When writer Jeff Silverman signed on to update
Merion Golf Club’s club history, neither he nor Merion had in mind a 512-page,
six-pound behemoth that will likely set a new standard for club histories. But four years later, that’s what they
Merion: The Championship Story,
emblazoned with the club’s distinctive logo on the cover and a treasure trove
of stories and memories on the inside, is hot off the presses, 5½ months
after the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, the fifth Open at Merion, provided Silverman
a fitting and fabulous final chapter.
"It’s the crowning achievement of my career
– so far," joked Silverman, of Chadds Ford, a
professor at Villanova, book editor and contributing editor at Golf World
The book grew out of a story Silverman wrote for
Philadelphia magazine in 2008 on how Merion, which had fallen out of grace with
the U.S. Golf Association, "rose from the dead" to host the 2005 U.S. Amateur,
the 2009 Walker Cup and the organization’s crown jewel, the U.S. Open, in 2013.
The result is a book that is not merely a
vanity project intended only for the members of Merion, but rather a readable
feast for golfers everywhere who appreciate the East Course and the rich
history of a club that has hosted 18 USGA championships, more than any other
club in America.
The book ($125, plus $15 for shipping and
handling) is available online through Merion and the Golf
Association of Philadelphia.
Here is an 8-minute video interview with
When Silverman undertook the book in 2010, he
and Merion both envisioned on a year-long project, a basic update of the club history
that would include the 2005 U.S. Amateur and the 2009 Walker Cup. But the more Silverman examined what had
been covered in the two previous club histories, and the more he immersed
himself in Merion’s wealth of historical archives, the more convinced he became
that this book ought to be more.
"What I found out early on was that the
championship stories had never been told right," said Silverman. "Each one of them was better, and each
one of them had more threads of drama than I knew."
With Merion’s blessing, the book became a
four-year project that doubled in size.
Silverman interviewed anybody and everybody
– at least any former champion that was still alive and would talk to
him, and anybody else with a hint of an insight or interesting anecdote to tell. Along the way, he debunked a few old
myths and uncovered a few new details.
Among the most cooperative was ’71 Open
champion Trevino, who beat Jack Nicklaus and made his name at Merion. "I fell in love," Trevino told Silverman
four decades after the fact. "I
absolutely fell in love with that golf course."
The most comprehensive accounts are naturally the
chapters devoted to Jones’ Grand Slam in 1930, Ben Hogan’s legendary win in the
1950 Open, and the most recent Open, for which Silverman was able to do
first-hand, real-time reporting.
Every day, he roamed the golf course and the media center like a man on
Silverman also relished reporting and
researching the lesser-known USGA championships Merion has hosted, such as the
1989 U.S. Amateur, won by rotund Chris Patton, and the 1998 U.S. Girls Junior,
won by Leigh Anne Hardin, both of whom have drifted away from serious,
competitive golf. Still, they are
part of the parade of champions at Merion, part of the Merion family.
Now, in his own way, Silverman becomes part of
the Merion family.