The Greatest Game Ever Played, Francis Quimet & Harry Vardan

The Greatest Game Ever Played, Francis Quimet & Harry Vardan

Mark Frost has written a national best seller, a true story, The Greatest Game Ever Played. The book was also made into a motion picture. It’s the true story about the 1913 U.S. Open when a twenty year Golf_3 old amateur player defeated the U.S. Open champion, Harry Vardon. The book has been described by Travel & Leisure Golf Magazine as "one of the best golf books ever written." I enjoyed the movie, but the book is very superior to the movie. I don’t play golf and don’t even follow the game, but this book kept my interest in its description of the drama of the match.

The book was interesting when painting a picture of the times when this happened. In talking about Teddy Roosevelt it quoted his oldest son who said about his father’s massive ego: "He always wants to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral." When he died, one son cabled his brother’s and sisters: "The old lion is dead."

Francis Quimet was the son of a poor Irish immigrant whose father supported the family with odd jobs and hard labor. Their house was next to the country club golf club in Brookline, Massachusetts. Francis worked as a caddy there and learned to love the game of golf. However, his father objected to his interest in golf and wanted him to get a real job. His mother secretly supported Francis’s interest in the game.

Harry VaVardanrdon had an identical path to golf as Francis. Both he and Francis were from working class families. Harry was born in England in poverty and as working as a caddy also had developed a similar love of golf. In spite of the obstacles of playing a rich man’s game in class conscious Brittan, Harry went on to dominate British golf from 1870 through 1937. Vardon was famous in the U.S. as well as his home country and became Francis’s hero. Francis studied everything he could find about Vardon and copied the lessons Vardon wrote about. In fact, Francis memorized most of one his books about how to play golf. That’s what is ironic about the fact Quimet and Vardon end up in a fierce but close competition for the cup. Quimet wasn’t even ranked when he began the competition and no paid any attention to him until he began to turn in scores that were impressive. From the start, Vardon was the strong favorite to win. Through skillful and determined playing Quimet ends up in an eighteen hole playoff with his hero Vardon. The kid amateur against the season’ed professional for the most important prize in U.S. Golf which Quimet wins.

It started in 1912 when Francis, over his father’s objections, played in tournaments to qualify for the cup. A year later, he  was asked by the U.S. Golfing association to be the local entrant for the 1913 U.S. open as an amateur to play against professional greats like Vardon and American golf pros. Quimet’s startling upset victory stunned the golf world. He was the first amateur to win the U.S. Open and did so when he was only twenty years old. His victory was against an much older, experienced and gifted veteran.

He was no flash in the pan. After this, Quimet went on to achieve other golf victories. He has been named to every Golf Hall of Famed and has a room named after him at the USGA Museum. But, he remained an amateur for his entire golf career.

The lessons from the book point to hard work as a key to success. The book indicates that Vardon was the Ben Hogan of his era. Vardon practiced and practiced. He never stopped training and practicing his game. As the book says: "Harry had learned the hard way that the only difference between realizing a dream and losing oneself in fantasy was backbreaking work."

Francis worked equally hard, but then learned the key to great golf while listening to a woman sing with his mother. He recalled that he suddenly realized she had allowed nothing to stand between her and her music. She was totally lost in what she was doing. She wasn’t even aware anyone else was watching her. Francis slowly gave up the fear of being judged and his fear of failing.

Frost writes about the competition as if it were happening now and it is a very hard book to put down. Great book about competition, hard work and mental attitude.

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