by James Ross
The fourth in a series of novels set at the fictional Prairie Winds Golf Course, Opur’s Blade looks at first glance to be yet another rags to Majors golf story. To author Ross’ credit, it turns out to be much more.
The product of an incautious teenage liaison, Owen Purler, Jr. is being raised in a lower class, dysfunctional family. His mother spends her days working on her pedicure, while his father is a not-terribly-smart long haul trucker with a weakness for women and drink. In spite of her husband’s opposition, Raylene Purler enrolls Owen in a parks and rec golf program at the local course, Prairie Winds.
Owen turns out to be a natural, and the pro, J Dub Schroeder, takes him under his wing. The locals also take a liking to him, and Owen Purler acquires the nickname Opur. Opur struggles through a life that sadly seems all too typical—abandonment by his father, a struggling mom and lack of resources—but continues to improve his golf game. Finally, sponsored by the locals at Prairie Winds, Owen leaves town to become a successful amateur, and ultimately a pro. His success there leads to the last half of the novel, as Opur has a chance to win The Classic—a somewhat thinly disguised Masters.
If that’s all there was to Opur’s Blade, I likely wouldn’t grade it higher than a B. Ross is a good writer, who has a good sense of pace, but the rags to Majors story has been done too many times. Instead, the strength of this novel is in the characters. Opur and his family are very realistically painted, and the surrounding cast—the regulars at Prairie Winds—offer great background color. Having jumped into the middle of the Prairie Winds saga, I am certain that I have missed a great deal of their backstory. Much is hinted at that, but not explained. Still, by the end, I felt as though I had spent more than a few hours in the Prairie Winds clubhouse.
There’s also a rather unexpected end. But you won’t find any spoilers here.
A word of warning about the novel. In trying for a bit of gritty realism, Ross occasionally ventures into territory that would be rated “R” for sexual content at the movies. I think it works in the context of the characters in the novel, but it may not be for everyone.
I’m going to put the rest of the Prairie Winds saga on my golf reading list. Recommended.
The remainder of the Prairie Winds saga:
Lifetime Loser (Book 1)
Finish Line (Book 2)
Tuey’s Course (Book 3)