'Dogleg Madness' by Mike Bryan

By: Bob Spiwak

This is a pleasant book to read. "Pleasant" is not meant to be demeaning nor faint praise; it is a good read, with portions reprinted in Golf Magazine, Connoisseur, The Boston Globe and Diversion.

Focusing on the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills in 1986, it's counterpointed with the author's visit to an invitational tournament at nine-hole Ozona Country Club in West Texas. The book begins with Bryan, a well-published sportswriter, at the first tee with the first pairing with a trio of pros starting play at 7:00 a.m. He keeps tabs on them throughout the book, with diversions to observing and reporting on the up-and-comers, the journeymen and the big stars of the day. In this pre-Tiger case, Greg Norman was the heir-apparent to Jack Nicklaus, the marquee competitor.

For an old-timer like me the book is a welcome visit to the past, and I think it would be for anyone "Boomer" age and above. It reprises names like Crenshaw, Trevino, Calcavecchia (one of the biggest hitters of the time) and Johnny Miller, who was already losing his touch on the greens. You get the idea, those thrilling days of yesteryear.

Of course there are discussion about Shinnecock, its history and descriptions of the holes being played by whomever Bryan is following on a given day.

The switch to Ozona, Texas, and the country club's invitational left me apprehensive that this was going to be a do-over of Dan Jenkins' "Goat Hills" exploits, also set in West Texas. Not so. Bryan lived in Ozona as a child, still had family there, but was regarded by many as "the reporter from up North."

This is not to say there aren't characters with humorous names. But the author deals less in hilarity and improbability than factual reportage of the golf matches and pre-tournament Nassau betting (the bets were way down as, at this point in time, West Texas oil prices were bottomed out).

The book is a fine bedside companion for a week or so. And for anybody interested in the National Open of the mid-80s, I heartily encourage you to give it a go.

"Dogleg Madness," by Mile Bryan, 1988, Little, Brown & Co., The Atlantic Monthly Press, ISBN 0-87113-176-5.

Bob Spiwak took up golf in 1953 as a respite from the rigors of selling bibles door-to-door in North Dakota. Though suffering a four-year lapse, he's back to being a fanatical golfer. Now a contributing editor for Cybergolf, Spiwak has written articles for almost every golf magazine in the Western world. Bob's most treasured golf antiquity is a nod he got from Gerald Ford at the 1990 Golf Summit. Spiwak lives in Mazama, Wash., with his wife and several pets next to his fabled ultra-private Whispering Rattlesnakes Golf & Flubbers Club.