The Mysterious Montague

John Montague was for a time the most talked about golfer in America, despite never having competed outside of his club championship. He was a member of a club in L.A. during the Great Depression where he hobnobbed with the likes of Howard Hughes, Oliver Hardy, and Bing Crosby. It was said he rarely shot above 70, and drove the ball over 300 yards using the equipment of his time. He could lift Oliver Hardy over the club’s bar with one hand, and he defeated Bing Crosby who was scratch using a baseball bat, a shovel, and a garden rake. The first hole at Lakeside was a par four which Bing reached in two and two putted using golf clubs. Montague tossed the ball and batted it over 340 yards to the greenside bunker, shoveled on, and using the garden rake as a pool cue, curled in a 12 footer for birdie, whereupon Bing cried uncle. Turns out, Montague was hiding a secret past that erupted when a member at his club, a prominent sports writer, broke the news of this phenom that avoided publicity, who on the verge of breaking the course record at Pebble Beach, picked up the ball to avoid the ensuing publicity. You can read about him in the book The Mysterious Montague by Leigh Montville (Random House).

The overwhelming conclusion that I reach from reading the book is that Montague was a golfist who reveled in the pure joy of being on the links, of the fellowship it afforded him, and the ecstasy of tracing that perfectly hit ball.

The Master

I took a lesson with Mr. William Rose, emeritus golf professional of Wakonda Club. He is a walking treasury of golf. He once spent two hours at Bobby Jones’ residence where they had a fascinating conversation about everything but golf. Mr. Rose has that knack for distilling golf knowledge into the simple facts. Thirty minutes on the range with him resulted in untwisting of that nasty duck hook and introduction to a controlled power fade, which I always thought was the better shot to have if you plan on trying to pinpoint your shots. With a slight adjustment, I still had my draw which I hammered out against the far fence on Fleur Drive. What I enjoyed immensely was the time spent with Mr. Rose who is a one degree separation from the deep roots of golf. Through him, I am only two degrees of separation from Harry Vardon, Francis Ouimet, and Gene Sarazen (through Bobby Jones). He personally trained club pros that went on to staff many of the elite clubs throughout the nation. And above all, he is a great human being.