By Tripp Bowden
Teacher’s Comments: One of the best books I’ve read in ages.
Update: Now available in paperback
Freddie and Me is a coming-of-age story that lovingly recounts the details of the relationship between Tripp—a doctor’s son—and Freddie Bennett, the “legendary” caddiemaster at Augusta National. The story begins with Tripp’s introduction to Freddie and to golf, and then follows Bennett’s influence on the lad through school, college, and adulthood.
Author Tripp Bowden clearly knows how lucky he was to have Bennett as a mentor. It’s the sort of relationship that every boy should have either with his father, or with another adult male. Bennett was caring, worldly-wise and colorful. And Tripp makes it clear that he a better man for having known him.
Once I started this book, I simply couldn’t put it down, and indeed, finished at two the morning on a night when I had to get up at five the next morning for work. I’m not sure what it was that made the story so compelling. Perhaps it was the author’s authenthic voice, the clear writing, or just maybe it was that I just couldn’t wait to read the next “Freddie-ism.”
A “Freddie-ism” is the term Tripp gives to the Caddie Master’s colorful aphorisms. Freddie Bennett spoke the truth—never in a cruel or capricious fashion—but unvarnished and to the point. An example:
To the caddy sniffing around the bags that arrived on a Saturday afternoon: “You don’t want his bag man, He’s got short arms and deep pockets.”
It’s a clear measure of the impact Freddie Bennett had on Tripp that the latter could so clearly remember so many Freddie-isms for this book. I’d actually like to see a volume composed entirely of Freddie-isms. It’d be the life version of Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book.
I don’t think you have to be a golfer to enjoy this book, although golfers will certainly enjoy the author’s insights into the workings of Augusta National. Tripp Bowden’s relationship with Bennett led to his becoming the first full time white caddy in the club’s history, and as such, he saw and heard things that mere reporters or historians simply wouldn’t.
The book also addresses—in that it couldn’t avoid—the issue of racial relationships in the New South. Freddie was an older African American of modest means, and Tripp Bowden the white son of privilege. Tripp hung out, and worked in, the racially homogeneous caddie yard of the exclusive Augusta National. What’s most striking in the end, however, is just how little race mattered.
It occurred to me as I was reading Freddie and Me that this is exactly the sort of book that might find its way to Oprah’s recommendation list.