Listening for the Bugles Book Review

imageListening for the Bugles: A story about champions, tragedy, and triumph

by Denny Spencer

Grade C+
Teacher’s Comments: A pleasant enough book, with very authentic golf action.

Written by Toledo Ohio golf pro Denny Spencer, Listening for the Bugles is a golfing version of the old movie “Heaven Can Wait.” In it, a golfing pro whose career is cut tragically short returns to a measure of redemption.

The story is a play in two acts. In the first, we meet journeyman golf professional Billy Thompson. Thompson and his wife Anne are grinding it out on the mini tours, living from paycheck to paycheck out of a trailer. Then one day, at an out-of-the-way driving range, Billy acquires a persimmon driver once meant for the great Ben Hogan and his fortunes change.

With driver in hand, and the rest of his game in high gear, Thompson find himself in contention at the US Open at Inverness. Then tragedy strikes.

Years later, Thompson’s son, JR also finds himself in a position to win the US Open at Inverness. And much like his father found help in a magical driver, JR draws on a little magic of his own.

Listening for the Bugles is Spencer’s first novel, and he shows some promise as a novelist. The characters are interesting, and the writing clear and concise. Of course, it helps that Spencer has followed the primary writer’s dictum: write about what you know.

Spencer brings an impressive golf resume to the table. A golf course architect who lives in Sylvania, Ohio (a “suburb” of Toledo), he captained the University of Toledo’s first Mid-American Conference championship golf team in 1964. After a long amateur career, he played for five years on the Senior PGA Tour. During that time he qualified for three United States Senior Open Championships, earned membership in the European Seniors Tour, and captured the 1996 Ohio Senior Open at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. He has been inducted into three athletic Halls of Fame, and has written several articles for a variety of regional magazines.

So the golf is authentic. Most of the action takes place at Inverness, a course that Spencer apparently knows down to the last bump on the last green. Following the tournament in the novel was like watching on television.

But the novel is more than a bit cliched. There’s a magical driver, a mysterious old Scotsman, a Bagger-Vance-like caddy, and the cynical newspaperman who narrates the story. I honestly knew how the book would end midway through.

That’s not to say that it isn’t worth reading. Listening for the Bugles is a nice afternoon’s diversion. And in the final analysis, it’s uplifting. There’s a Sunday evening Hallmark special in there.

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