (May 22, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312661843
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312661847
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,021,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gary K. McCormick VINE VOICE on July 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought a copy of "The Longest Shot" just prior to the 2012 U.S. Open, when the event would return to the site of the events recounted in the book - the Olympic Club, in San Francisco, CA. I attended the 2012 Open, working as a USGA volunteer, and I watched two days of practice rounds and all four days of the tournament. I waited until after the Open to start reading the book, and though the author does a great job of bringing the story to life for readers who have never been to the venue, my familiarity with the course after having spent the week of the Open there added to my enjoyment of the story.

One thing that I found special about Mr Sagebiel's telling of the story is the sense of anticipation I got as the events of that long-ago week unfolded in the pages of the book - as I read along, especially when reading about the final regulation round and the playoff round, I found that I couldn't wait to see what happened next, even though I knew how the tournament ended! I got that same sense of anticipation when watching the Tom Hanks movie "Apollo 13" -- even though I had watched those events unfold on TV at the time, the movie was so well done that I could feel the tension and the drama of the story playing out as if I had no knowledge of the ending.

I also like the way that Mr Sagebiel let the reader know what Jack Fleck was all about, what kind of a man he was at the time. Over the years this story has been told more from the point of view of this fluky thing happening to Ben Hogan; Mr Sagebiel tells the story from Jack's side, and bring out a fuller portrait of him than "unknown muni course pro". I especially liked the description of the aftermath of the Open, and the effect that the win had on Jack's life. I see parallels in the aftermath of Bubba Watson's Masters win.
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Sagebiel does the golfing community, especially its aficanados who enjoy reading about its history, a great service with this fine chronicle of one of golf's greatest upsets, Jack Fleck over Ben Hogan.

The Open upset in 1955 at Olympic Club was brought to all of our minds with the recent Open happening there and the TV interview with Fleck himself. This spurred my purchase of this volume and read it with pleasure and interest as it is very well written. It tracks the two different paths for the '55 playoff, one a obscure pro from Iowa and the other the renowed Hawk who was nearing the end of a marvelous career.

This is developed over the years and then becomes more detailed as the Open in San Francisco and what leads up to it. Amazing and fascinating to this Christian golfer is the faith of this man and that he took a portable phonograph (remember those) and played Mario Lanza singing "I'll Walk with God," and his hearing a voice several times saying to him "Jack, you are going to win the Open." This coupled with his saying to Hogan before the playoff, "You'll know what I mean," without his even knowing why he said it.

The connection between Hogan and Fleck with boy playing Hogan clubs is amazing. Finally, the Cherry Creek Open transceting the career of Fleck, Hogan, Palmer and Nicklaus. Truly this is a book worth reading and owning.
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To be perfectly honest, I don't give a hoot about golf, although I tried once in the dim past. I think it is an incredibly aggravating sport. If you were going to design something to hit a little ball with you'd be nuts to invent a golf club. Having lived for 20 years in Seattle's Sand Point Country Club, I can tell you from first hand observation that good golf courses feature beautiful landscaping, but are populated by people wearing the most bizarre and colorblind clothes known to mankind.

Why in the world did I buy a book about this strange sport? Okay, here's full disclosure: I knew Neil Sagebeil as an advertising copywriter here in Seattle before he moved away to the little town of Floyd, Virginia now many years ago. When he left, I missed him because I thought he was a fine man and a very good writer. Along the way I re-discovered him on the Internet and periodically read and enjoyed his newsletter describing his new life in Floyd as well as dishing out smart bits of wisdom about writing and marketing communications.

When I finally learned that he had not only published THE LONGEST SHOT, but that Booklist, the very influential and authoritative literary industry reviewer, had named it one of the 10 top sports books of the year, I was enormously impressed. And as a fellow author, enormously jealous. I had to read it.

Boy, was I ever glad I did. I ordered it on Amazon Prime, so I would get it almost immediately. It came three days ago. I read it in the first two. Unable to put it down, I read far into the night. It is a totally absorbing story and superb writing. Illuminating the careers of a world acclaimed sports champion colliding at the 1955 US Open with a barely recognized club pro from Davenport, Iowa, The Longest Shot is a BIG story.
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I recently finished Neil Sagebiel's first book, The Longest Shot. This is a well written tale about the 1955 U.S. Open and more importantly, about the rise of an unknown golfer at the time named Jack Fleck. Mr. Sagebiel also provided a great look into the life of the professional golf tour during the 1950's and how it differs from today's media driven events. I recommend this book to those who love golf and those who love a good underdog story.
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