“Golf’s Iron Horse: The Astonishing, Record Breaking Life of Ralph Kennedy” by John Sabino
Golf, History, records
February 7, 2017
3 of 5 stars (okay)
Most golf lovers, whether they play the game, watch it or both, would be hard pressed to remember the name Ralph Kennedy. Golf historians may remember he was one of the founding members of the Winged Foot course, where many major tournaments have been played including the famous 1974 U.S. Open in which Hale Irwin won at seven over par and has been dubbed “The Massacre at Winged Foot.”
However, Kennedy has a much more impressive feat – he has played golf on 3,165 courses covering the 48 contiguous states, 9 of the 10 Canadian provinces and more than a dozen other countries. The story of golf’s “Iron Horse” is captured in this book by John Sabio.
Because Kennedy was often compared to baseball’s Lou Gehrig, he was given the same moniker as the all-time Yankee great because of Kennedy’s endurance to play golf so often and at so many course. This was done in the early twentieth century and through the Great Depression. He obtained special permission to play at some prestigious courses such Augusta National.
While the story is interesting, especially when one considers that Kennedy’s handicap was at 17 most of the time, which is a bogey golfer, the book seems to go off course several times. If there isn’t a long passage about a particular course Kennedy played, there are many references to the history of the time or information on other athletes such as Lou Gehrig and Bobby Jones. This additional information shows that the author did extensive research but it made the book a much longer and slow-paced one to read for me.
The passages about the actual golf played by Kennedy and his wife, who accompanied him on many of his rounds, were quite good and I enjoyed reading about them and the equipment used by the couple. The reader will learn about the changes in the clubs and balls for the time as well. As interesting as these parts were, they too resulted in slow-paced reading.
Overall this book is one that is recommended for golf fans, players and especially historians. It does require careful reading to absorb all of the information but what the reader will learn about this amazing accomplishment will be worth the time it took.
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