A Gentleman's Game, by Tom Coyne

By: Bob Spiwak

This is the first novel for Coyne, and a dandy one at that. Finally, a golf book that offers only one swing tip, and it's woven into the story.

I discovered this tome while looking for something to watch on the telly. Going to The Golf Channel, lo and behold they were not having an informercial but their very own cinema. I caught the flick in the last 20 minutes or so, and liked it so well I went to Powell's Books and ordered not only the DVD but the hardbound as well. have finished the latter, the disk has yet to arrive.

This is not your usual "coming of age" story, although that's what it is. The perspective, however, is not from the greenswards of a golf course, but that of a pubescent kid who spends half his life in "The Hole," a dark and dingy caddie shack at a snobby and exclusive country club. In The Hole he meets fellow loopers, an interesting mix of youthful personalities, including a heroin addict and a kid who has no thumbs. I would add at this time that unlike most of the first-person golf stories I've read, this one makes no attempt at humor. Fact is, it is on the edge of "dark," whatever that means.

It's also a story of a young boy and his relationships with his father and psychotic older brother. Dad is not the kind who pushes his sons into any activities, even though Timmy, the protagonist, is a golf phenom who will, at age 13, win the Delaware state junior championship. There is little play-by-play writing about any of the golf matches, whether Tim's or the folks whose bags he carries. But lots and lots about life on a golf course from the point of view of a caddie. Tipping, hackers, the effect of golf carts, the mechanics of being chosen for a loop, and more. Having been a caddie twice at a snobby golf club, a lot of it rings true.

There is a little teen romance in the story, one fairly humorous sex scene where the club president's wife is being boinked in her hot tub by a caddie as she waves at her husband putting on the nearby 14th green. The tale builds to a multi-faceted climax that involves racism, perversion and a shooting. I can tell you that one of these climaxes varies from the book as presented by the movie.

Coyne's book a real good read and a permanent fixture in the golf library.

A Gentleman's Game, by Tom Coyne, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1987, ISBN o-87113791-7.

Bob Spiwak took up golf in 1953 as a respite from the rigors of selling bibles door-to-door in North Dakota. Though suffering a four-year lapse, he's back to being a fanatical golfer. Now a contributing editor for Cybergolf, Spiwak has written articles for almost every golf magazine in the Western world. Bob�s most treasured golf antiquity is a nod he got from Gerald Ford at the 1990 Golf Summit. Spiwak lives in Mazama, Wash., with his wife and several pets next to his fabled ultraprivate Whispering Rattlesnakes Golf & Flubbers Club.