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The Eternal Summer Review

Summer of 1960 – The Eternal Summer

Curt Sampson wrote The Eternal Summer which was published in 1992, almost 20 years ago.  I happened to find a signed copy of the book and read it over the course of the last couple of weeks.  It is required reading for those who profess to follow and know golf.  1960 was a year to remember.  It was literally a turning point for American society shifting out of the post World War II Eisenhower era and the societal innocence of the 1950s into a more hip and rebellious period.  It was also the year I was born – an important year indeed…

The Eternal Summer and the Changing of the Guard

Television was a catalyst for this change – it changed how we viewed candidates for president of the United States and how we viewed golf and its heroes.  It was the year Arnold Palmer was born as a golfing superstar, the birth of Arnie’s Army and a seed for sports management that sparked the path for players to treat the PGA Tour as a major business venture.  It was also the year that the U.S. Open at Cherry Hills marked the changing of the old guard in golf through Ben Hogan’s last stand, Arnold Palmer’s triumph, and a glimpse of the promise of the champion to come, Jack Nicklaus.

In The Eternal Summer, Curt Sampson takes us through the year by way of the brief histories of the three gentlemen mentioned above and the year’s major tournaments.  He fills in the blanks with personalities of golf, personalities around golf, the birth of the modern PGA Tour, and the shift of golf as an exclusively rich past-time to a game of the masses.

Irrepressible Dan Jenkins provides the forward where he calls 1960 one of four significant years of the game.  Arguably, there are now five as we have since realized the “Tiger Era,” but of course, that is accounted for I am sure in countless books that I have yet to read.  Come to think of it, we may have six as I believe we are in the “post-Tiger Era” now defined by his instant downfall a couple of years ago.  More of that in my analysis of the implications of Tiger’s fall in a later post.

The Eternal Summer – A Must Read

As I said, it is a must read about what Curt Sampson calls “golf’s golden year.”  The Eternal Summmer is entertaining, informative, and quick.  It will stay on my shelf as a reference for this important historical point for the game we love.  It is a great place to start, a nexus if you will for exploration of the history of the game.  Buy and read The Eternal Summer, you won’t be disappointed.

The Masters

Alright!  No mas!  Enough already with the Tiger analysis at the Masters!!!  Yeah, I was guilty with my post a couple of weeks ago, but that was my one, we all get one.  Now it seems we haves an endless stream of supposition and conjecture about Tiger on all channels carrying the Masters.  Sure, he’s the world’s number one golfer and has popularity parity with Michael Jordon, but DAMN, can we talk about something else? 

I love this tournament – The Masters.  I love the “cleanliness” of it.  It seems pure to me.  It came from the vision of arguably the greatest golfer that ever lived – Bobby Jones.  OK, it has had its problems not the least of which is the color barrier, now shattered.  OK, it’s one of those rich good ole boy exclusive clubs.  OK.  They can run their club anyway they want as far as I am concerned.  If you don’t like it, make millions and start your own club. 

It’s an “exclusive” tournament.  That is some of the beauty of it.   Only the best get to play.  It is a major coveted by all who would be a professional golfer and those amateurs who have earned a spot to play.  No other tournament portends sudden failure and filets so quickly the promising winner like The Masters.  Greg Norman comes to mind.  We watch on the edge of our seats because of it.   The greens are so treacherous. There isn’t any rough to speak of, there doesn’t need to be.  Opportunity knocks even if you aren’t on the fairway.  The danger exists nearest the goal – the hole.  The wrong part of the green, too short or too much spin and you’re in Rae’s Creek, too long and you’re chipping downhill from the azaleas onto an unforgiving surface.  It is about the short game.  The touch and feel.  Even the shortest putt makes us hold our breath.  Watching a ball as is ekes out another quarter inch to fall in as a result of a 90 degree off-line chip is the magic.  Watching the heartbreak of missing the final putt to win – Kenny – is the magic.  Watching someone chip in to win from nowhere is the magic.  I love it.  (I’m sorry about Kenny – he’s a Kentucky boy like me.)

I am happy Jack is going to do the ceremonial thing with Arnie.  He was never going to do that, but now he is…good. 

I have Ernie doing well, high on my list to win.  Tiger is an outside chance –but haven’t we heard all of the possible scenarios about him twelve times over already?  Anthony Kim is coming off a win – is there a young gun out there who will challenge the established players?  The dark horse for me is Retief Goosen.  Something tells me they’ll be eating South African fare next year one way or another.

Is it Ernie’s Time?

Ernie Els is 40 and has never won the Masters.  He has come close – finishing second twice and has 6 Top Ten finishes.  However, he has missed the cut 4 times, 3 of those coming in the last 3 years.  We know he can win in tough conditions on the big stage.  He has 2 U.S. Open wins and a British Open win on his resume.  But his last major win, The Open played at Muirfield in Gullane, Scotland, was 8 years ago.

He has momentum coming into the Masters this year.  He ended a 2-year win drought with his WGC-CA Championship win at Doral and followed that up last week with the win at Arnie’s Invitational at Bay Hill.  Attribute this sudden improvement to some hard work on the range following mediocre placing at the Honda Classic the week prior to
Doral.  Believe it or not, he has merely adjusted his ball position, moving it slightly back in his stance.  That and a few thousand balls later and he is apparently in a groove. 

His win at Doral was convincing.  His win at Bay Hill less so.  He seemed to have been ‘saved by the rain’ on Sunday as he was beginning to take a ride on the bogey train when the rains came.  He had doubled 13 and bogeyed 14 when play was suspended.  He scrambled his way to the win on Monday.  He had to really work for it after squandering a 5-shot lead going into 13 on Sunday.  While less convincing than Doral, it is a win none-the-less, and probably served to reinforce confidence in finding a way when it counts, albeit with some divine intervention on Sunday.

Ernie has 62 professional wins, and 8 of these on the PGA tour.  His experience on the stage and the momentum he has achieved these past few weeks puts his name back on the list of favorites for the Masters.  If he continues in his groove and his putting remains steady, he has a great chance for a green jacket.  Putting will be the key for Ernie at Augusta.

If what I think will happen happens with Tiger’s re-emergence, we will see some terrific drama unfold with the two of them on the weekend.  I hope so anyway…