Along with the Masters, PGA and British Open, the U.S. Open is one of four major golf championships held annually. No writer has covered more of these tournaments in the modern era of sports reporting than Dan Jenkins. Writing for Sports Illustrated, Golf Digest, The Fort Worth Press and The Dallas Times Herald, Jenkins has covered nearly 200 major championships. In JENKINS AT THE MAJORS: Sixty Years of the World's Best Golf Writing, from Hogan to Tiger, the author has chosen a sampling of his various writings for each decade beginning with the ’50s and continuing into a new century. These are the stories of the greatest golfers reaching the height of accomplishment in their careers, along with many not-so-great golfers who captured lightning in a bottle for one week and will find their achievement forever inscribed on a major championship trophy.
Jenkins is an American icon. As a sportswriter and novelist there are few writers who can match his talent. He proudly reminds us of a bygone era for sportswriters as he points out that many of his columns reproduced in this collection were written on typewriters. That comment serves as a unique metaphor for golf itself, because just as the typewriter is an example of how technology has changed reporting, Jenkins’s reporting on golf from past decades also reminds us how technology has changed the game of golf. Reading his accounts of major championships in the ’50s and ’60s reminds us that the British and U.S. Opens concluded with 36 holes of golf on the final day of championship play. The PGA tournament was a match-play event. Television has made those parts of the major championships only a memory. Writing of the 1952 U.S. Open, Jenkins recounts Ben Hogan playing a 450-yard hole with a driver and a 2-iron. By 2004, he was describing Phil Mickelson’s 146-yard shot with a pitching wedge that led to victory in the Masters. One cannot read these columns from decade to decade and not be struck by how much the game has changed.
There are many columns that remind us that the saga of the major golf championships is often about the losers as much as the winners. And they are also about those brief shining moments in the sun for a golfer who appears, claims a championship, and just as quickly disappears. The names of Jack Fleck and Orville Moody are two that Jenkins spotlights in this collection.
If you love golf, you must add this book to your collection. If you are learning about golf, you should read it to acquire the flavor of the history of the game. If your father loves golf, here is a perfect Father’s Day gift. JENKINS AT THE MAJORS is a book I will always keep on a nearby shelf. I can take it down and open it to any page to read again and remember a great moment in golf history.
Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on May 5, 2009