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Book Review: Draw in the Dunes -- The 1969 Ryder Cup and the Finish that Shocked the World

October 24, 2014

Each week will highlight a golf book that it finds of interest to readers. This week is:

Draw in the Dunes: The 1969 Ryder Cup and the Finish that Shocked the World, by Neil Sagebiel

Thomas Dunne Books, $27, hardback, 320 pages


There is no more important time in golf than the present to appreciate the game and grow it. But I'm a big fan of golf in the pre-1990s days, which is where Draw in the Dunes, the story of the 1969 Ryder Cup, takes us. Neil Sagebiel's account of the first tie in Ryder Cup history showcases the characters and circumstances that led up to one of the most-discussed and studied moments in golf history: Jack Nicklaus' 18th-hole concession to Tony Jacklin in the final singles match that ensured a tie in the overall score.

Decorum, level heads and extreme sportsmanship don't immediately come to mind when the Ryder Cup is mentioned these days, so anyone who hasn't familiarized themselves with matches of more than just the last few will enjoy this read. In the last few decades, accusations have become frequent, not just toward an opponent but, as we discovered this fall, even to one's own side.

But 45 years after "it" happened, people are still talking about the shocking gesture. When Nicklaus conceded Jacklin's birdie putt -- generally thought to be two feet long -- to halve the hole and their match, and finish the Cup knotted at 16, it stirred up a host of reactions, not least of which was an upset U.S. captain, Sam Snead. But the passage of time has elevated the gesture to legendary proportions, and now it's seen as a crowning bit of sportsmanship in the history of the game.

As with most single-match books on the Ryder Cup, Sagebiel leads up nicely to the big moments by providing some non-specific background in the early chapters to set up the actual match. He then he breaks down the competition at Royal Birkdale session by session, letting the drama of the matches naturally unfold.

I particularly enjoyed: The aftermath sections on how the concession was perceived then and now, and what happened to some of the principal players in the years after the '69 match. It wasn't easy to discover how the players on both sides felt about the conceded putt, and I thought the comments quite interesting as they mainly came down in favor of Nicklaus. In addition, another nice touch is Nicklaus and Jacklin providing a foreword.