A Gentleman's Game

A Gentleman's Game

4.5 2
by Tom Coyne

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A Gentleman's Game is the story of young Timmy Price, whose mastery of the game of golf inspires awe among the adult membership and envy among his peers on the shaded fairways and immaculate greens of exclusive Fox Chase Country Club. But when his self-made father forces Timmy to become a caddy at the club to teach him a lesson in humility, he is thrown into the

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A Gentleman's Game is the story of young Timmy Price, whose mastery of the game of golf inspires awe among the adult membership and envy among his peers on the shaded fairways and immaculate greens of exclusive Fox Chase Country Club. But when his self-made father forces Timmy to become a caddy at the club to teach him a lesson in humility, he is thrown into the hardscrabble world of the behind-the-scenes workers who make the game possible. And when his best friend and fellow looper, Jamie Byrne, abruptly stops showing up at the caddy hole, it begins a series of events that will force Timmy to confront the dark secret that hides behind the community of Fox Chase. Soaring and lyrical, A Gentleman's Game is an internationally acclaimed debut about an extraordinary young man and the game he loves that is like no other. "A stunning first novel.... It will make you love language. And it might help you understand what a man wants." -- Melissa Katsoulis, The Times (London) "An emerging writer's master stroke." -- Gary Mullinax, Wilmington News Journal "A Gentleman's Game has tremendous heart.... A book about fathers and sons, and a great one at that." -- Joey Sweeney, Philadelphia Weekly

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Editorial Reviews

Nicholas Sparks
A wise and wonderful debut, one that makes you think about the choices you make in life. Tom Coyne is a writer to watch.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The unsung, often downtrodden heroes of the golf world the caddies stand at the center of Coyne's ironically titled debut. In 1985, 13-year-old Timmy Price shows a mastery of golf that inspires awe in adults and envy among his peers, though his father can barely afford to play at the exclusive Fox Chase Country Club in suburban Delaware. Timmy becomes the youngest junior state champion in history, but is forced by his father to work as a caddy; through his foul-mouthed, eccentric co-workers or "loopers," as they are known he discovers a seamier side of the game he loves. He learns hard, disillusioning lessons when his opponent cheats in a tournament and the adults he meets, though rich and powerful, are dishonest, drunk and often morally bankrupt. Timmy becomes friends with a disadvantaged caddy, Jamie Byrne, who not only comes from a bad home, but has lost his thumbs in an unexplained accident. When Jamie suddenly and mysteriously stops coming to the club, Timmy discovers an even darker secret about one of its powerful members, a secret that changes his whole outlook on life and golf. There are a few unmet expectations in the plot, such as one concerning Timmy's violent and antisocial brother, who lives in the attic and is like a gun placed in a drawer in act one but not used in act five. Although Timmy's final decision about where golf fits in his life will leave some readers puzzled, this appealing first effort is a satisfyingly idiosyncratic coming-of-age story dealing with class, family and the elusive challenge and fickleness of the sport. Agent, Dan Mandel, Sanford J. Greenburger. (May) FYI: An independent film version starring Mason Gamble and Gary Sinise, directed by Mills Goodloe and shot where Coyne once caddied, is scheduled for release in late 2001. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Timmy Price seems to be a natural golfer. Though he plays every chance he gets, his talent seems independent of him, a gift he can only marvel at, and one that promises to open doors for him private lessons, camps, and even colleges, though he's only 13. Taking a summer job as a caddy at his dad's country club, Timmy gets exposed to the way the other half lives. Some of the caddies (or "loopers") are lifers, with few prospects and terrible problems, which they deflect with raunchy humor. They open a window that lets Timmy see the dark side of country club life. Coyne shows a gift for characterization, which redeems the golf-is-life blather that nearly sinks this first novel. Reader Dylan Baker creates a credible voice for Timmy, inexperienced but sensitive. Recommended. John Hiett, Iowa City P.L. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An unsparing debut about golf reaches the green in reasonable shape, but then leaves the putt short. The title is ironic. Around the course at suburban Delaware's Fox Chase Country Club gentlemen are, in fact, a scarce item, though fakes and phonies are not. Check out "the caddy hole," however, and if you're the right kind of observer you'll find more authentic types, even a gentleman or two-not in the conventional sense, of course, but in terms of bedrock worth. To young Timmy Price it's all a revelation, a nonstop parade of often confusing, sometimes wrenching experiences. It's been discovered that Timmy, at age 11, is a natural golfer gifted with a swing so "pure" that it sets him instantly apart and makes him the object of rapt attention whenever he addresses the ball. From his father, the attention is mostly anxious. An inept though unquestionably caring parent, the senior Price decides that hubris is involved and draconian measures are called for. As a result, Timmy is suddenly consigned for his own sake to the caddy-hole subculture. He makes friends there, but he encounters a lot that 11-year-olds shouldn't have to confront. The caddies are a disparate group encompassing the fiercely competitive, the near-heroic, and the hopelessly abject. Too soon, Timmy is forced to conclude that there are only "two kinds of people in the world, people who carry things and people who own the things they carry." By age 14, he's confirmed in a cynicism that saps his pleasure in a game he once loved and perhaps will darken the rest of his life as well. Honest to the point of bleakness, but too loosely constructed to be really involving. And yet the talent is unmistakable.

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Product Details

Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
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5.46(w) x 8.26(h) x 0.70(d)

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Chapter One


By the time I was thirteen, I was pure.

They came to the driving range without clubs, without any intention of practicing themselves, and they leaned against knotty oak trees, swatting mosquitoes, smiling to each other and shaking their heads. Watching. Some went mmm mmm like there was butter on their lips, and some stood with church faces, quiet and grave and stiff with wonder, studying me as I launched ball after ball out of the shadows. A sweep of air pulling my shoulders, the hum of iron tearing soil in my hands, the hollow click of steel smashing into Surlyn that made a white- haired woman oooh, made her leather-skinned husband whistle. Someone else might say nice turn, or nice rip there, boy, but Mr. Logan always said, "Pure, Timmy. Absolutely fucking pure."

Charlie Logan had a face like the ass end of a ham, red and shredded by the bottomless cup of Scotch that grew from the end of his arm. He was lopsided without his Styrofoam tallboy of Johnny Walker Red and a few flakes of ice. The caddies called it a Logan soda. The secret perk of caddying for Charlie was that he was soupyeyed oblivious to how much he drank, so when he traded his cocktail for a five-iron, the caddy on his bag that day could filch a few healthy mouthfuls while Logan rubbed his eyes, waiting for the golf ball at his feet to stop swaying. "Keep it full," he told his caddies. "My bag. Try the front pocket. Might find something in there." They always did, and Logan never noticed the caddies' faces when they returned his soda, their eyelids pulled taught at the corners., their lips curling back inside theirmouths.

"Timmy, that goddamn swing is gonna take you to Augusta," he said, white bits of skin hanging from his sunburned lips. On a sunny afternoon, and sometimes on one that wasn't so sunny, you could find Charlie napping on a bench at the range, cup teetering on his medicine ball of a belly, not a drop spilled on one of those afternoons when he had been drinking since noon in the men's grill, speaking too loudly about his three-putts, paying and collecting on bets, calling everyone he saw his old friend, on one of those afternoons when you didn't have to ask the, bartenders for rounds, because at Fox Chase Country Club, you don't ask, and you don't pay.

You just get.

"I've seen swings, hell, I had a swing. Damn, damn decent swing," he said, running his fingers through his scalp, looking at his palm. "Ungrateful bastards." He shook a few loose hairs from his hand, then laughed and spread his legs wide for a solid base. "Put potential in one hand, spit in the other, see which fills up first. Understand?""

"Yes sir."

"Your father must be a proud man," he said, not waiting for me to answer. "If I had a son like you, well," he looked at the empty metal buckets toppled in a mess around me, "you'd be hitting twelve buckets instead of ten."

He chuckled and smiled at his drink. He had two daughters I saw at the club at Christmas and Fourth of July parties, girls whose mother colored her hair to match theirs, three blondes with hair spilled down between their shoulder blades, just touching the tops of their asses. They matched their outfits as well, and the gentlemen went slack-jawed when the trio strolled into a Christmas gala, draped snugly in red velvet, chins up, shoulders back. And there was Charlie Logan, a little bit behind, soda in hand, green blazer and patches of gray chest hair poking out of a golf shirt, his eyes looking like they might slip down below his nose, his wife walking in front of him as if he were some unfortunate brother.

His girls were not golfers. They didn't go through the ranks of the junior clinics with the other members' children. Fox Chase was a club for gentlemen, owned by and open exclusively to three hundred and fifty bond-holding members. The clubhouse was tucked back at the end of a long winding drive, behind trees so thick with needles that people drove past the place every day of their lives, never knowing what was there. The rules of the club allowed wives and daughters to use the driving range and putting green at their leisure, and on Tuesday mornings and Sunday afternoons the course was all theirs. But Charlie called such policies an embarrassment, and no daughter of his was going to tee it up at his club, not on any day.

"The way you turn on that ball, it's just," he said, his words sliding into a wheeze as I took my address, quieting my body, thinking without a thought. And in a moment I was watching a ball roll upward against the air, hanging there on the breeze before falling fast and straight and knocking up against a thin metal sign. Two hundred yards. On a dot.

"That's pure, Timmy," Charlie Logan said. "Absolutely fucking pure."

There was something in my bones to turn like that. A golf ball at my feet, a pause in my shoulders., and a silent, effortless click.

I was tall but not big, a quiet sort of large. My limbs were lanky and elastic, and that mattered. Physicality mattered. There were all the intangible ways of being good at golf. The real players were coated with a dust of something that the others couldn't have — talent, luck, confidence, charm even — it was that gift in being gifted, and golfers chased it in circles, in seven-thousand-yard laps of short grass to discover that some people could do, and some people could want. And while being graced with talent was good, being tall was simple. Physics mattered...

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Meet the Author

Tom Coyne, aged twenty-six, has been a caddy for the last twelve years. He holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing and an MFA from Notre Dame.

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