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.

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