‘Links, Lore and Legends: The Story of Texas Golf’ by Art Stricklin

By: Dr. John Wagner

One might think of saying after first picking up this book, “Oh boy, here goes the Texans again telling us how great they are.” Yet I decided to read it anyway and keep an open mind. Glad I did.

This is a terrific book about the history of Texas golf. It is accessibly formatted, with chapters broken into 10-year increments that illustrate how much the Lone Star State has contributed to the game.

Art Stricklin takes the very beginnings of golf in Texas and makes the people and players come alive. His short stories of the people and their backgrounds help make “Links, Lore and Legends” lively reading.

He begins in 1896 with the founding of Dallas Golf and Country Club as a six-hole layout. Austin Golf Club started in 1899; this is the place where the fabled Harvey Penick was introduced to the game as a caddie in 1913. The true father of Texas golf is John Bredemus. Stricklin educates us on all the courses Bredemus designed as well as the people who financed them.

After the first section on the history from 1896 to 1920, the 10-year chapters begin. One of the great stories along the way is Earl Stewart, the head pro at Oak Cliff Country Club in 1961 when the PGA Tour came there for the Dallas Open. As was the custom at that time, the head pro for the host club was invited to play in Tour events held at their courses. But because they were usually too busy helping run the tournaments, many didn't accept the offer. Not the most gracious of hosts was Stewart, however, who won the Dallas Open that year by beating Arnold Palmer, Doug Sanders and Gay Brewer by a stroke. Stewart was a stay-at-home person who forsook the Tour to spend time with his family. He once aced two holes on the front nine at his club, but declined to play the back as he had to coach one of his son's baseball teams.

The greatest female athlete of all time was born in Port Arthur in 1911. What a competitor was Babe Didriksen Zaharias! She did not start playing golf seriously until after the 1932 Olympics. But once Babe got into the swing of things, Zaharias was quite proficient, once reeling off 17 straight victories in amateur tournaments.

The players who have come out of Texas are among the greatest in the history of golf. Kathy Whitworth, a product of Monahan, holds the all-time record for most wins by a professional lady golfer with 88 victories. Other notables include Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Jimmy Demaret, Lee Trevino, Jack Burke, Ben Crenshaw, Ralph Guldahl, Betsy Rawls, Sandra Palmer, Rich Beem and Justin Leonard.

For those who love the history of golf and the people involved, Art Stricklin did us a great favor by writing this very memorable book. Do yourself a favor and read it. You will be richly rewarded.

‘Links, Lore and Legends: The Story of Texas Golf’ by Art Stricklin, Taylor Trade Publishing, 2005, $24.95, ISBN 0-58979-240-8

Dr. John Wagner has been a Seattle dentist for 37 years. He’s been published in several dental journals as well as had several articles appear in the turf magazine for Pacific Northwest golf course superintendents. John has served as a guest lecturer at the University of Washington Business School for several years and as a guest lecturer for several dental societies. Dr. Wagner is the co-designer (with Steve Shea of the Berger Partnership) of a golf course in Japan that cost over $120 million and was built by Wadsworth Golf Construction. He’s a Past President of the Washington State Golf Association and the current President of the Pacific Coast Golf Association. John is currently a Member of the USGA Green Section and a Director of the WSGA.