by Darren Kilfara
Teacher’s Comments: It’s just ok. A pleasant enough read.
As I’ve mentioned in other book reviews, there’s a subset of golf literature in which expatriate American golfers write of their experiences living in Scotland and playing golf. Most seem to use the excuse of writing a book—or magazine articles—to justify uprooting their families. We all know, however, that it’s really about having the chance to play endless Scottish golf.
The best of these expats in Scotland books, I think, was Lorne Ruberstein’s A Season In Dornoch: Golf and Life in the Scottish Highlands, which had charm and insight; the worst, George Peper’s Two Years In St. Andrews, which is marred by a smarmy intellectual elitism (the central message of that book seemed to be “ha ha look at me I was smart enough to get away from George Bush’s America and you weren’t”); Kilfara’s A Golfers’ Education fall somewhere in between.
Kilfara’s escape to Scotland came via a program at Harvard that sends students abroad for a year to further their education. According to Kilfara, many take advantage of that to spend a year on a tropical island at their parent’s expense. He chose to spend a year at St. Andrews, playing golf, and attending the university (in that order).
The usual formula for these books is that the poor American has a difficult time at first adjusting to the local customs, but finally sees the wisdom of their ways, thanks to the aid of local coots. What sets this book apart from the other travelogues is that it focuses primarly on the courses he played and his developing love interest with a Scottish lass.
The major part of Kilfara’s plan for his year involved playing as many of Scotland’s great courses as possible. Kilfara’s descriptions of his rounds and the courses are adequate, not inspired. I think I understood what he was describing, but the images never quite came alive for me.
An undercurrent that pulled throughout the book focused on Kilfara’s transition from a golfer obsessed by scores and statistics, to one who plays for the enjoyment of the game. It’s an interesting metamorphosis but one that I suspect that he would have arrived at with age and maturity. No trip to Scotland was necessary. A year in midwestern America might well have done the same thing.
As for the end result of his romance with the local girl, I refuse to spoil the ending.
In the end, this is not a book that I’d suggest that anyone run right out and get. But if you see it in the library, or at a used book store, give it a go.