My Anniversary Giveaway of ‘THE LONGEST SHOT’

Two years ago today my first book published.

THE LONGEST SHOT: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, and Pro Golf’s Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open was released a few weeks prior to the 2012 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club, where 57 years earlier the unknown Fleck stunned the legend Hogan in one of sports’ greatest upsets. Sadly, Jack is gone now, passing away in March at the age of 92.

That book, which took me five years to write, sell and publish, was a major impetus for keeping my golf blog going. As I’ve said before, I never could have anticipated what was in store when I started ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG in 2005 under the pen name “The Armchair Golfer.” I only intended to dabble and get a feel for blogging.

The publication and reception of THE LONGEST SHOT provided many personal highlights. I’ll name a few. Favorable reviews, including the New York Times. Media opportunities, including the Golf Channel during U.S. Open week, an exclusive excerpt at Golf.com and a Q&A with Geoff Shackelford. Later that year Booklist named THE LONGEST SHOT as one of the Top 10 Sports Books of 2012.

The peak moment, though, was likely when Jack Fleck, along with Billy Casper, was interviewed by NBC’s Bob Costas prior to the final round coverage of the 2012 U.S. Open. (See video at ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG.)

I anticipated the interview because an assistant to Costas met with me at Olympic to talk about Jack. He and Costas wanted to know about the oldest living U.S. Open champion, and solicited my ideas for questions that would evoke good responses during the interview segment.

However, I had no idea that Costas would hold up my book on national television. That doesn’t usually happen. I was shocked and thrilled. Wow! I couldn’t believe it. I remember thinking at the time, ‘If nothing else happens, it’s been a great run.’

Giveaway

To be included in a random drawing for an autographed copy of THE LONGEST SHOT, please email your name and address to armchairgolfer@gmail.com.

P.S. Of course, only one of you will win, so please consider picking up a copy for yourself or a family member or a friend. Hey, Father’s Day is just around the corner.

P.P.S. I’m excited to tell you there’s another one on the way later this year. More on that topic soon.

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So Long Jack Fleck

JackFleckMay09
Jack and me in 2009.

Jack Fleck died on Friday at the age of 92. My condolences to his wife, Carmen, his son, Craig, other family and his friends. I hadn’t spoken to Jack in a couple of months. He was in good spirits the last time we talked.

Jack was born in Bettendorf, Iowa, on November 7, 1921. He became a golf professional at the age of 17. He served in the Navy during World War II and was part of the Normandy invasion.

Jack beat his idol Ben Hogan in an 18-hole playoff to win the 1955 U.S. Open, one of the greatest upsets in the history of sports. When Hogan died in 1997, Jack decided not to attend the funeral because he didn’t want his presence to detract in any way from the remembrance of his idol.

I met Jack in March of 2007 and he opened up to me and allowed me to tell his story (THE LONGEST SHOT: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, and Pro Golf’s Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open). I was very fortunate to know him. Thank you for letting me tell your story, Jack.

Q&A: Bestselling Author John Coyne (Conclusion)

John Coyne is a seven-time bestselling author who has written more than 25 books of fiction and nonfiction. He is also a friend, someone I had the good fortune to meet after he published a successful golf novel that focused on Ben Hogan. John encouraged me to write my first book. He also helped me get my first literary agent.

This is the second and concluding part of my Q&A with John. Read Part 1.

Bestselling author John Coyne.
Bestselling author John Coyne.

Q: Describe your writing routine or process.

JOHN COYNE: Well, my website (www.johncoynebooks) and my new book How To Write A Novel In 100 Days go into the writing process for any writer, but I’d say for myself the key has always been to do a little writing every day. I try and write about 1000 words each day. Now, they are not finished copy, but once you have something down on paper (or in a computer) you own it and second drafts are a lot easier than just having a blank page.

Q: What is your approach to research?

JOHN COYNE: I research while I write, as I need the information. The wonder of the Internet is that what you need to know is just a click away. Also, I have a rather extensive library of books on topics. For example, I must have 200-plus books on the history of golf. If nothing else, golf has a lot of facts and figures.

Q: How do you prepare for interviews?

JOHN COYNE: If I am talking about my novels, I really don’t prepare. After writing one, I know everything that I need to know about the book. However, if I am going to talk about golf, golf history, a particular tournament or player, then I try and have the facts of the situation close at hand. At my age, just remembering where my car keys are is a daily struggle.

Q: Tell about your work space or where you like to work. What’s on your desk or close by?

JOHN COYNE: I have a small office on the second floor of our home and it is jammed with book shelves and filing cabinets. I have one desk and I operate with two computers. Why two? I have no idea but I just got a new computer and half of the stuff is on the old computer and I’m too lazy (or inept) to coalesce the files.

Q: What has to happen for you to feel like you’ve had a good writing day?

JOHN COYNE: Write one thousand words before noon so that I can play golf in the afternoon.

Q: What do you like to read?

JOHN COYNE: When I was a lot younger, I read novels. Now I tend to read non-fiction. And the truth is, when I’m writing, I just don’t have time to read much between the daily New York Times, New Yorker and New Republic. These magazines seem to find a way to stack themselves up around the house demanding to be read.

Q: Share a tip or word of advice for an aspiring or less-experienced author.

JOHN COYNE: Try to get published, anyway. Write for the local newspaper, send in a letter to the editor. Whatever you can get published. Also, join a local writing group (they are everywhere) as then you can get feedback on what you have written. That’s very important for all of us, however long we have been at the game.

Q: What is your next project?

JOHN COYNE: Breaking par for eighteen and publishing a bestseller. I’ll take either one and be happy.

Q: Any final comments?

JOHN COYNE: The Internet and Print-on-Demand as well as ebooks and various other forms of self-publishing have changed forever the publishing world. I am not sure how the world of books will change but I do know that the world still needs stories to read or watch. Therefore, the world still needs creative writers. So keep writing.

Q&A: Bestselling Author John Coyne

John Coyne is a seven-time bestselling author who has written more than 25 books of fiction and nonfiction. He is also a friend, someone I had the good fortune to meet after he published a successful golf novel that focused on Ben Hogan. John encouraged me to write my first book. He also helped me get my first literary agent.

When John isn’t writing, there’s a good chance he’s playing or watching golf. Recently, he was kind enough to answer my questions.

Bestselling author John Coyne.
Bestselling author John Coyne.

Q: What is your current project, and how did it come about?

JOHN COYNE: I just finished a non-fiction book entitled: How To Write A Novel In 100 Days. It only took me 356 days to write! I’m now working (and have been working for about six months) on a novel entitled Long Ago and Far Away, which is set in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Westchester, New York; Menorca, Spain; St. Louis, Missouri; Washington, D.C.; New York City; and Kentucky.

As the heart of the novel is a murder mystery that is relived and tracked through thirty-plus years of two characters who were not involved in the murder, but whose lives were shaped in many ways by the event. There is no golf angle in this novel.

Q: What drew you to the story?

JOHN COYNE: I had lived in Ethiopia in the 1960s and knew the Empire then when it was ruled by Haile Selassie. It is a beautiful and fascinating country full of beautiful and fascinating people. (The only problem is that is only has one nine-hole golf course!)

A few years ago at a used book store, I came across a copy of a small guide book that was published in 1965 or so. I had never seen the book before or knew about it. Of course, Ethiopia, like the rest of the world, has changed. In fact, they are building a subway in the capital now which to me seems beyond comprehension.

Having the book, I began to think it might make a nice plot device and from that, I began to churn up plot ideas.

Q: Share a surprise and a challenge.

JOHN COYNE: When I started working on the book, I thought it was going to be mainly about the male character, but the female character became much more interesting to me, and the center of the plot—was it a murder?—became the focus on the story. I didn’t know any of that when I wrote the first sentence. The story itself told its own story, I guess.

Q: What drew you to writing and how did you get started?

JOHN COYNE: I remember when I was about ten or eleven reading a novel and being swept up with the prose and thinking not “oh, how beautiful this is said,” or even “I wish I had written that,” but thinking “to write this a person would be very powerful.” Odd that a little kid might come to that conclusion, but for me the ability to write such prose made a person “powerful.” I guess what I thought was that to write in such a way made a person important.

Q: How did you become a writing instructor?

JOHN COYNE: I have helped, in some minor and major ways, friends start and/or finish their books and over the years I have developed a series of suggestions that I think work for all writers. So, I pulled them together recently into How To Write A Novel in 100 Days.

TO BE CONTINUED.  Next time I’ll share what John said about the writing life.

Why I Wrote a Book About Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan and the 1955 U.S. Open

(Editor’s note: This is the final installment of a four-part series about how I got to know Jack Fleck and wrote THE LONGEST SHOT: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, and Pro Golf’s Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open. Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.)

WHAT SURPRISED ME EARLY ON ABOUT Jack Fleck beating Ben Hogan at the 1955 U.S. Open, one of sports’ greatest upsets, is that it seemed to be missing from the pantheon of golf and sports literature. There was no book, save the one Jack Fleck himself penned, a 2002 self-published memoir.

The fullest treatment of Fleck’s upset in a book from a major publisher was contained in Ben Hogan: An American Life, a 2004 biography by James Dodson. Dodson devotes a chapter to Hogan’s crushing loss to Fleck, one of the major disappointments of Hogan’s career, for it denied the Texas pro a record fifth U.S. Open title. (To this day, Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Jones and Willie Anderson are tied in the record books with four U.S. Open wins. Tiger Woods has won three.)

My book, THE LONGEST SHOT: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan and Pro Golf’s Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open, fills this surprising gap, tracing the implausible journey of the unheralded Iowa pro who, in his first of two make-or-break seasons, out-dueled the mighty Hogan on golf’s biggest stage. Readers will get a complete picture of Jack Fleck, everyman’s underdog, including his early struggles, personal demons and the surprising run-up to the titanic upset that sent shock waves through the sports world. Hogan had won four of the previous six U.S. Opens he had entered. Fleck’s best finish in two U.S. Opens was a tie for 52nd at Oakmont in 1953. Hogan wanted to make history. Fleck simply wanted to make it on the PGA Tour.

Continue reading “Why I Wrote a Book About Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan and the 1955 U.S. Open”

Uncovering Jack Fleck and an Upset for the Ages

(Editor’s note: Part 3 of an ongoing series about how I got to know Jack Fleck and wrote THE LONGEST SHOT: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, and Pro Golf’s Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open. Read Part 1 and Part 2.)

WHO WAS JACK FLECK? NOT THE CARICATURE of an underdog or answer to a sports trivia question, but rather the three-dimensional struggling golf pro from the Hawkeye state. And how in the world did Fleck take down Ben Hogan, a stoic, steel-willed man who thoroughly dominated major championship golf for a decade and is considered one of the all-time greats along with Harry Vardon, Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods?

These were the questions I began to ponder after I received an early 2007 email from a Hogan disciple named George McDowell. I had been writing my ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG for more than a year, and would occasionally mention Hogan because of my acute interest in golf history. I found that my blog, which covered professional golf and was growing in popularity, was a magnet for like-minded golf enthusiasts, including Hogan fans who would surface to write a comment or send an email.

Continue reading “Uncovering Jack Fleck and an Upset for the Ages”

My First Encounter With Jack Fleck in Savannah

(Editor’s note: Part 2 of an ongoing series about how I got to know Jack Fleck and wrote THE LONGEST SHOT: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, and Pro Golf’s Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open. Read Part 1.

Dressed in a sport coat, golf shirt, dark slacks and polished loafers—normal attire for a 1950s era tour golf professional—Jack Fleck strolls into the sunlit concourse of the Savannah Hilton Head International Airport. A shade over six feet tall and still at his slender playing weight of 164 lbs., the 85-year-old Fleck does not look like a “giant killer.” But, as the saying goes, looks can be deceiving.

It’s April 2007, and I’ve driven 400 miles to coastal Georgia to meet “Jack the Giant Killer,” the title of a feature article penned by famed golf writer Herbert Warren Wind in the June 27, 1955, issue of Sports Illustrated. Jack earned the ominous title by defeating Ben Hogan, the Tiger Woods of his era, in the 1955 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. It was a classic David vs. Goliath battle: Fleck, the unknown municipal pro from Davenport, Iowa, pitted against the legendary Hogan, the four-time U.S. Open champion and nine-time major winner who had miraculously returned to golf after a near-fatal auto accident in one of sports’ greatest comebacks.

Like many golf fans, I knew that Fleck beat Hogan long before my six-hour car trip down I-95 to Savannah. It was a part of golf and sports lore, for Jack Fleck had been a poster boy for sports underdogs ever since he toppled the great Hogan at Olympic in a dramatic 18-hole playoff on June 19, 1955.

Continue reading “My First Encounter With Jack Fleck in Savannah”