My Author Appearance at Virginia Festival of the Book

VAI will be at the Virginia Festival of the Book on Thursday, March 19 (tomorrow), in Charlottesville. I will be on a panel with three other sports authors, talking about my most recent book, DRAW IN THE DUNES: The 1969 Ryder Cup and the Finish That Shocked the World.

I attended last year and spoke about my first book, THE LONGEST SHOT: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, and Pro Golf’s Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open. I had a great time.

I have finalized my reading selection. I am going to read a short section that illustrates how team members feel about playing in the Ryder Cup, especially at the opening ceremony and right before they tee off. It will include an anecdote about U.S. foursomes partners Raymond Floyd and Miller Barber, and how Barber, who was supposed to hit first (the opening shot of the 1969 Ryder Cup), couldn’t do it. (Portions of pages 128-131.)

If you are in the area, I hope to see you there.



‘DRAW IN THE DUNES’ Reviews: Wall Street Journal and Tampa Bay Tribune

DrawInTheDunes CoverHERE ARE MORE REVIEWS of my new Ryder Cup book, DRAW IN THE DUNES: The 1969 Ryder Cup and the Finish That Shocked the World. The book, which includes a foreword by Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin, is in bookstores and also available online at the usual places in hardcover and ebook editions.

The Wall Street Journal (September 13):
“Many fans are drawn to sports for excitement, the twists and turns. Some favor the moral underpinnings, the virtues of grit and determination, teamwork and sportsmanship. Still others are inspired by passion, whether for the stakes or for the game itself. The 1969 Ryder Cup, the 18th installment of the biennial competition between the best golfers from the United States and Great Britain, had it all. In ‘Draw in the Dunes,’ Neil Sagebiel brings the memorable tournament to life.” Read entire review

The Tampa Bay Tribune (Bob D’Angelo):
“As he demonstrated in ‘The Longest Shot,’ Sagebiel is a marvelous story teller, who uses the right pace to build drama. It helps that he had some great characters to work with….Sagebiel takes the reader through every match, and builds to the final climax, in which Nicklaus and Jacklin battled to the final hole….’Draw in the Dunes’ is a lively, interesting look at the Ryder Cup, chock full of insight and anecdotes.” Read entire review

Other Reviews and Mentions

(Click the below links.)

“A Few of Our Favorite Things” Pick by Sports Illustrated Golf+ Digital

San Jose Examiner, The A Position, Ruthless Golf and Valley Business FRONT

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 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.’


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

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.

So Long Jack Fleck

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.

My Q&A with ‘Contemporary Authors’

It’s nice when I’m reminded in small but important (to me) ways that I’m a published author.

Not long ago I was contacted by Contemporary Authors, an annual directory (print and online) that lists information about 120,000 writers in all genres. I was informed that I’ll be listed in a future edition.

In addition to checking my listing, they asked me a few questions.

Q. What first got you interested in writing?

A. I liked books growing up. I admired writers and authors, and wanted to be one from a young age but spent a lot of years thinking it was not a viable career option.

Q. Who or what particularly influences your work?

A. As an author, I like nonfiction, history, biography, a good sports story. A few of my favorite authors are Laura Hillenbrand, Rick Bragg and Roland Lazenby.

Q. Describe your writing process.

A. I do my best writing in the morning, spending a half day or so making progress on a manuscript. I try to write a clean, high-quality first draft to cut down on rewriting. My editing process is largely focused on trimming.

Q. What is the most surprising thing you have learned as a writer?

A. That I was able to navigate all the steps needed to be published by a major publisher.

Q. Which of your books is your favorite and why?

A. Only one is published–THE LONGEST SHOT–but another one is on the way, due out from St. Martin’s Press in September 2014 to coincide with the Ryder Cup. Like children, I love them equally.

Q. What kind of effect do you hope your books will have?

A. I’m more than satisfied when readers say it was a good story that was well told.

Trends in Self-Publishing

I have written two books. THE LONGEST SHOT came out in 2012. My next book is going through the publishing cycle and will be released in September 2014.

Neither of my books is self-published (both are with Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, which is owned by Macmillan), but I expect there is a self-published book in my future. I think it could be an interesting venture.

While away in Indiana on Thanksgiving vacation, I read a USA TODAY story about the rapid rise of self-publishing. (I love getting the free newspaper at the hotels.)

Here are a few takeaways:

  • “The number of books being self-published in the U.S. ballooned to 391,000 titles in 2012, according to Bowker, an industry research group–an increase of nearly 60% from the previous year.”
  • “According to Smashwords, which distributes many self-published authors and titles to some of the most popular e-book sites … the best-selling 1% of titles net half the sales.”
  • “‘On average, authors spend between $1,000 and $2,000 to get their books into the marketplace,’ says Keith Ogorek, senior vice president of marketing at Author Solutions.”

Obviously, few self-published authors are making big money. Authors such as Amanda Hocking and Bella Andre, both featured in the article, are among the 1%.

Many others are like Portland, Maine, author Katie Lippa. Lippa has invested $700 in editorial services and made around $1,600 in book sales.

But money isn’t the sole reason people are compelled to write and publish a book. In fact, money is fourth on a list of reasons, according to Writer’s Digest as cited in the article.

What are the top two reasons?

To build a writing career and “to satisfy a lifelong ambition.”

I can relate to both.

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”