With Lytham still fresh on our minds and the website slowing down this week as the Olympics approach and I catch my breath, this is a perfect time to introduce you to a wonderful new book I've only begun reading: Steven Reid's Bobby's Open.
As Reid notes in his introductory comments, the world did not need another Bobby Jones book but what it did need was something along the lines of what he has produced: an in depth look at a course, players and tournament that had a major impact on the game. And on that front he has delivered with an inspired format that will allow you to learn about other players from the era and Lytham's history as well.
The book has been beautifully produced by Icon Books and includes an insert showing some stunning photos of Royal Lytham and St. Annes.
As the Open was progressing and he was treating patients as part of his R&A duties, Dr. Reid kindly answered questions about his research and first book.
GS: What inspired a doctor to write a book about an event that took place over 86 years ago?
SR: Well I wasn't inspired as a doctor but more as someone who is fascinated by the history of golf. the more I read about Jones the more intrigued I became with him as a golfer and just as importantly as a person. The story of how he won here revealed much about both those sides of him. The next question after deciding it was a story worth telling was who would have the chutzpah to run with the idea and I was very fortunate that Henry Lord felt it a project that Corinthian Books would take on.
It's over a 110 years since Jones was borne and 41 years since he died and yet there is still a surprising amount of interest in him. As you say 86 years since his great win and yet he is still the focus of attention.
GS: You do a lovely job of setting up the circumstances surrounding the Open and the participants involved. Were you familiar with some of these characters or was part of your research discovering some of these lesser known combatants from the 20s?
SR: Apart from Hagen I had little 'feel' for the others. However as the research went on I realised what characters they were. Given the travel difficulties of the times these golfers were real adventurers. Hagen's manager set up exhibitions for Hagen to make money to cover his lavish expenses. For the others a trip from America meant several weeks away from home. Jones reckoned the trip set him back $1,700 and that was with his sailings covered by the USGA for the Walker Cup. Some of the other snippets like the son of Watrous recalling the impact Jones had on his dad were a delight.
GS: You relied on old newspaper accounts but also mention the club archives. Has the club kept extensive materials and were they supportive of your efforts?
SR: The Club was very supportive all the way through. Apart from the photograph album there was not much else in the way of materials but I was fortunate enough to have sight of a scrapbook with the newspaper coverage of the 1926 Open by all the major papers. The writers of that era did construct delightful prose.
GS: In the book you include some fantastic old photos of the '26 Open and the bunkers are beautiful little sand scrapes that say were created not long before the Open. Can you explain how that came about?
SR: This was an intriguing discovery. I came across an article in the Glasgow Herald no one seemed aware of that described how huge areas had been stripped of the top soil and just left as big sandy wastes. You can see evidence of this in the background of the photographs you mention. I found a confirmation in the New York Times that elaborated on this unusual preparation. Of course the significance of this process is that it was into such an area that Jones's ball disappeared and his account in 'Down the Fairway' tells the story well.
The photographs were in an album that has been hidden away in an album for the last 86 years and seen by no more than a handful of golfers. Now they can be seen by Jones enthusiasts the world over. Surely that is the way it should be.