‘The Greatest Golfer Who Never Lived’ by J. Michael Veron

By: Bob Spiwak

“The Greatest Golfer Who Never Lived” is the second best golf novel I have read. The best was written by the same author, J. Michael Veron, and will be covered in a future review. Veron is a trial lawyer who has also been on several USGA committees.

The story has three principal characters: The author, writing in the first person as Charley Hunter; Bob Jones is the second principal although he has been long dead; and finally the “greatest golfer,” Beau Stedman.

Hunter, a legal intern and first-year law student, is interning at the firm where Jones was a partner in Atlanta. His intern job during his first summer is to clean up and organize Jones’ files, which have been relegated to a storeroom. In going through these, he discovers some cryptic notes as well as ancient newspaper clippings. These lead him to Stedman, who has been accused of the murder of a golf course owner’s wife and is on the lam.

For reasons unknown to Hunter, Jones has gotten peripherally involved in Stedman’s life. As the puzzle of why he is deepens, Hunter finds more papers Jones has saved, including correspondence with the fugitive. The plot thickens here, because with each one, Stedman has a different name. Under these aliases, Jones arranges golf matches with the top guns of the day: Hagen, Sarazen, Ouimet and others. Stedman beats them all.

Intrigued by Jones’ involvement, Stedman’s ability to win the arranged money matches, and the increased belief that, thanks to Jones’ support, Stedman has been framed, Charley Hunter becomes more and more a detective.

One blessing of this book is that there are no swing tips until the end of the book, when Hunter finally meets Stedman. There are only two bits of advice. But there is a wealth of history and golf information, including a hole-by-hole description of Augusta National that Hunter plays under the auspices of a partner in the law firm who is also a member.

As the dénouement of the book is approached, twists and turns in the plot come into play and to reveal any would spoil the read. These continue right up to the last few pages. The shadow figure of Beau Stedman – among all his aliases – does turn out to be virtually undefeated in any match, such as beating a reluctant Sam Snead and newcomer Arnold Palmer.

“The Greatest Golfer Who Never Lived” by , J. Michael Veron, Sleeping Bear Press, 2000 (hardcover edition) and 2001 (Broadway Books), various prices, ISBN 0-7679-0716-7

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. 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 ultraprivate Whispering Rattlesnakes Golf & Flubbers Club.