Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Book Review - The Caddie who knew Ben Hogan

Forbidden romance meets a caddie's pipe dream. The club pro and the president's daughter. A memorable round with the best player in the world. It all gets tossed together in the perspective of that one caddie we all would want to be, the one who's respected by the top players and who knows things about the course nobody else does.
John Coyne is an American writer of over twenty-five books, the bulk of which are horror stories. He worked as a caddie in his youth, and he's an avid golfer, and as such he has also written several books on the topic.
"The Caddie who knew Ben Hogan" is a fictional story. It was published in 2006 and is presented as "a literary exploration of golf and everyday life".
The story takes place at a country club outside Chicago that's in the throes of preparing to host the Chicago Open later in the summer of 1946. It's told in the words of Jack Handley, the young caddie who's secretly hopeful that the club's talented young assistant pro will do well in this contest. Complicating matters is that the pro is involved in an illicit affair with the daughter of the president of the club, and the caddie often has to go between the two, when all he really cares about is golf.
One day a shiny big car pulls in to the club's parking lot, and out steps Ben Hogan, stopping by to take a look at the course in advance of the big tournament. Jack quickly grabs his clubs, and they go out on the course. They play the first nine holes by themselves, but the club's pro joins them for the second nine. The round is told in intimate detail, and the pro turns out to beat the greatest player in the game.
Everything builds up to the tournament itself, and again the golf action is told with great attention to every minutiae.
Many reviewers praise this book for providing a snapshot into the country club athmosphere in the 40's, and it's also received high marks for it's portrayal of Ben Hogan. These were both things I did enjoy about the book.
The downfall of the book was it's attempts throughout to try to build up the tension to some fantastic and shocking ending. I was very disappointed to find that the author let not one but two cats out of the proverbial bag with more than 50 pages left to go. Not only did he reveal how the tournament was going to end, but he also revealed some of the circumstances around the ending. I was hoping to find some twist at the end, but it was not to be and the ending was very anti-climactic.
I felt like the author got bored with writing the book and just wrapped it up as quickly as possible. The quality of the writing towards the end was nowhere near what it was at the beginning.
The one thing I will take with me out of the book is the advice that Ben Hogan repreatedly offered young Jack, with respect to life as well as golf: "The most important shot is your next one."

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