After a lifetime of writing about the professional sport, Michael Bamberger, “the poet laureate of golf” (GOLF magazine), delivers an exhilarating love letter to the amateur game as it’s played—and lived—by the rest of us.
Over Michael Bamberger’s celebrated writing career, he has written a handful of books and hundreds of Sports Illustrated stories about professional golf and those who play it—that is, the .001 percent. Now, Bamberger trains his eye on the rest of us. In his most personal book yet, Bamberger takes the lid off a game that is both quasi-religious and a nonstop party, posing an age-old question that is answered over its pages: Why does the game cast such a spell on us?
Here is the story of modern golf that is not on TV. This is our story, we who pay to play, who can’t wait to get another crack at the game, even when golf doesn’t love us back. And just as every round is an adventure, every life in golf is, too. The golfers Michael Bamberger introduces will leave you inspired and moved. You’ll meet Sam Reeves, a golf-loving US Army soldier who becomes captivated by a fellow soldier, Cliff Harrington, a gifted Black golfer who’s cruelly robbed of the chance to show the world all he can do. You’ll meet Ryan French, who plays on a college golf team out of Animal House. You’ll get to know Pratima Sherpa, who grew up in a maintenance shed at the Royal Nepal Golf Club in Kathmandu and took up the game with a stick whittled by her father.
The Ball in the Air is reported with Bamberger’s you-are-there intimacy and captures the sweep of time. Pratima finds her way from Nepal to a university golf team in Southern California. Ryan and his father caddie in minor-league events while sleeping in tents, a preamble to Ryan’s becoming the godfather of the popular Monday Qualifier Twitter feed. Sam Reeves, born in rural Georgia during the Depression, becomes a cotton king, the oldest amateur to make the cut at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and the ultimate man for all seasons.
And there are Bamberger sightings, too, as he finds his own path in the game. You’ll make joyful side trips with the author, who’s spent more than forty years exploring golfers and golf, a way of life that captivates him down to his bones. You’ll visit the golf course at Balmoral Castle in Scotland and compete with Bamberger and other purists at the National Hickory Championship in rural Pennsylvania. At St. Andrews, you’ll get up close and personal with Lee Trevino, one of the few professionals in these pages, because Trevino, when you really get to the core of the man, is one of us. He can’t get enough of it.
The Ball in the Air is Bamberger’s valentine to golf. The modern world, obsessed with fame and fortune, has infiltrated professional golf—but it hasn’t infiltrated golf. Bamberger is here to highlight the distinction and to celebrate the game and all who play it.