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American Triumvirate: Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, and the Modern Age of Golf [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

James Dodson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

March 13 2012
In this celebration of three legendary champions on the centennial of their births in 1912, one of the most accomplished and successful writers about the game explains the circumstances that made each of them so singularly brilliant and how they, in turn, saved not only the professional tour but modern golf itself, thus making possible the subsequent popularity of players from Arnold Palmer to Tiger Woods.
 
During the Depression—after the exploits of Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen and Bobby Jones (winning the Grand Slam as an amateur in 1930) had faded in the public’s imagination—golf’s popularity fell year after year, and as a spectator sport it was on the verge of extinction. This was the unhappy prospect facing two dirt-poor boys from Texas and another from Virginia who had dedicated themselves to the game yet could look forward only to eking out a subsistence living along with millions of other Americans. But then lightning struck, and from the late thirties into the fifties these three men were so thoroughly dominant—each setting a host of records—that they transformed both how the game was played and how society regarded it.
 
Sports fans in general are well aware of Hogan and Nelson and Snead, but even the most devoted golfers will learn a great many new things about them here. Their hundredth birthdays will be commemorated throughout 2012—Nelson born in February, Snead in May, and Hogan in August—but as this comprehensive and compelling account vividly demonstrates, they were, and will always remain, a triumvirate for the ages.

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American Triumvirate: Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, and the Modern Age of Golf + Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf's Mysterious Genius
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Review

"Evokes an era when golf was more vivid and less corporate....Dodson manages to reanimate his chosen three.  His book makes a convincing case that Snead, Nelson and Hogan really did usher in the modern era of golf—because of the quality of their play and the dramatic nature of their rivalry—and it's also a fascinating biographical account of three gifted, unusual men....That all three should come along at the same time and that their lives should interweave so intricately—one or another of them was always on top of the leader board, it seems—is almost uncanny, a stroke of singular good fortune both for golf and for people who like to read about it." —Charles McGrath, The New York Times Book Review

“The research is thorough and meticulous. The writing is superb… If you love golf, this book should be on your shelf.”—The Tampa Tribune

“Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson will always be long remembered as giants of the game.  Jim's depiction of them magnifies the brilliance of the three, who strangely enough we all born in the year 1912. What a year!” —Ben Crenshaw

“I read it at night, and saw Hogan, Snead and Nelson in my dreams. American Triumvirate is populated by giants, roaming the country in big American-made cars in search of greatness. I'm only sorry Herb Wind isn't around to enjoy it. Jim Dodson has stepped right into the dean's old shoes.” —Michael Bamberger

"James Dodson brings his formidable skills as a raconteur and historian to this rich and sweeping narrative that will engage and move you. His breezy tone made me feel I was with him as he chatted with Hogan, Nelson, and Snead. American Triumvirate is a major contribution to golf’s literature. To read it is to appreciate the power of storytelling in the hands of a master, and what a cast of characters! This singular chronicler of the game—its people, its culture, its tapestry—has done it again." —Lorne Rubenstein, author of Moe and Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf's Mysterious Genius
 
"Golf is enriched by its history. Thankfully we have writers like Jim Dodson, who with his great love of the game and exceptional writing ability allows the reader to experience the golfing life of three of the game's greatest players as they bring awareness of  the professional game to the level we know today." —Barney Adams, founder and chairman, Adams Golf 

“It’s always a pleasure to welcome a new book from James Dodson…without doubt one of the best golf writers….But in American Triumvirate, he has almost outdone himself.  Filled to the brim with biographical tidbits, insightful golf history and loving portraits of these golfing musketeers in the early years of professional golf history, Dodson’s book captures it all in a readable and exciting narrative.  He seems to have interviewed everyone who knew them, and the stories and anecdotes make us feel like we’re right there watching their near perfect golf swings over and over again.” –Tom Lavoie, Shelf Awareness

About the Author

James Dodson is the editor of O. Henry and PineStraw magazines and an award-winning writer-in-residence at The Pilot newspaper. He is the author of Ben Hogan’s authorized biography and worked with Arnold Palmer on his, and his other best-selling books include Final Rounds, The Dewsweepers, and A Son of the Game. He wrote a column for Golf Magazine for nearly twenty years, and in 2011 he received the Donald Ross Award from the American Society of Golf Course Architects for his contribution to golf literature.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read July 13 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Bought two of these books from Amazon on the strength of a good review, and gave them as birthday presents. Both recipients thoroughly enjoyed the book. A great story, well written.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  40 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Ace for Jim Dodson March 24 2012
By C. Larsen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Once again Jim Dodson proves himself a master story teller with a masterful feel for the game of golf. By telling, with intimate detail, the stories of Snead, Nelson and Hogan he bridges the gap between the Hagan and Bobby Jones era to the modern surge with Palmer, Jack and Gary Player. We who have been trapped in Tiger era are painfully reminded that Snead, Nelson and Hogan were even more dominant in their time and were winning often against each other. In addition to great golfing skills, al three men were quietly generous with the bounty of their success. Dodson writes like he was there and the reader gets to be there too. Anyone with a love of history and golf lore will enjoy this wonderful book.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars American Triumvirate March 22 2012
By Casper - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What a wonderful Book!! Maybe the best golf book ever written. Dodson brings The Modern Age Of Golf right into one's life. One feels as if he grew up with Sam, Ben, and Byron, met and understood them and their families, and was present when they grew old and they were no longer of this world. If you love history and if you love golf you will love American Triumvirate. JJ
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars As much about Snead as it is about Ben April 10 2012
By Alejandro Cabrera - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I know I won't be the only one that bought this book hoping to get yet another glimpse at Ben Hogan's life. Having read the majority of anything related to the man, I went into this reading with an open mind, knowing the majority of what I would read would either be a rehash or if I was lucky, a different perspective on the now historic events of his life.

I wasn't disappointed with the Ben Hogan portions of the book, and although they were mostly very well known details, I did find a gem or two along the way. Again, I expected that - what I didn't expect was to get a much better glimpse at another one of my very favorite golfers, Mr. Sam Snead. While Byron's role in the book is somewhat diminished simply because he bowed out of this triumvirate early on, Snead shares the spotlight with Hogan in a way that I would venture to say might have pleased him. The undertones in the book are obvious, although they amounted to good friends in the end, Sam Snead took on the role of Hogan's principal rival/motivator once Lord Byron decided to hang up his clubs for quite literally, greener pastures.

I've read a few books on Snead, and countless stories on his life on tour but before this book I hadn't read an autobiography on the man and didn't have enough context to truly see the incredible rivalry Sam and Ben had and how they influenced each other during their time as Golf's undisputed titans.

Great read for fans of both players but it can drag a bit since it's also a historical piece that more or less documents all the notables achievements of all three men's careers.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A great story marred by sloppy editing June 21 2012
By Michael Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Ken Orton nailed it in his review. Knopf should be embarrassed to have let this be printed.
I enjoyed Dodson's earlier books on Hogan and Palmer and his Final Rounds is one of my favorites. But this time he seems to have slapped together a book for a timely celebration of the 100th birthdays of the famous trio and it includes every kind of mistake you can make. First, there are several errors that are obvious examples of spell-check laziness. For example, Hogan "kept Palmer on the sidelines for the second-day tour balls."
In addition there are baffling insertions such as "..., Jack Grout may have straightened out Bennie Hogan's 'hog killer' grip five and certainly encouraged him ...." There also are many instances of redundancies, either as repetition of anecdotes or duplicated words within sentences.
Then there are errors of fact. Historians will be surprised to read that the Lend Lease program in WWII was actually Roosevelt's encouragement of American manufacturers to lend or lease equipment to the Brits, instead of the US government's somewhat misleading "loan" of warships in exchange for leases to the United Kingdom's Caribbean naval bases, thereby excluding the British from a strategic military region. And physiologists will wince when they read that the 'vena cava' is the blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart to the extremities rather than the major vein that returns blood, and in Hogan's case life-threatening clots from his legs, to the heart and then into the lungs. Now it may seem excessive for me to complain about these errors in a golf book, but Dodson provides this kind of detail to enhance his story and he has an obligation to check his facts. The ligation of Hogan's inferior vena cava (IVC) explains why he had to wrap his legs in bandages when he returned to play- he needed the compression to keep his legs from swelling as blood pooled because of the poor return circulation. This made his later success much more remarkable because standing for long periods is just about the worst thing you can do without an IVC.
Finally, there may be multiple errors in his accounts of tournaments. In this passage about the 1950 US Open at Merion, we learn that "The halfway lead was shared by Dutch Harrison, Jim Ferrier, and Johnny Bulla. Young Julius Boros ... held the lead." How could this have been missed unless no qualified editor read the book from beginning to end?
The sloppiness means I cannot be sure about the accuracy of his stories. Even worse, it makes me wonder if he really gave this idea the treatment it deserves. He starts with a grand premise that this American Triumvirate was crucial to the future of golf but in the end I felt like the book was more of a 'triography' than a story of the foundation of an era in professional sports.
Still, if you are a lover of golf and have not read Dodson's Hogan book, and if you have not read biographies of Snead and Nelson, you will find a lot to savor. I just hope he makes corrections before the next printing.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece of Golf History April 9 2012
By Bill Mack English - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Golf always tells a story. The plots of the game's major championships are as varied as Elizabethan drama, and both inspire and haunt all those who watch as events unfold on some of the most magnificent venues in all of sports. In "American Triumvirate, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, and the Modern Age of Golf," award winning golf writer James Dodson offers readers rare and highly researched insights into one of the most important eras in the game's colorful history. The miraculous nature of these three men's lives, and how they were linked was evident early on. All were born in 1912 and would have been 100-years old if they were alive today. The fact that Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson, both destined to become among the greatest champions of their generation, both caddied together as boys at the same golf club in Texas defies even the hyperbolic logic of a Hollywood screenwriter. There is magic in the tales of these men's stories, and Dodson captures it all with an almost mystical reverence for what they accomplished. Greatness comes at a price, and this book helps you to understand the commitment of these great players. Dodson, who wrote a regular column for "Golf Magazine" for almost twenty years, clearly demonstrates his access to all of the key characters in this threefold biography and is positively lavish in layering intimate and interesting details. Here you will find interviews and comments not only by Hogan, Nelson, and Snead, but also by players who came before them or were influenced by their devotion to the game. The reader will learn how the PGA was formed, a complete history of the evolution of the golf ball, and what it was like to play on the tour before the big money and private jets. Your knowledge and love of the game will be enhanced by this truly impressive book. Forgotten Strokes
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