Book Review: Trials and Triumphs of Golf’s Greatest Champions

Howdy, before I get at it there is some housekeeping to attend to. For starters, this review is made possible by TLC Book Tours, who provided me with a copy of the book for review. Secondly and most importantly, I have never done a book review before so hang in there for me. I debated reading a bunch of reviews beforehand to get a better grasp on how they flow, but decided that would come across too manufactured and artificial. So without further ado, here are my thoughts on Trials and Triumphs of Golf’s Greatest Champions, by Lyle Slovick.


First, a short summary. Trials and Triumphs covers subject matter that is largely unknown in sports. Slovick gives us a look inside the minds and front porches of the all-time greats in golf and shows us how they handled being a professional athlete despite great hardship. Slovick attempts to show us that while these people are great athletes with fame and fortune, they still have their demons and obstacles to overcome. Now, let me tell you why you should read it.

I found Trials and Triumphs to be a good book throughout. Slovick’s style of writing is engaging and interesting while still being able to cram what could be an encyclopedia of information into the book. If you look in the notes section you will find over 40 pages of citations for quotes used throughout the book. It is clear that Slovick did an impressive amount of research before writing Trials and Triumphs and it shows in the way it is written. I enjoyed many things about the book, but I think I most enjoyed how the author strictly told stories about the people he wrote about. I cannot recall a single sentence in Trials and Triumphs where the author divulges his own opinion about the subjects of his book. As a young fan of golf this is very appealing to me. Golf media doesn’t seem to have the same fixation on the past that other sports obsess over. While most people my age can name the all-time greats of basketball, football, or baseball I would bet that the vast majority have never heard of five of the seven people chronicled in this book. With this in mind all I wanted out of it was to learn about these people and how they were perceived in their era. Instead of saying that Babe Zaharias was competitive and people thought she was arrogant he found quotes from people of that era to back it up. That style was present in every chapter. Every person wrote about was done so with a ridiculous amount of quotes that all flowed together to paint an accurate picture of that person.

All of the people covered in Trials and Triumphs were pivotal to the advancement of the sport of golf, but in my opinion the excerpt on Charlie Sifford is alone is worth the price of admission. Sifford was one of the first pioneers of African-American golf and played in an era where the color of his skin made it very difficult to get on the course, much less earn a living. The accounts of his experiences in this book are worthwhile for any person to read, not just a sports fan. Everyone seems to be waiting for the next Tiger Woods, but without Charlie Sifford we still could have be waiting for the first Tiger Woods.

Just as with Charlie Sifford, the other six people in the book have their successes and failures expertly chronicled by Slovick. It seems as though no stone was left unturned during the research for this book, and from it we are given a book that I would encourage anyone to read.

Trials and Triumphs of Golf's Greatest Champions coverAbout Trials and Triumphs of Golf’s Greatest Champions

• Hardcover: 304 pages
• Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (May 16, 2016)

Golf can be a vexing and cruel game, and teaches us much about ourselves. It has been described as “a contest calling for courage, skill, strategy and self-control. It is a test of temper, a trial of honor, a revealer of character.” In the end, as with most of life, success hinges on the character and spirit we possess. But how would our tempers be tested if we suffered a career-threatening injury from a near-fatal car accident, as Ben Hogan did in the prime of his life? How would our honor be preserved if we faced constant derision and racism both on and off the golf course, as Charlie Sifford encountered his entire career? How would our character be revealed if cancer robbed us of the ability to play the game we loved, as it did to Babe Didrikson Zaharias? Would we give in to self pity, or persevere and keep going?

In Trials and Triumphs of Golf’s Greatest Champions: A Legacy of Hope, Lyle Slovick has pulled together the inspirational stories of six golfers and a caddy whose strength of character sustained them against the physical and emotional trials that threatened both their careers and lives. In an era when many athletes have lost their luster as role models, the people in this book—Harry Vardon, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Charlie Sifford, Ken Venturi, and Bruce Edwards—offer lessons in perseverance, dignity, humility, and faith. Slovick tells each of their stories with rich detail, including the childhoods that shaped their characters, their rise in the world of professional golf, the crises they faced in their lives, their struggles to keep doing what they loved, and their refusal to give up. They had their flaws, to be sure. But when faced with a true test of will, all showed a strength that inspired those around them.

The first book to gather the stories of these golfers into a single volume, Trials and Triumphs of Golf’s Greatest Champions offers a unique blend of characters who shared the same love for a game that gave them the courage and fortitude they needed to face whatever life threw their way. This book will not only interest golfers and fans of the game, it will also inspire those who have suffered their own personal setbacks and show them they are not alone in their trials.


Read The Trials and Triumphs of Golf’s Greatest Champions as it delves into much more than the surface history of these famous golfers, detailing the obstacles and struggles with which they all had to deal. — Tom Watson, member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, winner of eight major championships

Trials and Triumphs is the perfect affirmation of what makes golf the greatest game of all—overcoming odds and adversities to achieve greatness. As you will see, there is no other way! — Jim Nantz, CBS Sports

Why is golf one of our greatest games? Because it tests us—our patience, persistence, perseverance—in ways we don’t expect and often can’t even imagine. In Trials and Triumphs of Golf’s Greatest Champions, Lyle Slovick reminds us, through the soaring profiles of golf’s most courageous fighters from Bobby Jones to Babe Didrikson Zaharias, that far more important than any golf lesson is the grit and greatness we find inside ourselves when we need it most. — Don Van Natta Jr., ESPN investigative reporter, Pulitzer Prize winner, and author of New York Times bestseller First Off the Tee and USGA Book Award winner Wonder Girl: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias

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Lyle Slovick APAbout Lyle Slovick

Lyle Slovick is a historian and golf enthusiast, having played and studied the game for over 40 years. He has an M.A. degree in American History and is a former Assistant University Archivist at the George Washington University, where he worked for 13 years amongst the rare books and manuscripts in the Gelman Library Special Collections Department. Lyle enjoys telling stories that shed new light and offer new perspective on often well-trod subjects – what he describes as “augmented interpretation.” This book is an expression of his passion for the game of golf, which has taken him to various major championships around the world, including the Old Course at St Andrews, Scotland, the home of golf. Lyle enjoys travelling, reading (especially biographies), and resides in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he currently works as a consultant for the United States Golf Association.

Find out more about Lyle at his website, and connect with him on Facebook.

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