Book Review: “King of Clubs: The Great Golf Marathon of 1938”Written by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
“King of Clubs: The Great Golf Marathon of 1938” is a golf adventure involving a winner-take-all wager, an unbelievable feat of endurance and transcontinental travel during the Great Depression.
In September 1938, Chicago stockbroker Smith Ferebee played 600 holes of golf in just four days in eight different cities. Remember this was 1938. FDR was in the White House, Adolf Hitler was rattling war drums in Europe and plush private jet travel was not an option.
This herculean feat of golf was conceived over drinks and was born from a wager involving 500 acres of prime Virginia real estate.
Ferebee had won complete ownership of the Virginia real estate in a bet from his business associate Fred Tuerk by playing 144 holes of golf in a single day at Olympia Fields Country Club near Chicago.
After Ferebee’s original feat of golfing endurance became known publicly with the help of “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” radio program, every crazy golfer in the country attempted to duplicate or improve on Ferebee’s record.
Enter master promoter Rueben Trane who had just invented an innovative new product called the air conditioner. He saw a way to use Ferebee’s endurance golf for a huge countrywide promotion.
Tuerk wanted to win back his share of the Virginia property, Trane wanted to sell air conditioners and Ferebee wanted to lay to rest his sole claim on endurance golf.
A plan was conceived to travel across the United States via automobile, train and airplane to play 600 holes of golf in just four days. Ferebee would ultimately set a record that no one would be foolish enough to try to break.
Along the way famous cowboy singer Gene Autry as well as several other celebrities of the day became involved in the trek.
There is even a sinister subplot hatched by a devious bookie who attempts to derail Ferebee’s endeavor.
Ferebee played 33 complete 18-hole rounds of golf, spent 96 hours on the golf course, hit 2,858 shots, went through 40 pairs of socks, seven pair of golf shoes and traveled from Los Angeles to New York.
The author, Jim Ducibella, was a sportswriter for 29 years primarily for the Virginian-Pilot. He was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in April 2010.
Commenting on the author, John Feinstein said, “Jim Ducibella has always brought humor and style to both his writing and reporting. ‘King of Clubs’ is an example of that. There’s no doubt in my mind that those who read it will feel the same way I do.”
The book won the 2012 Book of the Year award from the International Network of Golf.
SI.com writer Gary Van Sickle called “King of Clubs,” “maybe the best golf story you have never heard of.”
“King of Clubs: The Great Golf Marathon” weaves a tale of golf wagering and transcontinental travel during the Great Depression and can be purchased here.
Golf fans and historians alike will enjoy this great read.