Kevin Robbins, author of "Harvey Penick: The Life and Wisdom of the Man Who Wrote the Book on Golf," and Peter Lewis, author of "Why Are There Eighteen Holes?: St. Andrews and the Evolution of Golf Courses, 1764-1890," will both receive the Herbert Warren Wind Book Award at the USGA’s Annual Meeting and Service Awards in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Feb. 4.
“Frankly, it’s not likely to happen again – but this year, after much discussion, we decided that we had two books worthy of the 2016 award,” said Adam Barr, director of the USGA Golf Museum. “Each contributes something distinct and valuable in terms of research and narrative style, two attributes that always rank high in our deliberations.”
In Harvey Penick: The Life and Wisdom of the Man Who Wrote the Book on Golf, Robbins tells the story of Penick, the late golf coach, competitor and instructor who in 1992 with Bud Shrake penned the Little Red Book: Lessons and Teachings From a Lifetime, considered by many the quintessential golf advice and instruction book.
Robbins provides the first biography of the iconic and revered Texan who caddied for Francis Ouimet, served as the longtime head golf professional at Austin Country Club, played with Ben Hogan and Bob Jones, shaped Ben Crenshaw, and distilled his golf wisdom into The Little Red Book, bringing simplicity to a complex yet beloved game.
“Kevin Robbins brings a storyteller’s approach to the book, which includes passages worthy of Herbert Warren Wind himself,” said Barr. “Given that Harvey Penick wrote one of the best-selling sports books ever (The Little Red Book), his life and the book are both subjects deep enough to be worthy of the award.”
Millions of people were charmed by the homespun golf advice dispensed in Penick’s Little Red Book and its three sequels. Yet, beyond the Texas golf courses where Penick plied his trade for the better part of eight decades, few people knew the man who coaxed the best out of countless champions – Tom Kite, Crenshaw, Betsy Rawls, Mickey Wright, Davis Love III – all of whom considered Penick their mentor and lifelong friend.
“It is an enormous thrill and tremendous honor to receive an award named after Herbert Warren Wind, who was the greatest storyteller that the game has ever known,” said Robbins. “Harvey Penick spoke to so many people through the words in his Little Red Book. I wanted readers of my book to understand what golf actually meant to Harvey by exploring his backstory.”
Robbins is a senior lecturer at the University of Texas School of Journalism. He joined the university in 2012 after 22 years in daily newspapers and currently teaches courses in sports journalism and feature writing.
In Why Are There Eighteen Holes?: St. Andrews and the Evolution of Golf Courses, 1764-1890, Peter Lewis takes readers on a journey through the 18th and 19th centuries to discover why there are 18 holes on a course. Drawing on a wide range of contemporary sources, he reveals that early courses had varying numbers of holes and were judged by the quality of their turf, putting greens and hazards. He shows why, during the 1880s, as golf became more popular, the ideal number of holes was increasingly seen as being 18.
Beyond the question that serves as the book’s title, Lewis documents the history of golf courses in Britain before 1890, exploring how a young game found its footing – and the role that St. Andrews and The R&A played in that story.
“Peter Lewis’ scholarly reputation goes side by side with his love of the game, and it shows in this work,” said Barr. “Deeply researched yet engaging and accessible, this volume will be pulled off shelves again and again by those seeking insights into some of the game’s most hallowed traditions.”
“I am deeply honored and absolutely delighted to win this award,” said Lewis. “When writing the book, I set out on a journey to discover why 18 holes became the ideal number for a golf course, why St. Andrews was considered ‘the home of golf’ and how the Royal and Ancient Golf Club became a governing body of the game. These are simple questions that turned out to have complicated answers. It is very gratifying that the Herbert Warren Wind Award Committee enjoyed musing over my conclusions.”
Lewis was the director of the British Golf Museum from 1988 to 2009, when he became The R&A’s director of film archive and then director of historical research. After retiring last year, Lewis was given the title of emeritus historian of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club. He has written or co-authored numerous books, including a three-volume history of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club.
Established in 1987, the Herbert Warren Wind Book Award recognizes and honors outstanding contributions to golf literature. Named for the famed 20th-century American golf writer, the award acknowledges and encourages outstanding research, writing and publishing about golf. Presented by the USGA Golf Museum, the Book Award is the top literary prize awarded by the United States Golf Association.
The USGA is currently accepting submissions for the 2017 Herbert Warren Wind Book Award. To be eligible, a book must be an original full-length work about golf, written in English, and must have been published between November 2016 and October 2017. For more information, contact Nancy Stulack, the USGA Museum’s librarian, at 908-781-1107 or firstname.lastname@example.org.