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Title: A Feel For the Game: To Brookline and Back
Author: Ben Crenshaw
Author2: Melanie Hauser
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"I'm going to leave y'all with one thought. I'm a big believer in fate. I have a good feeling about this."
--Ben Crenshaw, Saturday September 25, 1999, twenty-four hours before the most stunning Ryder Cup comeback victory in history
A uniquely compelling work that transcends traditional autobiography, A Feel for the Game is an anecdotal and personal portrait of a man and a game that were made for each other.
With two Masters Championships, nineteen career PGA victories, three NCAA championships, and millions in earnings, Ben Crenshaw is without question one of the most successful golfers of the century. But Crenshaw's relationship to his sport goes beyond his individual performances. As captain of the 1999 Ryder Cup team, confronting the largest deficit in tournament history, Crenshaw believed in his players and was confident enough in his study of golf history to trust his feel for the game. In a hard-fought competition that kept viewers glued to their televisions, he brilliantly marshaled a team of diverse personalities and brought the Ryder Cup back to American soil. And he did it his way with grace, honor, dedication, and an encyclopedic knowledge of how the game should be played.
A Feel for the Game is Crenshaw's warm and heartfelt ode to the traditions and spirit of golf through the prism of his own life. He describes his early years learning the game from the legend Harvey Penick, and takes readers through his career as an outstanding amateur to his glorious years on the PGA Tour. Who can forget Ben's tribute to Harvey throughout his inspirational 1995 Masters championship run? Crenshaw sees his success as an extension of his interest in the game's greatest players and teachers Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Jackie Burke, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Kite, Payne Stewart, and Tiger Woods. Every person that crosses Ben's path, and every golf course that he has had the pleasure to play or design, inspires him. Crenshaw's reminiscences, his fascinating glimpses into golf history, and his unparalleled understanding of the nuances of play make this a must-have book for every serious fan of the world's most popular pastime.
Given the sweep of two-time Masters' champion Ben Crenshaw's career, there's an irony to the fact that he'll be better remembered for captaining the 1999 Ryder Cup team to its cardiac comeback than for anything he accomplished between the ropes. It's an irony not lost on Crenshaw. He devotes a full fourth of his graceful memoir, A Feel for the Game: To Brookline and Back, to that remarkable event in which, when all seemed lost, he still professed a feeling for victory. Kneeling on the edge of the 17th green as Justin Leonard prepared to hit that cross-country putt on the final day, Crenshaw had the perspicacity and faith to accept that "the impossible was unfolding in front of me." And he let it.
But then, there was much in Crenshaw's career that seems, in retrospect, impossible, like the emotional second Masters' crown won just days after the death of his mentor, the beloved teacher Harvey Penick. Still, it's the Ryder Cup captaincy that defines Crenshaw now, and he turns his prodigious grasp of golf history and tradition--the Cup's Brookline venue is particularly significant to him--into a lively and analytic portrait of the event. In both broad strokes and telling detail, he lifts the curtain on his thinking and the Cup's mysteries--from player pairings and those wild Sunday shirts to the remarkable phone call a week later from British captain Mark James essentially accusing the Americans of cheating. In reaction, Gentle Ben belies his nickname. Nor is he gentle in his final screed on how advanced technology is threatening the game. "For centuries, golf has had a strong enough backbone to hold onto its beliefs. I hope it continues." With backbones like Crenshaw's stiffening for battle, there's reason to believe it will. --Jeff Silverman