May 31, 2008

The greatest golfer ever : is someone you've never heard of: John Montague. (aka LaVerne Moore)

posted by Adept to golf at 04:34 PM - 8 comments

NPR's Only a Game had a piece on John Montague a few weeks ago. If you check out the Only a Game website they should have a podcast of that episode.

posted by dave2007 at 07:49 PM on May 31, 2008

Great, great article. Thanks, Adept -- that's one hell of a good first post.

posted by wfrazerjr at 08:23 PM on May 31, 2008

Some say he invented prawn cocktail crisps and that various parts of him rotate, but all we know is that he's got an excellent range of sports-casual clothing... Oh, that's The Stig...

posted by bobfoot at 08:32 PM on May 31, 2008

"step on a ball in the sand, bury it, then blast it out to the desired location." this legal? Just curious...

posted by bobfoot at 08:34 PM on May 31, 2008

You beat me to it, Adept, congratulations! I got my copy of Smithsonian about 10 days ago, read the article, and I was planning to post the web version. When I went to the Smithsonian Magazine site, they had not yet updated to the June issue. I was away over Memorial Day, then work was hectic as we prepared for another field test, so I never got to it. I'm really glad you were able to share it, since I probably would have forgotten it. Montague has to be one of the most fascinating characters of the past 100 years. When you look at the friends he had and his ability on the golf course, you have to just shake your head in amazement. bobfoot, it's not legal to improve (?) one's lie in a hazard. Montague did this as one of his many trick shots. The part about his aiming at and hitting birds on a wire brought to mind a discussion we had some months ago about a golfer who deliberately took a shot at and killed a hawk. It's a good thing for Montague he did not live in this day and age. I've read that Lee Trevino used to bet that he could beat you using a taped-up wine bottle for a club. I understand he won a large percentage of those bets.

posted by Howard_T at 08:59 PM on May 31, 2008

Fascinating story. It reads like an April fool's joke (there's a shade of Sidd Finch in the tone of the story), but it was the time. That's awesome. Good link.

posted by chicobangs at 01:25 PM on June 02, 2008

Well, wfrazerjr, I've been waiting awhile. I figured it was about time. I read this in the paper Smithsonian and have been waiting a month to post it.

posted by Adept at 01:27 PM on June 02, 2008

Fascinating stuff - what a film THAT could make! It has more than a hint of the "sold his soul" for the talent, with the catch that he wasn't allowed to show the world his talent. Obviously, his refusal to enter the amateur championships or to turn pro had a lot to do with wanting to retain a degree of his anonymity, but it also serves to highlight a little how important a factor competitive pressure in sport can be. Could he have hit those hefty drives or holed those nerveless putts under pressure? I've known countless players at all levels of the game for whom the answer sadly turned out to be no, despite prodigious talent and success at lower levels. Perhaps for Montague the story was the same. it would seem that when he finally did make a proper go of it, nothing came off for him. Professional golf in the modern era is a very thin sliver of the whole sport. There are skills you can have as a golfer that seldom - if ever - get tested in the professional arena. Matchplay, for example, is tested now more than it was for a lot of years (but not nearly as much as it used to be) with the WGC events, and of course the Ryder Cup and all the various copycat events, but by and large it remains the preserve of the amateur game. Maybe we could liken John Montague to a footballer who can produce all kinds of magical tricks with the ball at his feet, but is no good at playing the game. Thanks for the post, Adept. Your name befits its quality.

posted by JJ at 02:08 PM on June 02, 2008

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