Two for Tee
Billy Boy: A Novel, by Bud Shrake (Simon and Schuster, October 2001), and The Money-Whipped Steer-Job Three-Jack Give-up Artist: A Novel, by Dan Jenkins (Doubleday)
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Bud Shrake knows golf—he co-authored the legendary Harvey Penick golf books—and his boy-to-man novel, Billy Boy, is a bighearted tribute to the Zen of golf in Fort Worth, circa 1950. Sixteen-year-old caddy Billy Boy descends on the Colonial Country Club with fantasies of rubbing elbows with Ben Hogan, the hero who represents everything that Billy’s deadbeat dad is not. On occasion, Billy Boy is too stagy—a Cowtown Wizard of Oz, with young Billy following the road to his dreams and hooking up with charming oddballs along the way. But this golf fable doesn’t shy away from honest emotions. Shrake’s version of the past is not scratched and dinged by reality, but worn to a pleasing patina by the passage of time. Simon and Schuster, October 2001
Like Shrake, Dan Jenkins seems to yearn for a time when sports represented, if not a better place, at least a place where good citizens could agree on where to put the out-of-bounds markers. His raucous novel The Money-Whipped Steer-Job Three-Jack Give-up Artist tracks middling-successful pro golfer Bobby Joe Grooves’s less-than-glamorous life as an also-ran on the PGA tour. As he did with Dead Solid Perfect (his 1974 comic opus that spawned the entire golf-novel genre), Jenkins provides a satirical tour of the golf world they don’t show on network TV. He’s breezy, insightful, funny, and even poignant, in his own irreverent fashion. Doubleday Publishers
These sometime-collaborators have captured golf’s yin and yang: Jenkins’ book is the bray of whiskey-sippers at the nineteenth hole, while Shrake’s is the whisper of a foursome striding down a fairway wet with morning dew.