Sunday, March 19, 2017

When War Played Through: Golf During World War II by John Strege

Why I Read It: I was writing a book about golf history, and wanted to capture this era in particular, as information about the sport during those years, on a local level, can be tough to come by.

Summary: Golf as played on the homefront, by the generals, by the POWs and on the training bases of World War II.

My Thoughts: I reiterate. World War II was not just one story. It is a story of millions of stories.

So, what of golf? I was working on a state history of the sport and realized I was coming up dry. The state association I was following through time dried up during the war. Finances became tight, tournaments stopped, even meeting minutes came to a crashing halt. But the golf courses still existed on December 8, 1941. The golfers still lived. What became of them all for the next four years?

This book helps to answer that question on the national level, obviously straying beyond the country's borders as the passion for golf traveled with both amateurs and pros overseas, into war zones, even POW camps.

The author follows the pros of the day, both those who signed up with one of the services for the duration (many of them became instructors on golf courses stateside) and those who kept playing the game professionally against a depleted field. He also follows the amateurs, some to their untimely deaths in uniform. He explains how materials shortages affected the game (you couldn't find a new ball anywhere, at least not for anything even remotely affordable), and how the United States Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews supported each other during the war. He follows General Dwight Eisenhower down the fairways as he bought precious moments of solitude while on the courses where his headquarters sat.

Still to be gathered are the local details, how it affected each and every course (some were turned over to pasturage, others became part of the war effort). This, of course, is for the surviving clubs themselves to interpret and for local historical societies to explore. As deeply as this book went, there are many layers beneath yet to be fully explored.

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