Mark Frost is the author of numerous books including “The Match” about the famed 1956 match at Cypress Point Club between the professional duo of Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson and the amateur duo of Ken Venturi and Harvie Ward. The subtitle of “The Match” is “The Day The Game Changed Forever” and the reason for that is that this moment at Cypress Point was the last time that you could have two career amateurs truly compete against professionals. In 1956, Venturi and Ward were the best amateurs in the country and Hogan and Nelson were the best pros in the game. You could not have that kind of match today not only because there are not as many career amateurs as there were in 1956, but also because the best amateurs of today cannot compete against the best professionals.
All four men were very interesting for different reasons. Nelson was an almost saintly figure as a human being because of his personal character and the way he treated people. Venturi was the strongest voice in the book in part because that match meant the most to him. He was 24 years old and he had the chance to play against his two mentors in Hogan and Nelson. Even to this day, Venturi can remember virtually every detail of that day and over the years it has become his story.
The re-enactment of “The Match” this week was part of The First Tee’s celebration of exceeding $100 million in pledges to reach 10 million new young people. It was a special day as there were only about 200 people following Love III, Watney, Bubba Watson, and Fowler and you could get a feeling of what the actual “Match” in 1956 felt like. A poignant moment occurred when Nick Watney eagled the 10th hole and like it was for Hogan and Nelson in 1956, it was the decisive moment of their match. In 1956, Hogan eagled the 10th hole and he and Nelson went on to win 1UP while Love III & Watney defeated Watson & Fowler 2&1.