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To Win and Die in Dixie: The Birth of the…
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To Win and Die in Dixie: The Birth of the Modern Golf Swing and the…

by Steve Eubanks

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2010 (1) Atlanta (1) E (1) Golf (5) history (1) non-fiction (1) sport (1) true crime (1)

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I am an avid golfer and received this book as a gift from one of my golfing buddies. It is only 220 short pages, easily consumable in a couple of sittings. The subject of the book is the life and somewhat controversial death of an early 20th century English golfer named Douglas Edgar. Edgar, while not well known to current golf fans, was one of the finest golfers of his generation, and according to this book, the father of the modern golf swing. Edgar was a golf pro from Newcastle, England who emigrated to the United States, ultimately becoming head pro at Druid Hills in Atlanta, where he was killed in 1921.

Now, most biographers tend to inflate the accomplishments and importance of their subjects, and this is no exception. Edgars golfing accomplishments are relatively modest in comparison with many of his contemporaries. He won the French Open and he won the Canadian Open twice (albeit one was a tour de force, record breaking performance). He was second in the PGA Championship and won a number of four ball matches with partners against such golfers as Harry Vardon and Ted Ray. Nevertheless, the author, on numerous occasions makes a case that Edgar might have been the greatest golfer of his generation; a generation that included such men as Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones.

Much of Edgar’s story is told through the eyes of a young Atlanta newspaperman and heir, Comer Howell. It was Howell that discovered Edgar’s body along an Atlanta roadway and assumed that he was the victim of a hit and run driver. Subsequent events pointed instead to homicide, though the case was never resolved. As with Edgar, the author goes overboard in depicting young Howell as something of a heroic figure, simply by virtue of the fact that he publicly disagreed with the prevailing opinion that Edgar had been struck by an automobile. The author makes it sound as if Howell were putting himself at great personal risk by taking such a position, though in fact, he was never exposed to any such consequence (nor could conceivably have been).

In sum, this is a pleasant history lesson on the state of golf as it existed in early twentieth century England and the North America. The subjects are somewhat interesting, though really not remarkable. If pushed, I would have to say that neither Edgar, nor Howell make compelling subjects for a book of this type, and combining them doesn’t do the trick either.

Having already read biographies on Bobby Jones, I can’t say that I learned much from this book. In reading the Jones biographies, you’d think I would recognize the name Douglas Edgar, inasmuch as the author of this book intimates that he and Jones were very close and that Jones owed much of his success to Edgar’s tutelage. In fact, I can’t recall ever hearing him mentioned. Makes you wonder. ( )
  santhony | Jun 20, 2012 |
  HarvReviewer | Apr 27, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 034551081X, Hardcover)

A fascinating biography of a forgotten golf legend, a riveting whodunit of a covered-up killing, a scalding exposé of a closed society—in To Win and Die in Dixie, award-winning writer Steve Eubanks weaves all these elements into a masterly book that resurrects a superb sportsman and reconstructs a startling crime.

J. Douglas Edgar was the British-born golfer who broke every record, invented the modern swing, and coached such winners as Bobby Jones, the greatest amateur in history, and Alexa Stirling, the finest female player of her day. But on August 8, 1921, he was a man dead in the middle of the road, the victim, conventional wisdom said, of a hit-and-run.

Comer Howell thought otherwise. He was an Atlanta Constitution reporter and heir to the paper’s fortune, a man frustrated by his reputation as the pampered boss’s son. To Howell, the physical evidence didn’t add up to a car accident. As he chronicled Edgar’s life, Howell discovered a working-class striver who had risen in the world through a passion to succeed, a quality the newspaperman admired. And as he investigated Edgar’s death, Howell also found a man whose recklessness may have doomed him to a violent demise.

Cutting cinematically between Howell’s present and Edgar’s championship past, To Win and Die in Dixie brilliantly portrays one man’s quest for excellence and another’s search for redemption and the truth. Their stories meet in a Southern society of plush country-club golf courses, vast wealth, and decadent secrets.

Filled with the vivid golf writing for which its author is renowned, To Win and Die in Dixie is a real-life story both shocking and inspiring, a book that propels Steve Eubanks to a new level of literary achievement.
 

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:13 -0400)

Tells the story of J. Douglas Edgar, the British-born golfer. When he was found dead in the middle of the road, reportedly the victim of a hit-and-run accident, Atlanta Constitution reporter Comer Howell thought otherwise. Their stories meet in a Southern society of country-club golf courses, wealth, and secrecy.… (more)

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