Dodson Book Subject of New Documentary
Award-winning author Jim Dodson faced a new challenge when Golf Channel executives asked him to write the script for “American Triumvirate,” a documentary about the careers and lives of legendary golfers Sam Snead, Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan.
“It’s a little daunting,” said Dodson, writer-in-residence at The Pilot and editor of PineStraw and O.Henry magazines. “You tell a story this expansive in a 400-page book and now you have to condense it to 50 minutes of air time.
“You have to be economical with your words and touch on the high points. That was a challenge, but it was fun.”
The documentary premieres on Golf Channel at 9 p.m. Monday, the 100th anniversary of Hogan’s birth. Snead and Nelson were also born in 1912.
The hour-long show is based on Dodson’s book “American Triumvirate: Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, and the Modern Age of Golf,” which was released prior to the Masters last April amid critical acclaim and is in its third printing.
“This was an exciting project,” Dodson said. “The reason I wrote the book was I felt like there was a generation of people who love golf and don’t really know where the modern game came from.”
The documentary utilizes archival footage and interviews with family members, historians and contemporaries to show how Nelson, Snead and Hogan helped save the sport in America and shape a new era of golf.
“The truth is, these three were really the founders of the modern PGA Tour,” Dodson said. “They not only transformed how the game was played, they changed the way golf was perceived in this country and around the world forever.”
Narrated by actor Kurt Russell, the documentary begins with a look back at the birthplace of each man, from the high plains and small towns of Texas for Nelson and Hogan to the Blue Ridge hills of Virginia for Snead.
Viewers will discover how the hardscrabble circumstances of their youth and coming of age during the backdrop of the Great Depression formed for each man a blueprint for future greatness, but greatness achieved in uniquely different ways.
“I think it will surprise people when they see how remarkable these three guys were,” Dodson said. “Each of them was singularly brilliant, but collectively they thoroughly dominated golf from the late 1930s into the 1950s.”
Their combined 198 tour wins, including 21 major championships, are 39 more than Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player won as “The Big Three.”
Nicklaus and Palmer were interviewed for the documentary, as were fellow golfing greats Johnny Miller, Lee Trevino and Ken Venturi.
Dodson appears briefly in the film.
“I’m in it a little bit, talking mostly about Snead and Hogan,” he said. “They couldn’t have been more different men. Of the three, Sam was the most interesting. You can see it in the film when he talks about losing those U.S. Opens.”
Snead, who won seven major championships, infamously finished runner-up four times at the U.S. Open, the only major he failed to win.
The stories told in the documentary shed light on what really defined Snead, Nelson and Hogan, which Dodson believes is much more important than what they accomplished on the golf course.
“I think people will really be amazed by these three country boys,” he said. “They blazed the trail in so many ways so that we can all enjoy the wonderful game we have today.”
Dodson and his wife, Wendy, were among about 150 people who attended a pre-screening of the show last Tuesday at Kiawah Island, S.C., site of the 2012 PGA Champion-ship, which concludes today. The guest list included family and friends of Snead, Nelson and Hogan, as well as professional golfers Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell.
“Frankly, I was humbled by the whole thing. I was really touched,” he said. “The documentary is beautifully done. It’s very engaging. I think fans of the game will really like it.
“Hopefully, people who enjoy the documentary and want to know more will read the book.”
Dodson said the project was a labor of love.
“It captured my heart from start to finish,” he said.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or email@example.com
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