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Review: "Tommy's Honor"

Much about golf has changed over the past one hundred fifty or so years, but not everything has changed.

Being a greenskeeper is a frustrating job now, and it was frustrating then. Of Alexander Herd, the man who had the thankless responsibility of keeping the Royal and Ancient links in Scotland playable in the early 1860's, Kevin Cook writes:

" Poor Herd. If he seeded a green, the seed died. If he pushed a wheelbarrow to the beach, filled it with sand and brought it back to fill rabbit holes in a bunker, the clouds chose that moment to burst and flood the bunker, undoing his work, leaving him bailing rainwater with a bucket while seagulls and club members cackled. Such a job can change a man, if only from drunken bastard to poor miserable drunken bastard. Herd quit in 1863."

Tommy's Honor is not, of course, a book about greenskeepers. It is about Old Tom Morris, who may have been the founding father of golf, and Young Tom Morris, who was indisputably Old Tom's son and an even better golfer than his dad. But I've chosen to include the previous passage from Tommy's Honor to demonstrate that Kevin Cook could have written a terrific book about greenskeepers if he'd chosen to do so. I cherish the company of good story-tellers, and even though I stopped playing golf when I was about sixteen, I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Cook's book about some of the first men patient enough to master the stupid game.

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