by John Coyne
Teachers’ Comments: A good fantasy read, even if there are a couple of holes
(Alert: Spoilers throughout)
Bobby Jones once said that his greatest wish was that an amateur would win The Masters. While in reality that’s not going to happen, John Coyne imagines an amateur’s supernatural Master’s victory in The Caddie Who Won The Masters (I suppose that it is not too much of a spoiler to reveal that he wins the tournament, given the book’s title.)
Tim Alexander is an English professor at a small midwestern college who earns a spot at the Masters thanks to his US Mid Amateur title. He’s conflicted about his appearance, though, as his wife is battling cancer and may indeed be in mortal danger.
While practicing at the Amen Corner before the tournament, Alexander encounters the ghost of Clifford Roberts, the legendary Chairman of Augusta National. Roberts’ soul is trapped at Augusta (thanks to his suicide there), and he can’t be released until Bobby Jones’ wish is fulfilled and an amateur wins The Masters. Alexander, Roberts says, has been chosen for the job. To sweeten the deal, Roberts promises to cure Alexander’s wife in exchange for a victory.
Alexander doubts both the existence of the ghost and the possibility of winning, but he goes along with the scheme. Roberts promises additional supernatural help to ensure the victory.
Thus, as the tournament progresses, Alexander is visited by the ghosts of Ben Hogan, Bobby Locke, Byron Nelson, Bobby Jones and others who help him through rough spots in his game. At critical junctures, the shades appear and taking their advice, Alexander makes the shots.
A sub plot involves Alexander’s caddy, a course rat whose caddy father recently died in the line of duty. This, I suppose is where the “Caddy Who” part of the title comes from, but that’s a pretty big stretch.
As a whole, I think the novel is quite enjoyable. The characters are well drawn, the “action” tense and the ending, while unrealistic, make sense within the supernatural fantasy framework.
The best part of the book, however, are the descriptions of the holes at Augusta. After reading the novel, I felt as though I’d attended a seminar on the course. (I assume it’s all accurate).
Finally, to the holes:
One: I can’t figure out why its called the Caddie Who Won The Masters, when it’s an English Professor who does the honors. True, the caddie is integral, but not enough to warrant the title. I think it’s mostly that Coyne is trying to establish a golf novel brand—his previous novels were The Caddie Who Knew Ben Hogan and The Caddie Who Played with Hickory. A poor choice, in my mind. The Amateur Who Won The Masters is more like it.
Two: The story ends without letting us know if Roberts keeps his promise to heal Axexander’s wife. We do know that Roberts is released from Augusta, but that’s it. The story need a postscript or something.