“He beat the Sneads and Hogans and left them smiling.”
-Doug Ford, Masters and PGA Champion
About the Book
During the Great Depression, Ed Oliver rose from the caddie ranks to become one of the leading professional golfers in the world. Provided an initial stake by three country club members who saw his potential, he found himself facing golf legends like Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen. Within a few years he was beating the best of a new younger wave of professionals led by Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, and Jimmy Demaret.
Then, just weeks after overtaking Hogan and Nelson to win the prestigious Western Open, he was suddenly pulled into the U.S. Army with an early draft call, long before his golf tour competitors joined the war effort. He was discharged after all of them, losing more than four and a half of his best athletic years. Following the war, he rebuilt his game and drove from coast to coast battling to make a living and support a family of six against the now dominant Snead and Hogan and a new wave of champions like Lloyd Mangrum, Cary Middlecoff, Julius Boros, Billy Casper, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer.
Although his long absence took its toll, Oliver still regained his standing among the best and was named to three Ryder Cup teams. He drew large galleries wherever he went, and in 1957 a Sports Illustrated article called him “the most popular player on the circuit.” Loved by fans and fellow professionals alike, with his body racked by cancer and facing his final days, he was named honorary captain of the 1961 Ryder Cup team. He died at age 46, just three weeks before they played.
This book is more than Oliver’s story. It is also the story of the many professionals who rose up from the caddyshacks, survived the Great Depression, served their country in wartime, then came home and built the modern golf tour. They could be called, “Golf’s Greatest Generation.”
What People Are Saying...
Edward “Porky” Oliver finished second in all three United States major golf tournaments. One of the most colorful and popular players to ever play the tour, a book on his life was long overdue—and John Riley, who knew Oliver and grew up with his sons, is the best person to write it. As a three-time Ryder Cup team member with forty-seven top three finishes, Oliver’s accomplishments are significant. As Riley makes clear, though, Porky’s real impact was his leading role in attracting fans and helping to popularize the golf tour in the 1940s and ’50s. Thanks to the author’s extensive research you will see Hogan, Snead, and other greats of the game as you have never seen them before.
Peter C. Trenham
Philadelphia PGA historian
I played a lot of golf with Porky Oliver. I wish these young kids on the tour today could have seen him play. He was a wonderful golfer with a wonderful sense of humor.
Winner of Golf's Grand Slam
John Riley’s masterfully told tribute to Porky Oliver is a long overdue celebration of not just a golfer but of the legion of players who deeply understood the meaning of service—to country and to the game. Riley’s research affords us the chance to walk around in that golden era of Hogan and Nelson and Snead.
New York Times bestselling author of A Course Called America
About the Author
John Riley is an award-winning author who grew up with Ed “Porky” Oliver’s family in Wilmington, Delaware. He spent most of his career as a public affairs executive. Since retiring in 2016, Riley has devoted himself to writing and to various roles in golf, such as supporting the First Tee and the BMW Championship, which funds the Evans Scholars Foundation. He is a past recipient of the annual award of the Delaware State Golf Association for contributions to the game of golf. Riley is a graduate of the University of Delaware, where he captained the golf team.
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