Saturday, December 6, 2014

Golf's Forgotten Legends

Golf's Forgotten Legends

Just when you thought you heard every golf story to come down the fairway along comes Jeff Gold whose new book Golfs Forgotten Legends and Unforgettable Controversies (Morgan James, NY 2014) details the careers of some of the most colorful characters to fall through the cracks of mainstream golf history.

The stories of Australian Peter Thompson, Billy Casper, Seve Bellesteros Sota, Johnny Miller, Porky Oliver are all chronicled here as well as a few with local ties - Willie Anderson, who died young in Philadelphia, Johnny McDermott - the Atlantic City CC pro who won two US Opens, Tommy Armour, who Seaview owner Clarence Geist hired to be the pro at Boca Raton and Dr. Cary Middlecoff, who won the Sonny Fraser tournament as an amateur and went on to become known for his notorious slow play.

Gold's spirited chapter on McDermott references the chapter on McDermott in my book Birth of the Birdie and he agrees with my assessment of the false portrayals of McDermott in the movie "The Greatest Game" and the Golf Magazine article, which Gold, in an appendix, calls for an apology and correction.

For more on Jeff Gold and McDermott see: Kellys Golf History: John McDermott Finally Gets His Due

This book is great for profiling some of golf's most interesting but unhearld players, as well as detailing some of the most legendary golf controversies and scandals, most of which have to do with the rule of playing the ball where it lies.

Gold, who now lives in the Southwest and plays and teaches golf year round, also adds a chapter, without much sarcasm, on the joys of living and playing golf in Minnesota, which is where he met Tom Lehman, who writes the introduction.

The best part of the book however is meeting, some for the first time, some of golf's more eccentric characters.

Take for instance the greatest golfer of all time.

Who is the best golfer ever?

Bobby Jones? Ben Hogan? Arnold Palmer?

Guess again.

Maybe it’s one of the vintage players of golf’s early years? Like Harry Varden,  James Braid or J.H. Tylor? They were called The Great Triumvirate - each of whom earns a chapter in this book.

But no cigar for being the best ever.

None of these famous golfers can compete with Harry M. Frankenberg - also known as "Count Yogi" - the greatest golfer of all time.
                                Meet Harry M. Frankenberg - "Count Yogi" - the Greatest Golfer

Being a Jewish - Native American Indian was as good as being black when it came to being blackballed by the early PGA - just as black players like Charlie Sifford were kept from playing,  or South Africa's Bobby Locke - who also gets a chapter in this book -who  was banned for being too good.

Frankenberg was prevented from playing in major and sanctioned tournaments because he too was so good, too good, and being a Jewish-German-American Indian didn't help.

A natural athlete as a youth, his talents stood out and his records stand on their own - as Frankenberg holds many of the major playing records including the best round ever and the fastest round (58 minutes).

In his career he also hit 55  holes-in-one, once shot seven consecutive birdies, made two albatross (3 under par) and broke 60 four times - 55, 57, 58 and 59. He also owns the course records at Bel Air CC (63), Grossinger GC (63) and Greenview CC, Chicago (59).

The best round ever was a 55 played at Bunker Hill GC (par 74) in winning the  1934 Chicago Golf Championship. He did it with two back-to-back holes-in-one - on a par 3, 187 yards and a par 4, 347 yards (29-26).

Frankenberg also held the records for driving distance - with drives of 425, 435, 450, 453 yards and one of his students - 64 year old Mike Austin is credited by Guinness with the longest drive in tournament play - 515 yards at the 1974 Winterwood GC in Las Vegas when the ball finished 65 yards past the hole.

Known as the most consistent, mechanical golfer of all time, among his other students Frankenberg could count Ben Hogan, Walter Hagen, Tommy Armour, Babe Didrikson, Al Espinosa and President Kennedy, who said Harry was "the most exploited, unexploited individuals I have ever met."

Born near Chicago on April 4 (ca) 1908, a distant relation to Sioux Indian Sitting Bull and Bavarian Count Harry Hilary "Montana" Von Frankenberg, he was nicknamed "The Great Frankenberg" and then "Count Yogi" after he moved to Los Angeles in 1949.

Banned by the PGA, Frankenberg was forced to teach and travel around the country putting on demonstrations and golf exhibitions - much like Harry Vardon and Walter Hagen.

His book "Revolutionary Golf Made Easy" promoted his mechanical motions and quick pace and his wide travels made him a prolific teacher who taught more students than anyone.

"It isn't what'd you shot - its how'd you shoot it," is what Frankenberg told his students of the game.

As Jeff Gold relates in his informative book, "Much of Count Yogi's life is shrouded in mystery, but there's no doubt about his ability to play and teach the game."

Mohammed Ali even called Frankenberg "the greatest of all times."

Frankenberg died without much fanfare on February 15, 1990, but his exploits and the fascinating careers of other forgotten golf legends live on in this book that should be a part of every golfer’s library.

For more on Golf’s Forgotten Heroes:



National Championship said...
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National Championship said...

Golf fan Since I was 4, so 1968 and counting. Going to be one for infinity. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler at The Players Championship was TPC Sawgrass.

Tiger grinded out an even-par round of 72. Rickie carded a 74. Put Phil down for a 79. Ouch.

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