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Short of twitting Scotsmen about wearing skirts, the surest way to infuriate them is to suggest that golf started somewhere other than Scotland, and that's precisely what this controversial novel suggests. Bogie is a picaresque tale of golf at the
Posted December 3, 2002
Sure, noted golf historian (and veteran duffer) Chuck Hellman could have authored a dry, scholarly account describing what¿s known about golf¿s origins and early years at St. Andrews, Scotland. Instead, he¿s gifted us with a far more entertaining labor of a true golfer¿s love, by bringing those days of old to vivid life in his just-released novel, BOGIE - Golf¿ as it was. Bogie, you should know, is Hellman¿s narrator-character-incarnation of golf¿s Chief Nemesis, as personified by the young illegitimate son of one Mulligan, a rougeish Irish ex-pirate with a tenor voice like an angel¿s and the whiskeyed wit of a debauched leprechaun. Shortly after Mulligan¿s and Bogie¿s arrival by ship on St. Andrews¿ hallowed shores, the two become bumbling ¿grasshopper cawdies¿ whose infatuation with the primitive game leads Mulligan to aspire from brigandry to gentry so he can play ¿gawf¿ without ceasing, and Bogie to strive for a greatness at the game that forever eludes his hapless sire. As Mulligan and Bogie charm and scramble their way from vagrancy to notoriety in St. Andrews, they encounter (and we meet) gawf-legendary figures like Mr. Stymie, maker extraordinaire of the game¿s finest ¿featheries¿ (balls), inventor of the diabolical rule that bears his name, and Mulligan¿s closest competitor for St. Andrews¿ worst gawfer; Mr. Dormie, at whose rollicking tavern Mulligan downs rivers of Highland nectar and delights many with song; and Annie, the saucy barmaid who vies (for awhile at least) with gawf for Mulligan¿s love. Meanwhile, the main source of Bogie¿s aggravation soon becomes the Captain, an arrogant ¿gentleman¿ hailed as the region¿s best gawfer. The Captain holds only contempt for common, would-be gawf upstarts like the rising young Bogie; and Bogie returns no admiration whatsoever for the Captain¿s gawf or for his high-toned character. Indeed, the Captain and Bogie are two wills destined to collide; and they do, in a contest titanic enough to stir any gawfer¿s blood. Despite our seeing these events through Bogie¿s cool, unsentimental eyes, we soon sense this son¿s growing admiration (and despair) for the father Bogie never knew till age 12. We come to understand the sources of ¿gawf¿s¿ addictive fascination right from its beginnings, for its practitioners and spectators high and low. We also get, without even realizing it, a host of thorough, joyous and accurate ¿lessons¿ in the game¿s origins, lore and longest-lingering traditions. All the while, Bogie/Hellman spins his yarn with such tangy detail that the scents of heather, salt air, peat-fog and single malt never leave your nostrils and his characters so cavort that you smile through every page while you nod and think, Yes, that¿s just the way it must have been back then! BOGIE is a book no true lover of ¿gawf¿ will wish to end, yet Hellman brings mist to your eyes, pride to your throat and a chill to your gizzard as he wraps things up with a death, a triumph and a curse that echoes down the ages to the very links that take you in their throes wherever you may play today. All in all, for a bracing, 19th hole of a book about the game of golf and its soul, I guarantee you¿ll never have read the intoxicating likes of BOGIE ¿ nor will you ever likely take a more heady dram of the spirit of this game that you can get drunk on like no other.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.