5.0 out of 5 stars The best sports books are those...
... that are so well written that they can be enjoyed even by a non-enthusiast of the sport. "Instant Replay" by Dick Schaap and Jerry Kramer is maybe the best example.
But this book is a good one. The best parts of the book are those that deal with the non-superstars; with those who grind out a living on tour, or can't quite hang on to their exempt status and drop...
Published on Oct. 10 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much filler, not enough action.
Feinstein basically ignores the golf tournaments themselves in favor of an endless series of anecdotes. I mean, when the U.S. Open playoff is worth one page in the whole book, it's telling.
I don't know. The book's pretty good for a bathroom or a dinner read, but it's repetitive and sheer reportage.
Published on Dec 4 2002 by Samuel McKewon
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4.0 out of 5 stars Loved it, a new perspective on the game...,
4.0 out of 5 stars Inside The Bags And Heads Of The Pros,
If you watch pro golf at all, even just occasionally tune in on the final round of a major, this is a book for you. It gives you a taste of why the Tour is so absorbing to those who follow it week-in, week-out. The first 100 pages pull you right in with scenes from two pressure-cooker events from opposite ends of the bell curve: The 1993 Ryder Cup at The Belfry resort in England, where America's best golfers compete with those from Europe for a much-coveted trophy; and Qualifying School, where the wanna-bes vie simply for the chance to compete on tour. Both are nervous narratives, and highly addicting.
Feinstein is no elegant prose stylist, but he's not a short-order cook, either. He writes in a deceptively easy-going way, not beating you over the head with all the words he knows or quoting from great works of literature to describe how John Cook felt about trying to make a certain putt. He just puts it all together and makes it gel, sometimes throwing in a clever metaphor. About the weather at the start of the 1994 British Open: "Turnberry had the feel of a schoolyard on the first warm day of spring, everyone excited and rejuvenated by the gorgeous weather." On the work ethic of the pros: "On any Tuesday and Wednesday on tour, the [driving] range looks like the exchange counter at Macy's on the day after Christmas."
Feinstein is even better as an interviewer. From normally taciturn guys he draws out some personal stories worth reading, like Paul Azinger's fight with cancer and how Curtis and Sarah Strange dealt with an unexplained medical condition she had that hobbled her for months. Some nice catty comments, too, like Davis Love's noting the demeanor of tour legends Watson and Jack Nicklaus: "I'm sure it's subconscious, but sometimes with those guys you feel as if they have to remind you how great they were because they can't show you anymore."
Watson was a revelation for me in this book. He always came off as prickly and distant, but he shared a lot with Feinstein and comes across the better for it. He was still trying to win majors in 1994 at age 44, and coming heartbreakingly close, but maintained a stoic demeanor and a sense of humor throughout.
Feinstein is a friendly-enough golfer's Boswell, but not everyone benefits from his pen. John Daly, working through his personal demons in 1994, comes in for some withering criticism, as does Greg Norman, who plans an elitist alternative to the PGA Tour that never gets off the ground. Tiger Woods is conspicuous by his absence, just a single mention near the end. He was barely on the radar screen in 1994, a teenage phenom noted for his skin color and not much else.
Some say "A Good Walk Spoiled" is the lesser for the lack of Tiger-time, but I enjoyed the opportunity to see what the tour was like before he changed everything. It's a worthy historical record for that alone. And though the book does drag a bit in the last 100 pages, with Feinstein not putting the same level of effort into his writing as he did detailing earlier tournaments, it makes for very pleasurable and edifying reading all the same. Even if you still can't make yourself care about who's squaring off in the last round of the Match Play Championship, you will finish "A Good Walk Spoiled" with a much deeper appreciation for those who live and die by how they play the game.
4.0 out of 5 stars Good storytelling, but disjointed,
At the same time, I couldn't help but think that the book was poorly organized. Feinstein makes some effort to put the contents into a unified semi-chronological tale, but he fails in that. Most of the events or people that he writes about require going back to cover background info on what set up that situation, or how that player got where he is now. The backgrounding leads to a lot of de-synchronization (? -- throwing off the timeline?) in the book. Many of the background information is also great and enjoyable storytelling, but given the chronological organization of the book, it was hard for me to keep the events straight -- which came first, which story had later impact on what, which ones overlap (two stories about two players at the same event, for example).
There's also a lot of jumping from discussions of one player to another. This works fine for the well known players, but not so well when the reader is trying to remember which of the Q-school players is which. Still, in thinking about it, I couldn't think of a better way to organize it.
Having felt self-imposed "pressure" on the golf course -- if I make par here, this will be my best round ever! -- reading anecdotes about the *real* pressure of Q-school was fascinating. Feinstein gives the reader the feel of needing to make a shot to be able to eke out a living by playing golf, and made me appreciate the difference between that than the pressure of making a shot to take pocket change from my foursome.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book. What's not to enjoy, really -- it's good stories about an interesting (to any golfer or golf fan) subject. I give only four stars because I just can't help feeling that the book could be much better organized for a more consistent read.
5.0 out of 5 stars The best sports books are those...,
By A Customer
But this book is a good one. The best parts of the book are those that deal with the non-superstars; with those who grind out a living on tour, or can't quite hang on to their exempt status and drop to the lower tours, or have to go back to the dreaded "Q-School". If all you want to know about is the glitz and glamour and celebrity of the top stars, just bookmark Tiger's web site and read about him in People magazine or whatever. But there are dozens of stories in the world of golf more interesting, more engaging, more saddening or moving or inspiring than anything you've ever read about Tiger and his money and his girlfriend and his clothing. Feinstein captures some of those stories in this very readable book.
5.0 out of 5 stars Pressure that most people will never feel,
Feinstein does an excellent job of getting in the golfer's heads and really conveying what they're thinking as they experience pressure most ordinary people won't ever understand. He was given almost unheard of access to the players, and he makes the best of it. His ability to describe the courses makes you feel like you are right there with Davis Love III, with 148 yards to the pin, or with Tom Watson as he looks over one of the most important putts in his life.
This book is a real gem for any sports fan, and a must for any golfer.
4.0 out of 5 stars What can be so hard about this game?,
The only caveat I would add is twofold: An executive non-sports oriented Oklahoman might be fascinated by life on a pro football team and be magnetized by the Philadelphia Eagles' tale in "Bringing the Heat." Or a student-athlete cross country star who trains alone, mile after mile at a small high school in Decatur, Georgia, might finally figure out what the obsession is with High School Footbal by reading "Friday Night Lights."
But you have to know a little bit about golf, love it, be addicted to it, hate it, be mystified by it, have an elementary school understanding of it to really enjoy Mr. Feinstein's observations.
And the second problem is that this is all pre-Tiger stuff. And unless you've been living in a cave for the last decade + and your subscription to Sports Illustrated ended because they couldn't find your zip code, the golf world changed A.T., after Tiger. 4 Stars; good read.
4.0 out of 5 stars Now reads like a quaint period piece...still worth it,
I had read Feistein's 'The Majors' before this...and while I do think it is the better read, 'Good Walk' is definitely worth your time. Its publishers obviously think so as well. Almost 10 years after its original publication, you can still find it prominently placed in most airports across the country. If you like golf, its the perfect read for the plane.
The only reason I rank 'the Majors' higher is not due to the quality of the effort, but rather due to its relevancy. Tiger Woods is still two years away from the PGA Tour as the events of 'Good Walk' unfold. As a result, it feels like a quaint period piece. Tom Kite battling Tom Watson, things like that. Interesting, but nothing like what the tour is like these days. In 'The Majors,' although Woods goes 0-for-4 in the 1998 events covered by Feinstein, his presence hangs over every page in the book (indeed, as 'The Majors' was being published in hardback, Woods begins his 'Tiger Slam').
Feinstein's writing style is so fluid. It's enviable. I love his little five-minute chats with Bob Edwards on NPR each Monday morning. He writes just like he talks. No small achievement. We should all be so talented. It's just the right mixture of inside info and folksiness.
Here's a good idea: Interweave some of Feinstein's books with the sports efforts from David Halberstam. It's a great combination. Each of them really knows how to profile sports stars. I still marvel at Halberstam's 20+ page look at Bob Gibson in 'October 1964'. That's the same type of care and diligence you get with Feinstein. Great profiles in 'Good Walk' of a dozen or so golfers, most notably Greg Norman, Fred Couples and Davis Love.
The big surprise was Nick Faldo. He's always been a favorite of mine, but famously close-lipped with the press. Not here. I learned a lot about him that I didn't know. Great job by Feinstein. Definitely my favorite part of the book.
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating inside look at the ups and downs in the PGA,
"A Good Walk Spoiled" is a fascinating 'fly on the wall' perspective about the ups and downs of life on the PGA Tour. Everyone has a story to tell and Feinstein seeks to tell as many of those stories as possible. There seems to be three separate types of players that Feinstein focuses on. There are the low-level and brand new players to the tour for whom just making it through Qualifying (Q) School and gaining a fully exempt spot on the 'big tour' is their primary goal. The second group he discusses are those middle of the road PGA veterans who are good enough to win a tournament here and there, perhaps even contend in a major, but will never be confused with the top stars in the sport. Obviously, the final group he tells tale of is the superstars, whether it be stars who have passed their prime, are currently at the top of their game, or trying hard to shed the title of 'best player never to have won a major'.
The stories of the Q-School survivors are among the most compelling. The Mike Donald's and Paul Goydos' of the world play the game for the sheer love of it, but also have just enough talent to make a living with it. The dream of the 'big tour' requires lots of time and sacrifice. Q-School is possibly one of the most demanding events in any sport. For players brand new to the professional ranks, they must fight through three separate stages of qualifying with the final stage be a six-round battle royale for the precious 40 slots available on the PGA Tour. Failing to make 'big tour' can relegate a professional golfer the minor leagues of the Nike Tour, a respectable tour were finishing in the Top 10 on the money list guarantees a PGA slot next season, or to any number of mini tours or overseas tours (like the Asian Tour and South African Tour). Having invested so much in the dream of qualifying, anything short of a partially exempt slot on the PGA tour (which would lead to splitting the season between Nike and PGA Tours) has to be considered a disappointment. It's much harder to make back the expenses of playing on the lesser tours and, frequently, these pros come to the conclusion that they might be better off doing something else for a living. For those who do make it, though, it's a dream of a lifetime.
The stories of the middle-range and top-flight PGA players don't carry nearly the same amount of drama (unless you're talking about John Daly), but they still are interesting to read about. In "A Good Walk Spoiled", you get a chance to watch South Africans Nick Price and Ernie Els shed his title of "best player to never win a major" by grabbing both the British Open and PGA Championship. Jose Maria Olazabal finally steps out of his mentor, Seve Ballestero's, shadow to win the Masters and become the pride of Spain. Other stories show legend Tom Watson's quest to add one more major to his already full trophy cabinet. It includes Greg Norman's continuing journey to get the Masters' monkey of his back. There is also the inspirational comeback of Paul Azinger, who was diagnosed with cancer just 2 months after winning the previous season's PGA Championship.
Of course, with any season in any sport, there is controversy to be covered. The very exacting 'Men of the Masters' (and Tom Watson) got CBS golf analyst, Gary McCord, booted from the Masters' telecast for committing the terrible crime of referring to the fast greens as having been 'bikini-waxed' among his other witty comments. John Daly, the surprise 1991 winner of the PGA Championship, and subsequent fan favorite because of his everyman demeanor and Paul Bunyan-esque drives, stirred up plenty of trouble with his continued tendency to bolt tournaments after a bad first round and by making a very ill-advised statement that much of the PGA Tour was using performance-enhancing drugs. The saga of 'Big John' seemed to perpetuate throughout the season. The other big drama covered by Feinstein was the resignation of PGA Commissioner, Deane Beman, after nearly 20 years on the job, ostensibly, just to get back to playing golf. Yet, there was clearly more to it, including an ugly public relations battle with actor Bill Murray from the previous season's Pebble Beach Pro-Am (where celebrities often team up with pro golfers prior to the final round). Beman wanted Murray to tone down his act and Murray didn't take kindly to it. Beman had done many great things for golfers during his tenure as commissioner, but he had also made his fair share of enemies. In the end, Beman just felt it was time to move on.
Feinstein covers so much ground with his narrative, and covers it well. The only criticism to be offered (and what costs the book a 5-star rating) is that Feinstein seems to be too ambitious when it comes to telling all the stories of the tour. There are so many different players to follow that it frequently becomes difficult to keep track of who's doing what and where. That being said, it does pick up a strong momentum that powers it the rest of the way. "A Good Walk Spoiled" is definitely a "A Good Book Read".
4.0 out of 5 stars From the elite to the "trunk-slammers",
The toughest tournament to play in is the infamous Q-school, where a missed putt could cost a golfer a one-year exemption to play on the tour, and Feinstein takes you inside that pressure packed environment. He also provides great anecdotes about various personalities and tour stops, the optimism of the early tournaments, the heat and pressure of the mid-summer events, and the desperation of the fall tourneys as players scramble to save their very precious tour exemption cards. His follow-up, "The Majors" is also a good read, but read this to get the full spectrum of the PGA.
5.0 out of 5 stars Feinstein is Fantastic,
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A Good Walk Spoiled: Days and Nights on the PGA Tour by John Feinstein (Mass Market Paperback - May 1 2005)
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