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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
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. It's like watching a made-for-television movie about the Open. One of the strengths of the dramatization is to capture the psychology of the event in what read to me like realistic terms.
During the matches, there's a tremendous amount of detail about the shots that were taken. I was impressed by the amount of research that went into capturing the drama of the occasion.
If you don't know the story, Harry Varden was the greatest star of his day. He was touring the United States with Ted Ray to earn money and to establish British superiority over the Americans by winning the Open. Before he was done, he would win six British Open championships despite having lost many years due to World War I and his illness with tuberculosis . . . and its permanent effects on his putting. Varden was Ouimet's idol, in fact. Their backgrounds were very similar in coming up as caddies from poor, working class families. Golf had been a game for the privileged rich until a small class of professionals rose up. Ouimet's victory was exceptional in that he played as an amateur and because he was so inexperienced. His victory had large ramifications for the sport in encouraging its further development in the United States and in attracting future stars to the game like Gene Sarazen and Bobby Jones.
The venue for the competition was The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts. Ouimet lived across from the 17th hole and learned to play on three holes that he and his brother built in their backyard. Ouimet got his first golf club by trading used balls he found on the course. Golf fans will be delighted to know that the 17th hole has been important in three major tournaments at TCC, the most recent being the long putt that Justin Leonard made there to win the Ryder Cup in 1999.
To me, one of the most delightful parts of the story involved tiny 10-year-old Eddie Lowery caddying for Ouimet after the first day of qualifying. Eddie was no taller than the bag and had to dodge the truant officer to get to the course. He had injured his foot before the Open and the wound bled through his bandage every day. Anyone who has ever had a young caddy will be reminded of the pleasures of working with a youngster and how that joy adds to the fun of playing.
Mr. Frost is an exceptional story teller, and I hope that he will write other historical dramatizations in the future.
As I finished the book, I realized that I should be sure to look for well researched versions of historical subjects to test my understanding of those events. Otherwise, my beliefs will often be wrong . . . and I will miss out on the drama of the real story.
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on 16 October 2013
Hard to put down, even to play a regular weekly fourball. The author takes us through a vital and interesting period of golfing development when British golfers led the world and introduced the game to America. After Francis Ouimet, this outstanding and dedicated young home -grown amateur who stayed with the established British stars such as Harry Vardon to beat him to win the US Open at Brookline in 1913, they learnt very quickly. And names such as Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones figure in this highly readable book. I made the mistake of lending a paperback version of The Greatest Game Ever Played to a friend and, like some of my errant drivers from the tee, it never came back. I downloaded the Kindle version to read it again, and am in no way sorry. For a £8 or so, it is a must for all golfers interested in the development of a great and frustrating game. Well done Mark Frost; your style and attention to detail and your skill in keeping the storyline so gripping to be applauded.
Reviewer. Alec Parrett (Broadstairs, Kent)
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on 9 September 2007
Today I've just come back from Florida. I picked this book up over there purely by chance. I was in a book store looking for a 'good golf book' to read whilst relaxing. I picked this because of the title of the book, the fact Harry Vardon was in it (I have heard of him but didn't know that much) and also because it said 'the birth of modern golf'. I started to play golf in my spare time last April and have always been fascinated about the origins of the game.

This book isn't short, but I finished it in under 7 days. Its a real page turner and I couldn't put it down. The author does a fantastic job of bringing the action to life.

Highly recommended ! In fact I've just come back off holiday and found out a film was produced based on the book in 2005. I'm off to buy that right now !
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on 20 January 2003
'The Greatest Game Ever Played' is the story of the 1913 US Open Championship which is attributed to igniting the flames in interest in golf in America.
British legend Harry Vardon was at the peak of his powers at that time, yet found rank outsider Francis Ouimet, a US amateur 23 years his junior, to be his fiercest competitor.
Theirs was one of golf's definitive confrontations, pitting local boy against all-conquering hero and Mark Frost's account looks set to be considered one of the sport's conclusive accounts.
Undoubtedly this clash changed world golf forever. We might think now how great it would be if Brits dominated the global game, but the sport would have been much duller without Ouimet's win.
A real eye opener on the birth of a phenomenon in America.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 21 October 2003
Wonderful, wonderful book. An amazing set of events and circumstances told in a captivating and entertaining way. A "must read" for golf fans, and a "should read" even for non-golf fans.
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on 10 July 2009
Mark Frost does it again with another page turner of the highest order, with wonderful insights into Vardon and Quimet that teach even the most well versed in golf history a thing or two.

Mark Frost remains, as I'm sure he does for many others, the premier historic golf writer of his generation. The human, as well as golfing angles, are superbly researched and detailed, and written with real understanding, passion and thoughtfulness.

The true test of his books is to give them to a non golfer...and they love them as well.

Is this his best book ? Buy and read them all, because it's a close run thing.
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on 14 July 2010
What a fantastic book. I was so enthused reading this story about the great champions Harry Vardon and Francis Ouimet that I stopped worrying about how appalling my own golf is!
This is a double biography that reads like a novel. The narative is compelling and the way the book is structured is superb.
The detailed research that has gone into this superb book is amazing and the wonderful spirit in which it is written brings this story of sporting greatness and achievement, against all odds, vividly to life.
Quite simply, one of the best books I have ever read.
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on 11 July 2007
When I first started to read this book I wasn't sure of the history behind the story, however once I got in to it I couldn't put it down. The way Mark manages to capture the real events and characters within the story I was fully engrossed in the event and could feel the excitement of the game. During the final chapters of the book I was totally captivated and felt like I was on the course.

A must read for all golf fans.
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on 1 December 2010
For golfers or non golfers that have an interest in the history of the game this is a must read. It's just amazing to think about how the game was played in those days with the equipment they had. Perhaps luck may have had a stronger bearing on results, no ball cleaning allowed etc. However Gary Player's famous remark about luck and practise was as relevant then as now.
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on 14 August 2011
Having lent a copy of The Greatest Game Ever Played to several friends, it has failed to be returned so I just had to buy another copy. Now, having re-read it, I would still pass it on to other golfing friends but this time I have my name on it! This is a book which can be easily enjoyed over and over again.
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