Paper Tiger: An Obsessed Golfer’s Quest to Play with the Pros by Tom Coyne (Gotham, $15.00)
Yes, 7 and the Ragged Tiger was my favorite album from the 80s mega rock-disco group Duran Duran. This book’s title has no connection to that band, nor – as one browsing Borders might think – to Tiger Woods. But it is about the maddening sport of golf.
Tom Coyne has authored two other well-received books about the sport, A Gentleman’s Game and A Course Called Ireland. The one-time college golfer is one of those guys who has had a few beers with his friends in the clubhouse and wondered what it would be like to devote a year or two of one’s life to nothing but the game. He has a bit of talent, so would dedicating himself completely to golf turn him into a PGA qualifier?
You can probably guess what the answer is, but to Coyne’s credit he gave it a very good shot. In one year he hit 75,000 range balls to practice his old killer swing, and he woke up early and hit until dark while living in an apartment that joined the greens in Florida. What did he find out? That even with the best technology (free Mizuno high-tech clubs) and the best in coaching (Dr. Jim Suttie) you can’t turn a paper tiger into a roaring lion.
Statistically, amateur entrants into a U.S. Open qualifying tournament have a .893 percent (less than nine-tenths of one percent) chance “of making it into the final field this year.” So it’s not a shock that our hero – a rusty and overweight golfer when he begins his links journey – does not manage to accomplish the impossible. But the fun is in the read, following an Everyman who’s as likely to flame out under the pressure of possible success as any one of us mortals. To paraphrase what someone else said, Coyne tried to play with the killers on the course and they killed him.
The Philadelphia Inquirer got it right when the newspaper wrote that Paper Tiger is, “A breezy, poignant read… Hilarious.” The book contains several very funny true stories and scenes, the best of which is when a rookie caddy mistakes the author for the great lefty Phil Mickelson! Under the pressure of attempting to “be” Phil, Coyne shoots an 89 and finishes his 18-holes with the young caddy screaming at him – “It’s about G– Damn time!”
This one is quite funny. Look for the trade paperback at a large bookstore and then take it along on your next multi-hour plane or train trip. It will well be worth it. Recommended.
This book was purchased by the reviewer.