Dodson's Book Tells of Storied Golfers
American Triumvirate: Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan and the Modern Age of Golf
By James Dodson
BY CHRIS LARSEN
Special to The Pilot
There may be no greater period in modern day golf than the years between 1935 and 1953. Three men won 60 percent of the tournaments during those years.
It is pretty safe to say the modern game of golf was practically invented by these three men, who were born three months apart in 1912.
In his new book, "American Triumvirate," local hometown favorite Jim Dodson weaves the stories of Sam Snead, Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan.
When Dodson discussed the idea of his most recently published book with famed golf writer Herbert Wind, the old master observed that the game of golf thrived when two or more great players were in competition.
These three dominated golf from the late 1930s through the 1950s - a time when the pro tour was not about sponsorship and winnings, but more about the rivalries and scratching out a meager living that even the best in the game could hope for.
Tiger Woods and the men who have knocked him from his perch can make more in one tournament than these men made in a lifetime.
And dominate they did. Hogan won the most majors (nine); Snead won the most tournaments with 82; and Nelson's record will always have an asterisk next to it. After winning an astounding 18 of 30 tournaments and an unimaginable 11 in a row, Lord Byron quit the game to become a farmer.
The golfers among us have these three to thank for the grip we use, the clubs we play, and the very swing we try to emulate.
Even for those who are not nuts about golf, Dodson gives a brief history lesson of life in the 20th century. These three men are part of the fabric of that history that brings regular folks, business tycoons, movie stars and politicians into the picture.
Their careers survived the war and the Depression, and welcomed the advent of improved equipment and electronic media coverage. In fact, Nelson was one of the early television commentators.
When I asked Jim Dodson if the triumvirate helped create the Pinehurst area as a golf mecca, the author said it may have been the opposite.
"Some of the Sandhills magic rubbed off on them," Dodson said.
Nelson played here year after year. Snead won the North-South tournament three times and Hogan, at the end of his rope, won his very first tournament here and won the next three after that. Had he not won, he had planned to quit professional golf.
Snead was the most colorful, Hogan the hardest worker, and Nelson the most amiable; and their rivalry was fierce and for the most part friendly.
This book tells their story.
Chris Larsen is a Southern Pines resident.
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