"The Battle for Augusta National - Hootie, Martha and the Masters of the Universe"
If there is ever a made for TV movie made about the Martha Burk vs. Hootie Johnson saga that unfolded around last year's Masters (I'm thinking Kathy Bates and James Garner in the leading roles), Alan Shipnuck has written the script. His vivid book provides everything you wanted to know (if you really want to) about the controversy from start to finish. No matter which side you might have taken, this effort covers the entire spectrum of characters, including the previously unknown impact of a Washington D.C.-based public relations flack hired by Augusta National on media coverage of the whole affair. The waves of details can be both fascinating and exhausting (especially when it involves the role of The New York Times), but the author blends in plenty of amusing observations and insider info to keeps things moving fairly quickly.
In the end, Shipnuck (a Senior Writer at Sports Illustrated and author of the much more entertaining "Bud, Sweat and Tees," says that there were no winners in this battle.
He writes, "The Augusta National membership controversy was a dirty bomb that rocked the golf world, with a toxic fallout that spread far beyond."
That's a bit of an overswing. But his is the definitive account of the whole episode. Until that TV movie comes out.
Details: Simon & Schuster, 355 pages, $25
"Men on the Bag - The Caddies of Augusta National"
Until 1983 every player who participated in The Masters had to use a caddie who worked at Augusta National. Yet these days few are pressed into duty during the event. Their lives and careers are the subjects of this book written by Ward Clayton. The author, who was sports editor of the Augusta Chronicle from 1991 to 2000, has put together a random but enjoyable collection of funny, moving and sometimes sad stories provided by the African-American caddies themselves, with an underlying social commentary about Augusta National itself. You'll learn why the caddies wear white overalls and what their number means, how they got the job, and what they got paid. And you'll read about the nicknames and their origins, including Dead Man, Burnt Biscuits, Eleven, Stabber and Eight Ball, among others. There's plenty of caddie wisdom as well. "I like to carry sticks for a fast golfer," said George "Fireball" Franklin. "When you go fast you got no time to think of anything else but the next shot. But when you play with a slow one.well, my mind wanders. First thing you know, I'm thinking about my gal uptown, or bad whiskey, or something like that."
Despite their intimate knowledge of the course, local caddies are now virtually extinct during that famous week in April, when the pros use their regular man on the bag. That trend mystifies Fuzzy Zoeller. One of only three first-time participants to win The Masters, the 1979 champion told Golf World recently, "The biggest mistake they make is by bringing their tour caddies when they should use a local caddie. Yeah you want your guy to have the opportunity to caddie there, but if you're in your first year, your best bet would be to go with a guy that knows the place forward and backward. There's a lot more to Amen Corner than Amen." And there was a lot more to Augusta National caddies than just carrying a bag. Read this book and find out why.
Details: Sports Media Group, 224 pages, $23.95
"Getting Up & Down - My 60 Years in Golf"
The Masters plays two important roles in Ken Venturi's biography. He credits his loss there in 1956, after entering the final round with a four-shot lead, as the best thing that ever happened to him. And his version of the rules issue involving Arnold Palmer two years later (covered over nine pages here) certainly drummed up plenty of attention, whether by design or not.
But if this book were a golf course, it would have two distinct nines. On the one hand Venturi rails about slights committed against him by, among others, a junior high teacher, Palmer, Sam Snead, Gary Player, Dave Marr, Muhammad Ali, and the media. And he points out the collapses of players who never folded against him ("Nobody, I repeat, ever laid down for me."). Yet this San Francisco native is the same guy who won the 1964 U.S. Open in dramatic fashion, overcame a stammer and worked for CBS, stopped drinking to restart his career, supported worthy causes like a Florida shelter for abused women and Guiding Eyes for the Blind, and captained the U.S. team to victory in the 2000 Presidents Cup. It's a jarring contrast at times, yet this is a quick read that will be enjoyed most by those who knew of Venturi during his playing days, which were cut short by injury. If he's familiar only because of his days in the 18th hole tower for CBS, then you'll learn a lot about his ups and downs both as a person and golfer. About his goal for writing the book (along with Michael Arkush), Venturi says, "I would tell the truth, at least as I remember it." Mission accomplished, if only in the most bittersweet of ways.
Verdict: Par (through the side door)
Details: Triumph Books, 272 pages $27.95
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management. The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. All contact information, directions and prices should be confirmed directly with the golf course or resort before making reservations and/or travel plans.