Thursday, May 06, 2010

To Win and Die in Dixie

One of the marvelous aspects of golf is the rich history that it contains. And the most fascinating element of that history is the characters that the game has embraced. Tournaments come and go year by year, but it is the great characters that make the game come alive.

It is easy to recognize the more famous characters – Vardon, Jones, Hogan, Palmer, Nicklaus and a host of others. But is it a real discovery when a virtually unknown personality from the past is spiritually resurrected and brought to our attention. Such is the accomplishment of Steve Eubanks in bringing to us the story of J. Douglas Edgar in his latest book To Win and Die in Dixie: The Birth of the Modern Golf Swing the the Mysterious Death of Its Creator.

I must admit, even though I consider myself an enthusiastic student of golf history, I had never heard of J. Douglas Edgar. Yet when I had completed the book, I wondered how I had ever overlooked him. It is perhaps that his life was tragically cut short and that he never reached his full playing and teaching potential.

It is this story that Eubanks has uncovered for us. It is a biography of Edgar revealed through the investigation of his death by a determined Atlanta Constitution reporter Comer Howell. It is a story that contains all the elements of a great fictional murder mystery with one exception – it is not fiction; it is real life.

Eubanks has certainly done his research on the charismatic life and mysterious death of Edgar. The book is filled with detailed narrative. He has seemingly omitted no detail. But this great detail leads us to some fascinating stories. We learn a bit about Margaret Mitchell and how she drew her fiction from real life stories. We are also treated to a fun story concerning Alexa Sterling (pg. 98) revealing how greatly the times have changed in just over 100 years.

But as involved as we might get in the life and death of J. Douglas Edgar, we cannot forget his contribution to golf – the fundamentals of the modern golf swing. Chapter 7 gives us a good description of what is known as the Edgar Movement.

For students of the golf swing and golf history To Win and Die in Dixie is a must read; to those who enjoy a real life, enticing murder-mystery, it is a must read; and to those who would like to pick up some historical trivia, it is a must read.