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'Pops and Sunshine' by Dave Andrews
This novel is an unabashed love affair of the Duramed Futures Tour, the LPGA Tour's equivalent of the PGA's Nationwide Tour. Andrews, a former television news reporter, became a fan of the Futures Tour after meeting many of the young players who compete in a tournament in his hometown of Concord, N.H. Andrews has hopes that "Pops and Sunshine," the story of Dave Johnston and his deceased daughter, Sarah, will eventually become adapted for the big screen and/or television.
Though 285 pages long, the small size of "Pops and Sunshine" makes it a quick read. The book is simplistic and a touch too melodramatic, but also readable and enjoyable. The story, which spans the week of the Tour's final event of the year at the fictional Oak Hill Country Club in Concord, involves a chance encounter by Rob, a senior-to-be at Harvard and Johnston's nephew, and Lisa Nelson, a blonde, willowy 20-year-old from Tennessee who needs to win the tournament to secure her LPGA card for the following year.
You won't find a more basic dramatic focus than that: win or go home. Nelson's plight is exacerbated by her widowed mother, who lost her husband and Lisa's father to cancer and is struggling to make ends meet with a nursing job while raising two young sons and providing financial assistance to Lisa, who simply can't afford another Futures' season. Johnston is also carrying emotional baggage. Four years earlier, his wife and daughter - the latter bearing a striking likeness to Lisa - were killed in a tragic car accident, rendering him feeling hopeless and melancholy.
As she prepares to play her first practice round at Oak Hill, Lisa inquires about a "local" caddie who knows the course. She's told by several people that Johnston, an 8 handicap, is Oak Hill's best reader of the greens due to his 30-plus years as a member. After the practice round, during which Johnston serves as her looper and the seeds of a friendship are sown, he offers Lisa - who asks about a cheap hotel in Concord - a room at his palatial home. Rob and Lisa also hit it off well and they soon fall in love.
Lisa reveals her own loss while learning of Dave's through his kindly housekeeper ("Mrs. B" - a spot-on replica of Mayberry's Aunt Bee). There's also the antagonistic Shelly Steele, a pompous princess who won the previous two tournaments and - without a Concord victory by Lisa - is a lock to earn the Futures' fifth and final LPGA Tour spot. Steele has a rich father and, unlike Lisa, has no monetary pressures. She even has a well-paid caddie who goes out of his way to be a jerk to our heroine and Johnston.
I won't reveal the conclusion or further details, but suffice to say this book comes close to a fairy tale that could succeed on the silver screen. (In his note that accompanied my review copy Andrews wrote: "When grown men and young women began telling me the story made them cry, I figured I might have something special.")
Andrews has crafted a fun and innocent yarn, one that if you're not careful will elicit tears and some hope that golf can - and sometimes does - serve as a parable for life. For a first-time author, you can't hope for much more than that.
"Pops and Sunshine," by Dave Andrews, ISBN 978-0-615-18706-8, self-published, available at 8 Tow Path Lane, Concord, NH, 03301, http://popsandsunshine.com.