Saturday, May 30, 2009

USA Golfers Encyclopedia is a golfers statistical delight

Used to be, not too long ago, somewhere in time between Babe Ruth and Tiger Woods, baseball was the only sport obsessed with statistics. You know wins, losses, RBI’s, home runs, batting average and a few other miscellaneous, insignificant numerical musings. These were the numbers we all dabbled in as boys with a sports fetish. Then came the computer age and every sport has hitched on to the arithmetical bandwagon.

Golf is no exception. Before the golden age of computers golf was relegated to a few “golf-style box scores” basically listings of who shot what and how much they won. Now the statistical world of golf is a virtual smörgåsbord of numbers squeezed into formulas which analyze every player in every tournament for every shot.

Please permit a couple of examples.

In the “Shot Link” section of the most recent Golf World we read the following about HP Byron Nelson Championship winner Rory Sabbatini’s road to victory: Sabbatini hit 49 greens in regulation and converted 25 birdie chances for a conversion rate of 51.02 percent while the field averaged a mere 30.32 percent. And add to that this statistical information about runner-up Brian Davis: his 21 birdie putts made was a mere seven feet, five inches, the result of hitting 19 approach shots during the week inside 10 feet - tops in the field. And this is just a microscopic sampling of what you can glean from the PGA Tour’s Stats. Or, if you want live, up to the minute coverage of how your favorite player is doing shot-by-shot, hole-by-hole, you can go to Shottracker. Indulge yourself.

Not to be outdone is the ultimate statistic book The USA Golfers Encyclopedia: The Ultimate Guide to Modern Professional Golfers and Tournaments compiled by Sal Johnson, purveyor of the everything-about-golf website, and Dave Seanor, currently writing for and The Encyclopedia is a statistical rendering of all golf tournaments and players over the past 50 years. It's a big book to say the least measuring in at 8.5x11 (just in case you want to punch holes and fit it in a notebook) and 1.75 inches thick extending out to 959 pages. Johnson and Seanor put one essential requirement for entry into this statical hall of fame: a minimum of 25 career starts. The remainder of their thinking is explained in Seanor's introduction. Be sure to read it.

Structurally, the volume has two sections: Part One: Player Statistics, A-Z (FYI Aaron to Zokol) and Part Two: Tournament Results, 1958-2008. It's a double dose of statistical heaven. But how interesting is it? How fascinating can nearly 1,000 pages of numbers be? In a word -FUN. For example, I was able to look up the PGA Tour record from the 1980's of my most recent boss. Want to have a little fun with names? How many players named Adams have played on the PGA Tour? It's easy to find in the Encyclopedia!

For the everyday golf fan this volume is fun, fact-filled and fascinating. For the golf writer it is worth its weight in gold.

Just one final request for Johnson and Seanor: this needs to be on disk and searchable.

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