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Golf author Bob Thomas: Unique books, unique business model

Kiel ChristiansonBy Kiel Christianson,
Senior Writer
Author Bob Thomas
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Author Bob Thomas writes unique golf books and developed a unique business model to get them directly into the hands of golfers. (Courtesy of Bob Thomas)

Golf author Bob Thomas doesn't like to be constrained by the limits of traditional golf writing. His first book, "Ben Hogan's Secret," combined painstaking research and interviews with Hogan's contemporaries with Thomas' own best guesses about what drove one of the most enigmatic personalities in golf history.

The result was a sort of historical fiction, or literary portrait, of Hogan. Thomas's most recent effort, "Why Bobby Jones Quit," follows a similar recipe, drawing upon considerable research and the author's own wellspring of empathy to weave together a very readable, very plausible account of one of golf's more mysterious personal sagas.

Thomas' unique angle on golf isn't limited to his books, however. Not long after publication of "Ben Hogan's Secret" by Macmillan Publishing, Thomas became disenchanted by mainstream publishing houses, who, in his own words, "rob the authors blind."

So Thomas developed a completely novel business model (no pun intended). Thomas formed his own company with seed money from private investors, found a quality self-publishing and bookbinding source, complete with professional customized cover art, and approached individual golf clubs himself. The courses were offered discounted volumes, personalized with the club names, for sale in their pro shops or as membership and outing gifts.

He also inked a sponsorship deal with golf cart giant Club Car, whose name adorns some of his book covers.

"Have you ever heard of a golf author being sponsored?" Thomas asked me in a recent e-mail. Not only is the answer negative, but it had never even occurred to me that it would be possible. But that didn't stop Thomas.

On top of the aggressive, self-styled marketing campaign, Thomas also took up arms against his former publisher. He sued to get the copyright back for "Hogan's Secret" and won. Now he holds exclusive republication and distribution rights.

As a result, Thomas just sold 45,000 copies of his first novel to Grayhawk Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz. The resort will give them out as gifts to players. According to Thomas, the sale is the largest by any author in U.S. history.

"Why Bobby Jones Quit"

As for Thomas' most recent literary golf portrait, "Why Bobby Jones Quit" ($35, signed author edition), golf history buffs - and fans of the almost mythic Bobby Jones in particular - will be drawn into the tale of the very complex, gifted Jones.

The book's appeal is not limited to golfers, however. My mother, who is a librarian and a voracious reader, was intrigued by the very first page, even though she had not ever heard of Bobby Jones.

"Wow," she exclaimed after the first chapter, "this author can really write a good story."

This is the talent of Thomas: Despite a tendency toward sentimentality, he makes you believe the events and conversations depicted in the book really did happen, and that we are being treated to a direct line into the mind of the great golfer. Whether or not you believe empathy is requisite for a good Supreme Court judge, you must admit that it is absolutely crucial for a good novelist. And Thomas has as much of it as Bobby Jones had golfing talent.

It must be added, however, that the book would benefit from the efforts of a professional editor. The very first line of "Why Bobby Jones Quit," for example, includes a somewhat awkward repetition of "thing(s)":
"He was a man who faced his destiny with appreciation, which was not an easy thing to do considering the things destiny asked him to be."

The occasional clunky phrase or overly sentimental embellishment notwithstanding, Thomas has turned out yet another golf book that offers plenty for golfers and non-golfers alike. In the words of my mother, "I just want to keep reading this, even though I don't know a thing about this Jones fellow."

And most of all, Bob Thomas has done it on his own terms.

For more information, visit www.hoganbook.com.

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Why Bobby Jones Quit
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Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Illinois. Read his golf blog here.

 
Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Bob Hogan

    beverly bart wrote on: Oct 28, 2009

    Bob suffered a stroke 11 weeks ago. It was a major stroke, brought on by a few factors. However,his prognosis is for a full recovery. Mary Ann his wife is taking care of his rehabilitation plus keeping alive what Bob started with his writings. Bob wants to bring golf books back to golf. His books are motivational on golf, but more than that. I do not play golf, never played it, never even understood it till I read one of Bob's books. There is a heart in his writing that gives insight into the game that is more than a ball, a tee, and a green. Mary Ann is trying to get Bob's message out to everyone. http://www.hoganbook.com/ If you have not read one of his books, I ask you do so. Give yourself that gift, and then give it to others. hoganbook@aol.com is their email, send well wishes to a man taht is the heart of golf. He may not have won any championship on the greens, but his words are a testament to that Grand and Ancient Game.

    Reply

  • Bob & Mary Anne

    Prof Robert E. Freer wrote on: Jul 22, 2009

    Bob and Mary Anee Thomas are an inspiration to know and a joy to have as friends.
    I have read everything Bob has written ,and he does capture the essence of golf and its life lessons better than anyone else.
    He is in a class by himself professionally and as a man.
    Best to You Bob!

    Reply

  • Bob Thomas' golf books

    Rowland H. Thomas, Jr. wrote on: Jul 22, 2009

    I have read everthing "Hogan" and find Bob's book as enjoyable as any of the many I've read. His story of his young days growing up on the golf course was also a "page-turner" for me. Can't wait to read his Jones book. Thanks, R

    Reply

  • Bob's great books

    Dr Philip Collier wrote on: Jul 22, 2009

    I've enjoyed bob's golf books like no others. Couldn't put the Jones or Hogan book down. Magic. Maybe he should consider a book on other enigmas like Moe Norman!

    Reply

  • Bob Thomas golf books

    John P Keyser wrote on: Jul 19, 2009

    I truly enjoy reading Bob's golf books. His love of the game is special. No one like him. I think my very favorite is "Golf Gave Me Something To Love."

    Reply

  • Go Bob, Go...

    Derek JJ Whipple wrote on: Jul 14, 2009

    Bob Thomas is the Bob Thomas of golf books. But honestly, if we are going to make comparisons he would be more of a Mozart, or Vango*. No matter what yo do there are always critics. But what did Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan say? Stand tall! Block 'em out. Keep on doing the great things that you do!
    Your the greatest Bob,
    Your freind,
    DJJW

    Reply

  • Bob Thomas

    Bill Sharp wrote on: Jul 11, 2009

    Several years ago, Bob stopped and introduced himself and told me his story. As a self described golf nut 65 years young I was happy to back Bob and his lovely wife Maryanne in his golfing book endeavor. I have loved every one of Bob's books, lent them to friends and pursued my club to purchse his books as tournament prizes. I am a collector and have over 500 golf books, mostly first edition with some dating back to the late 1800 hundreds and I am most proud to have all of Bob Thomas's books in that collection. Bob is a top notch golf author and I share his love for the game.

    Reply

      • RE: Bob Thomas

        Bob Thomas wrote on: Jul 11, 2009

        Dear Bill, I stilll remember that day MaryAnne and I came to your office..Nice office!!! We were on a book signing tour and you provided us a great reason to stop. In those early days of discovering my gift, I thought everything was possible. Still do..and my first book, Ben Hogan's Secret brought such great responses.. 56 plus, great reviews and hundreds of fan mail responses.

        Reply

          • RE: RE: Bob Thomas

            Bob Thomas wrote on: Jul 11, 2009

            That stop at your office was 11 years ago. Wow, how times passes... and you hve helped me many timwes ovewr the past elevn years includign the time that MaryAnne's strange sister invited us to live with her in Alexandria, and then kicked us out with little to no many in our pockets.. Thank you Bill. For helping us and for being who you are... ayone would appreciate having you on their side...

            Reply

  • Bob Thomas's books

    Pete Cobb wrote on: Jul 8, 2009

    Bob Thomas writes golf exactly as the great game must be played...with passion, respect, and humble acceptance that, while there may not be one perfect or even correct way to skin the cat, we plow ahead...doing what we can, giving our best, pouring our hearts into the never-ending search for improvement in, and a measure of fulfillment from, the game we love. I intended to read "Golf Gave me Something to Love" on vacation. Instead, three weeks before, I curiously opened it on a rainy Saturday...and was hooked worse than a Palmer drive on the last nine of the '66 Open. Any boy who ever toted a bag of sticks for someone else (or observed anyone who did) and dreamed the dream will not be able to put iot down. If you're a golfer, Bob Thomas's writing will give you something to love.

    Reply

      • RE: Bob Thomas's books

        Bob Thomas wrote on: Jul 9, 2009

        Wow!!! what a treat.. Thank you so much Pete.. what great words and coming from a wonderful attorney. Now, you've made me feel like I want to be there to hear your opening remarks in your next case... I do look forward to meeting you when I get to speak at your course and follow in the footsteps of Bobby Jones..
        My thanks, again.. Mr. Cobb

        Reply

  • Bob Thomas's books

    Dan Cedusky "ColonelDan" wrote on: Jul 8, 2009

    I have really enjoyed Bob Thomas's books. They are a good read and informative... well researched.
    I have lent them to several non-golfers who also enjoyed them.

    Reply

      • RE: Bob Thomas's books

        bob thomas wrote on: Jul 9, 2009

        Thanb you Colonel Dan.. You've made posts before for me ad now this.. Thank you for being the kind of man who backs up his thoughts with actions...more men should be like you..

        Reply

          • RE: RE: Bob Thomas's books

            DAN CEDUSKY wrote on: Jun 2, 2013

            On a quiet rainy day, I recently re-read several of the Golfing Books by Bob Thomas.
            I enjoyed them, they are still a good read.

            Reply

  • Bob Thomas's books

    Ilana G Holloway wrote on: Jul 8, 2009

    One does not have to be a golfer to love Bob's books. He writes from his heart and that is where he keeps Golf, in his heart.
    It is the "soul of the game" the books are about.
    Wonderful reading.

    Reply

      • RE: Bob Thomas's books

        Bob Thomas wrote on: Jul 9, 2009

        Ilana, always nice to hear from you..Hope you and your new husband are golfing happy together.. Mis those ate night calls we always had.. Love ya, Bob
        And thanks for your lovely comments about my books...

        Reply

  • Comment on author Bob Thomas

    Robert Peele wrote on: Jul 8, 2009

    I picked up a copy of Ben Hogan's Secret several years back and enjoyed it immensely. Upon finishing the book, I emailed Mr. Thomas to tell him just how much I appreciated it. He's a wonderful writer who has the ability to hold the reader's interest page after page.

    Reply

      • RE: Comment on author Bob Thomas

        Bob Thomas wrote on: Jul 9, 2009

        Robert, thank you so much for your comments.. I'm sorry that I don't remember our converation.. My wife tells me that my mind only remembers historical golf things. But I am glad that we spoke. For Hogan's Secret alone, I received over 3000 emails and letters. and almost that amunt for my other four books... again, my thanks.. Bob

        Reply

  • Bob Thomas books

    Tom Irving wrote on: Jul 7, 2009

    Once I was turned on to the books of Bob Thomas, I couldn't wait for the next edition of his fantastic golf prose. Once you start, he keeps you wondering or anticipating what will happen next as the Golf gave me something to Love. Not until the very end do you realize where the story line originated. Why Bobby Jones Quit was as close to the reasons Jones quit as all the historical documents and speculation with an understanding of how personal drive and motivation can stress one to the point of breaking down or subcumbing to a terminal disease. Well done Mr. Thomas! Looking forward to many more golf books about other players like Hagen, Sarazen etc. and his rendition of how the game evolved if he cares to voice his opinion.
    His fine golf writing has inspired me to delve deeper into the history of golf through my golf collecting and historic research.
    Thanks Bob and keep up the good work! Congratulations on the corporate sponsorship for your fine books. A true Thomas fan,
    Tom Irving, Indiana

    Reply

      • RE: Bob Thomas books

        Bob Thomas wrote on: Jul 7, 2009

        The game of golf needs more Ton Irvings.. Reading your comments again, brought tears to my eyes again, just like when I had played a great round and finally was alone to celebrate my accomplishments in private.. I know how much you love history.. golf history. and the lure of playing the game just like Jones and Hagen did. Not many people still play with wooden shafts and yet appreciate the game like you do.. Thank you, Mr. Irving.

        Reply

  • Ben HoganBook

    Gary Ellis,PGAMaster Professional wrote on: Jul 7, 2009

    Outstanding literary masterpiece.Bob is a vwry authoritarian I can trust with his information.He is a quality individual full of integrity.I am proud to call him my friend.

    Reply

      • RE: Ben HoganBook

        bob thomas wrote on: Jul 9, 2009

        Thank you so much for your comments, Gary, Master Professional. You must be reading either Ben Hogan's Secret or Golf Gave Me Something to Love.. Hope that you enjoy thyem as much as you did The Old Man and His Game..
        again, Gary, my appreciation for your remarks about my work. I hope your next student turns into another Tiger Woods.

        Reply

  • Bob Thomas

    Bob Rutzel wrote on: Jul 7, 2009

    Just like we need to have a big, juicy cheeseburger from time to time we need to see some sentimentality pour out in some novels and when they appear in a golf novel, well, "we needed that." And, Bob Thomas does it well. There aren't many golf novels out there and to have found Bob Thomas' novels on golf stories is a treat just like having that big juicy cheeseburger.

    Reply

      • RE: Bob Thomas

        Bob Thomas wrote on: Jul 9, 2009

        Dear Mr. Rutzel.. what a great way to have your books reviewed.. to be compared to a juicy Cheeseburger.. not many reviews of my work leave me hungry, but yours did.. Thank you so much for your kind words about my work.. Bob

        Reply

  • Why Bobby Jones quit

    Tony R. Jones Sr. wrote on: Jul 7, 2009

    This was my first book by Mr. Thomas, but definately not my last. This book was a gift from a friend and what a great gift is was, I could not put it down. I was consumed by the Father/Son realtionship that Mr. Thomas so masterfully weaved into the book. It reminded me of my thought that golf is much, much more than a game...IT'S ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS !! I have been a Bobby Jones fan for many years and this has broadened my knowledge of Mr. Jones and re-ignited my passion for the great "life" that golf provides.
    I will read his other books and am certain that I will enjoy those too.
    Please Mr. Thomas keep your pen ready and your mind sharpe...
    Sincerely
    Tony R. Jones, Sr.
    Aiken, SC

    Reply

      • RE: Why Bobby Jones quit

        Bob Thomas wrote on: Jul 7, 2009

        Thank you so much Tony.. Funny thing is that Why Bobby Jones Quit, althought I get goodreports about it from golf lovers like yourself.. I have never had a review about till now.. I do hae a couple of others coming though..Hope to meet you when you come to NC.. Wish me luck with my book sales, author editions and Tournament editions.. It's hard when you don't have a big publisher behind you..

        Reply

  • Bob Thomas

    Gary Slater wrote on: Jul 6, 2009

    Ben Hogan's Secret has a mystique all of its own, apropos to the subject matter. Once you start it, it is difficult to set aside. And, once you've read it, you'll want to read it again. Not only does Bob tell Hogan's story well, he makes you, the reader, feel like a participant in that story. Personally, it remains my favorite Thomas work. I am looking forward to his upcoming book on the Crown Prince of Roaring '20's Golfdom, Walter Hagen. I am very curious how his unique "bio-literary" style will treat the Hagen persona -- so different from that of Jones and Hogan.
    Gary Slater
    Federal Way, WA

    Reply

      • RE: Bob Thomas

        Bob Thomas wrote on: Jul 7, 2009

        Dear Gary, Thank you so much for your generous comments..and again, my congratulations for overcoming your cancers last year and your promotion of girls fastpitch in your area.. You're a very interesting and astute person in many areas.

        Reply

  • Ben Hogan

    Laura Dulman wrote on: Jul 6, 2009

    The Ben Hogan book was hard to put down. I have read many account about rounds of golf and they can be quite dry if you are not fully preoccupied with the game of golf. This book does not fit in that category. It is a compelling story which gives one the opportunity to theorize why and how Mr. Hogan performed as he did.
    I am now even more thoroughly engrossed in another Thomas book, "Golf Gave Me Something To Love. " I can't wait for my time of the day to read it.

    Reply

      • RE: Ben Hogan

        Bob Thomas wrote on: Jul 6, 2009

        Dear Laura.. Nice to meet you..and of course, I appreciate your kind words. If you ever want to ak me anything about my books, please feel free to email me at Hoganbook@aol.com I love to talk about golf (my story about growing up in golf is Golf Gave Me Something to Love.. I'm Bobby in that book) or even just writing.. My wife is also an author.. again, my appreciation for your very kind words.
        Bob

        Reply

      • RE: Ben Hogan

        Bob Thomas wrote on: Jul 6, 2009

        Dear Laura.. Nice to meet you..and of course, I appreciate your kind words. If you ever want to ak me anything about my books, please feel free to email me at Hoganbook@aol.com I love to talk about golf (my story about growing up in golf is Golf Gave Me Something to Love.. I'm Bobby in that book) or even just writing.. My wife is also an author.. again, my appreciation for your very kind words.
        Bob

        Reply

  • Bob Thomas

    Gary Collins wrote on: Jul 6, 2009

    The books are fabulous! Great human interest and great golf!
    Bob is a wonderful guys and he and his company care about community. He has donated books to tournaments that raiese money for children.
    Buy the books--read the books--you will be glad you did.

    Reply

      • RE: Bob Thomas

        Bob Thomas wrote on: Jul 6, 2009

        Thank you Gary.. and you are to be praised for organizing and having a tournament to help take care of our children. Yes I was abused as a child by having two alcoholic parents. I was what was called in an alcoholic family, the invisible boy.. and what did I run to that saved me?? GOLF.. so now, I get to give back to the game and to help other children (people) even if in reality I cn't really afford too. Actually I can't afford not to.. :)

        Reply

  • Bob Thomas's Writings

    Beverly Bart wrote on: Jul 5, 2009

    The beauty of Bob Thomas's stories are the naturalness, the purity of his words. The sentimentality is the emotion that he brings to his writings. If there were the professional editing, the changing of phrases to down scale the emotion, then the story would lose it's magic.Life and golf, while we wish could be edited, are not. Somehow I think that is how it should be. And what is the icing on the proverbial cake of this all is that a person does not have to play golf, or understand golf to enjoy Bob's books. Bob in his writings take us on journeys. The ancient game of golf is revealed to even a non player as indeed a way to learn about life. I have never played golf, and actually never understood the game, till I read Bob Thomas's book, "Ben Hogan's Secret", and later "Golf Gave Me Something to Love" I was enthralled from the first word to the last. You are brought into his world. You are there with Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan in round of golf, and yet finding out about their lives, and lessons for your own life. Makes me wish I had known Ben Hogan and Bobby Jones. Thankfully I have made the acquaintance of Bob Thomas. Golf may have given Bob Thomas something to love, but Bob Thomas, with his gifts for words, has given us the wonder, the innocence, the pure enjoyment of reading. Thank you Bob.

    Reply

      • RE: Bob Thomas's Writings

        Bob Thomas wrote on: Jul 6, 2009

        Wow, Beverly...who are you talking about?? I think I want to read his books too. You continue to amaze me. When you first wrote to me about Hogan's Secret, you amazed me with your insightful understanding of my book and our great game. and not playing golf, that is very unusual.. and the few emails we exchanged, I continue to want to see a book from you.. and I am sure that others would enjoy your work too.. Thank you so much Beverly.. People like you are the ones who make a difference in the world.. XXOO :)

        Reply

  • Golf Author Bob Thomas

    Phil Hansen wrote on: Jul 5, 2009

    As the Information Age worms its way deeper and deeper into the fabric of our world, Bob Thomas epitomizes why it is important to continue to pick up a good book, relax a bit and read. His writing's "turn of a phrase", story line and golf content takes the reader to another place and I'm afraid that simply does not happen often enough anymore.

    Reply

      • RE: Golf Author Bob Thomas

        Bob Thomas wrote on: Jul 5, 2009

        Dear Phil, Thank you so much for your insights and your comments, as per usual..I have a number of special people on this trip with me and you are one of them for which I am very grateful.. Bob

        Reply

  • Bob Thomas

    Bob White wrote on: Jul 4, 2009

    I was sold on Bob Thomas after reading Ben Hogan's Secret.

    Reply

      • RE: Bob Thomas

        Bob Thomas wrote on: Jul 5, 2009

        thank you Bob...actually, writing Ben Hogan's Secret was a total learning experience for me.. It wasn't really till I had finished Golf Gave Me Something to Love that I started to fully grasp what book writing was all about...I'm still a little surprised that Mr. Hogan liked my first effort in book writing.. Thanks for your part.. Say hello to Marilyn for me..:)

        Reply

  • Bob Thomas

    Jon Roth wrote on: Jul 3, 2009

    Golf truly gave Bob something to love...he shares himself, the game, and his stories. Love those late night calls...also love all his books.
    Jon

    Reply

      • RE: Bob Thomas

        Bob Thomas wrote on: Jul 4, 2009

        jon, Always nice to heard from you or Jeanie in a bottle!!!! Happy fourth!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        Reply

  • My golf books..

    Bob Thomas wrote on: Jul 3, 2009

    If any of you would like to flavor one of my books, the first chapter of all of them is on my web site at Hoganbook.com.. My books are not available in stores.. They are only avalable thrugh the web site or at golf courses all over this country as Tournament gifts.. Please feel free to email me as I have my email addresses in all my books.. Hope you have a great game...

    Reply

  • Bob Thomas Books

    JC Brown wrote on: Jul 3, 2009

    Mr. Thomas develops compelling characters and storylines within his pages. Some you want to meet and others seem ripe for getting whacked by a mashie niblik. Write on and on Mr. Thomas.

    Reply

      • RE: Bob Thomas Books

        Bob Thomas wrote on: Jul 4, 2009

        Hope your business has picked up!!!!! Thank you so much for contributing...
        appreciate you Chris...

        Reply

  • Bob Thomas

    brad boever wrote on: Jul 3, 2009

    I have read all five of Bob Thomas' books and truly believe that he is far and away the best golf writer of all time. Being somewhat of a golf historian, having read hundreds of golf books,I find Bob's writing style to be inspirational and his books extremely difficult to put down. Ben Hogan's Secret was the first of Bob's books that I read, and finished it the same day I started it. I literally could not put it down. All five of his books are fantastic reads. I'm really looking forward to reading Bob's next book on Walter Hagen. I recommend these to all golfers and think non golfers would enjoy them as well.
    Respectfully
    Brad Boever
    PGA Golf Professional

    Reply

      • RE: Bob Thomas

        Bob Thomas wrote on: Jul 4, 2009

        Thank you a lot Brad.. Didn't know that you appreciated my books that much.. Hope Doug appreciated Hogan's Secret..

        Reply

  • Bob Thomas Books

    Glenn Haueisen wrote on: Jul 1, 2009

    I have read each of Mr. Thomas' five books and find them inspirational and heartwarming. As this article states, you do not have to be a golfer to enjoy books about life. I recommend them to any one. Not too many authors you can say that about.

    Reply

      • RE: Bob Thomas Books

        Bob Thomas wrote on: Jul 4, 2009

        Thank you so much Glenn.. again, and again and again.. Everyone should be so lucky as to have a Glenn Haueisen in their lives..

        Reply

          • RE: RE: Bob Thomas Books

            Frank Redner wrote on: Jul 23, 2009

            I'm Whitey in Bob's book, Golf Gave Me Something to Love. Great book, brought back lots of memories. Looking forward to reading more of Bobs books.
            Thanks Bob!

            Reply

              • RE: RE: RE: Bob Thomas Books

                Frank Redner [WHITEY] wrote on: Aug 30, 2009

                Hi everyone, I'm Whitey from Bob's book, Golf Gave Me Something To Love, and Redhead is my brother. Bob and I were close friends when we were about 14, 15, and 16. I knew he had a tough life at home! His parents were always on his back.He caddied more than the rest of the kids in the neighborhood. When I would go to his house, he was always on the course practicing. I always thought he would be a golf pro some day, because he really was dedicated to the game. We've been friends for over 60 years. We love the game, and that love come out in Bob's books. All of Bob's books are outstanding! Whitey

                Reply

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