THE BEST, THE MOST, THE GREATEST

Reviewed by Christopher Zoukis

There’s a Greatest Game in every sport.  In football, many fans would argue that it’s the 1958 Championship game between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts.  In baseball, a lot of games are designated the greatest, but one that has to be considered is game six of the 1975 World Series.

According to Mark Frost, the Greatest Game Ever Played took place in 1913:  The U.S. Open golf championship at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Never heard of it?  Well, you’re not alone.  Most people haven’t.  So Frost wrote a book about it, a book he called The Greatest Game Ever Played, published by Hyperion.

Primary participants in the 1913 championship game were British pro Harry Vardon, one of the best golfers in the history of the sport, along with Ted Ray, who was capable of almost superman-like drives.   Walter Hagen, a young American golfer, was in the thick of it, too.  As was another American golfer, twenty-year old Francis Quimet, who lived right across the street from the golf course.

The game ended in a tie, which was followed by an 18-hole playoff among Vardon, Ray and Quimet.  When it was all over, Quimet won.  His victory, of course, delighted the pro-American gallery.  It was as if Mr. Nobody, some local yokel, showed up and beat Tiger Woods and Lee Trevino, when both were at the peak of their game. 

The author of the book, Mark Frost, explained that his title – The Greatest Game Ever Played – was meant to make two overt statements:  first, that golf is the greatest game and, second, that this single golf game had more impact on its sport than any other single game in the history of sports.  Not only was the “single most thrilling match” in any sport, but it took a national pastime and elevated it to the heights. 

And the golfers involved in the game were even more colorful than the game itself:  Quimet came from a lower-class background, took up the sport of golf against his father’s wishes, and started out as a caddie.  And Vardon’s story was more exciting yet:  he, too, pulled himself up by his bootstraps and later almost died of tuberculosis.  Yet he recovered and went on to become an international legend. 

The only reason Frost could write the story was because of a ten-year old boy – Eddie Lowery, who skipped school on that day in 1913 and, by a convoluted series of events, ended up caddying for Quimet.  Frost interviewed Lowery, who proved to be a fount of information and a wonderful storyteller.  In the course of their time together, Lowery told Frost that it was the first time he (Lowery) had ever caddied a professional golf tournament.

The movie rights to the story have been sold, and now Frost is working on a script.