Three Golf Quests

Most of us have set goals for our golf games, but some folks have gone at those goals with a vengeance and then written a book about it. I’ve read three of these over the past few years, and the main thing I’ve learned is that I don’t have the time, money, or drive to stick to that type of a project. It’s fun to read about how other people did it, though.

Tom Coyne decided to take a year and try to get good enough to make it through PGA Q School. His book, Paper Tiger, documents his attempt, including all his hours on the practice tee, tournament play, and physical conditioning. I won’t spoil the Q School part of the story for you, but Coyne did a pretty good job on his weight and handicap. He lost over 35 pounds and his handicap index went from 9.4 to +.4. The overwhelming impression I got is of a lot of very hard work, recounted in an entertaining way.

John Richardson approached the problem a little differently. He was an average golfer, meaning he was shooting around 100 most of the time, and decided to try to shoot a round of par golf within a year. He tells the tale in his book Dream On, so named because golfer Sam Torrance said “Dream on” when asked if such a feat was possible. Richardson’s quest is a bit more realistic than most, because he maintained his job and family life while he pursued the dream. The book reads like a very compressed tale of an average guy’s pursuit of a golf dream. Most of us dream of that great round, but most of us won’t throw ourselves at it like Richardson does.

The Old Man And The Tee, by Turk Pipkin

My favorite of the three books is The Old Man And The Tee, by Turk Pipkin. It’s less realistic for the average guy, because Pipkin had the time and money to travel the world to play golf and take lessons from folks like Leadbetter and Pelz. However, his goal was more realistic than making it through Q School. Pipkin wanted to take 10 strokes off his handicap, which started at a 16. A lot of the charm of the book is in Pipkin’s humor (he’s been a stand-up comic) and his random stories about things other than his golf quest. Besides lowering his handicap, Pipkin wanted to rediscover the joy of the golf he played with his late father, and his reflections on his father and the joys of golf that are unrelated to score give the book character.

I’m never going to try to play with the big boys, like Coyne tried to do, and I’m never going to work as hard at golf as did Richardson. My personal quest is to try and balance having fun at golf with playing well, and that’s a tough enough job for me. I wouldn’t mind trying to strike that balance by following the Pipkin program, but my other interests and my bank account rule that out. Playing with the guys a few times a week and trying to keep my handicap semi-respectable won’t make much of a book, but neither would the rest of my daily life.

Unless you count all the feral cats roaming around my property. I hear there’s a big market for cat stories, and they do entertain me on slow days.

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2 Responses to Three Golf Quests

  1. Brian Kuehn says:

    When I read Tom Coyne’s “Paper Tiger” the thought that stuck with me was what a selfish guy he must be. I do not know Mr. Coyne and my impression may be totally wrong. Still, to essentially ditch his fiance for a “book idea” seemed pretty brutal. After he married, he then took off for Ireland, leaving her behind again for another “book idea”.

    • Selfish or not, I know that I couldn’t have left my fiance or wife hanging like that. That’s the problem I see with a lot of these “I’ll devote a year to X” plans. I’ve got too many other things I want to do, people I want to spend time with, pillows I want to lay my sleepy head on, etc. to be single-minded like that again. I did it during grad school and internship, and that was more than enough for me.

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