The Swinger

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Overview

The most famous athlete on the planet is a bit off his game.

Maybe you heard?

His name, as we all know, is Herbert X. “Tree” Tremont, and he’s the richest and most celebrated athlete of our time—a multicultural golfing icon with fifty-three Tour wins, thirteen major victories, a smoking hot wife, and two adorable kids. Tree’s carefully cultivated image of country club values has made him so beloved by ...

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The Swinger: A Novel

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Overview

The most famous athlete on the planet is a bit off his game.

Maybe you heard?

His name, as we all know, is Herbert X. “Tree” Tremont, and he’s the richest and most celebrated athlete of our time—a multicultural golfing icon with fifty-three Tour wins, thirteen major victories, a smoking hot wife, and two adorable kids. Tree’s carefully cultivated image of country club values has made him so beloved by corporate America that he is the first celebrity in history to endorse Coke and Pepsi. The world kneels at his feet.

As it turns out, so do a good many agreeable young women. When a reporter uncovers evidence that Tree’s sexual appetites are as prodigious as his tee shots, his public and private lives collide, producing the juiciest scandal in sports history.

In this high-spirited romp that recalls the hilarious work of Dan Jenkins and Rick Reilly, two veteran Sports Illustrated writers have some wicked fun with recent events as they take us inside “Treeworld” and the secret society of elite golf. It’s a wild ride that whisks us between the ropes and the sheets of the PGA Tour, cracks open Tree’s cloistered inner circle, and propels us around the world in high style . . . from Tree’s top-secret compound in Florida to the wine cellar of Augusta National for an illicit tryst on Masters Sunday . . . from the deck of his $61 million yacht to the plush interior of his favorite private plane (he owns a few) . . . from the secluded beaches of Maui to an exclusive Southampton estate.

As the scandal spirals out of control and Tree is forced underground, we get to know his entourage: Andrew Finkelman, his famously brusque manager who left IGM to manage Tree alone; Turner Darlington, the bizarre and charismatic founder and CEO of Tree’s main sponsor, Arrow Golf; Tree’s wife, Belinda, a hot-blooded Italian former bikini-model who doesn’t play golf but swings a mean fireplace tool; and a healthy number of the hundreds of women whose liaisons with Tree are brought to light as the plot unfolds.

Bursting with inside observations and anecdotes about pro golf and life on Tour, The Swinger is a fast, funny, and gleefully outrageous novel that illuminates the life of the modern world-class, life-by-the-tail athlete. It is also a meditation on love, sex, marriage, friendship, celebrity, and the media. It is written with a smile, not with disdain for athletes like Tree, but with empathy and affection. It ends with the hope that Tree’s transformation, redemption, and return to greatness may be just around the corner.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Yes, it is fiction, but it will tell you more about Tiger Woods than we knew for years . . . And yes the golfer in the book is nicknamed ‘Tree’ instead of Tiger, and yes there is an upbeat ending, but in many ways this is a scary novel about the greatest golfer in the world who lost his own soul on the way to the green.” —Bill Reynolds, Providence Journal

No, they didn’t! Oh yes, they did! . . . An entertaining, clever work of fiction that gives readers an inside look into pro golf and life in tour . . . I'm still laughing.” Wei Under Par

Monterey Herald
An enjoyable and enlightening read . . . Equal parts an inside joke, an authentic glimpse into the PGA Tour, and a deeper look into journalism and society's treatment of celebrities. . . . Even though the story is a fictional account, Shipnuck and Bamberger pour invaluable insight into their alternate universe with little details that they’ve scooped up while covering golf for a combined four decades.
Florida Times-Union
The phrase ‘ripped from the headlines’ has never been more apt than in this entertaining, funny and surprisingly poignant and sentimental book by two writers who have been around since the beginning of the Woods Era. They skillfully weave reality and fiction to offer a morality play that, in the end, is more about hope than a tabloid slash-and-burn. Bamberger and Shipnuck’s knowledge of the game gives the book a reality rarely seen in golf fiction outside of Dan Jenkins. . . . There are enough laugh-out-loud scenes to satisfy fans of the Jenkins Era of golf novels such as Dead Solid Perfect. The one in the Augusta National wine cellar, for example, will leave you howling. Unlike the current problems plaguing Tiger Woods, The Swinger has a resolution and it’s one of redemption and optimism. Those who have admired Woods and his remarkable skills since he burst on the scene will finish the book wishing him the same fate.
Geoff Shackelford
The Swinger is a raucous, lively and at times laugh-out-loud funny look inside the world of professional golf and modern celebrity. . . . The surprising ending should leave those still frustrated with Tiger’s post-scandal actions feeling satisfied. And I guarantee you’ll never think of Altoids, Vijay Singh, the wine cellar at Augusta National or, for that matter, Tiger Woods, the same way again. (Geoff Shackelford, contributing writer to Golf World Magazine, a contributing editor to Golf Digest and is the author of 11 books)
Yahoo! Sports
A must-read for golf fans . . . I laughed out loud.
Janet Maslin
A funny, fast-moving book . . . Dead on . . . The authors know their man and know their game. . . . Credible and brightly apt.
The New York Times
Time Magazine
In their roman à clef about Tiger Woods, Shipnuck and Bamberger thinly disguise as fiction plenty of gossip they've heard over their four decades, combined, covering the PGA Tour. . . . What’s more relevant to the story, and to the reader—including, possibly, Tiger Woods himself—is the way Tree approaches his post-scandal life. The authors’ idealized version of Woods comes totally clean about his past mistakes. There are no staged interviews, no clipped or dodgy answers. Tree Tremont lets his guard down, even cracks a few jokes about the absurdity of his situation. He starts enjoying the company of his fellow players and—gasp—the fans. Tree wins that Masters, his game even gets better, and yes, fans fall for him all over again. . . .When reading The Swinger, you can’t help but wonder: what if Tiger were more like Tree?
Golf Magazine
Hilarious . . . A sensational novel of life on Tour.
Bill Pennington
An entertaining, revealing, thought-provoking, and cautionary tale . . . As you read The Swinger . . . it’s easy to catch yourself wondering: Is this what really happened? No one may ever know exactly what happened to Woods, and the book is fiction — keep repeating that with each turned page — but it provides invaluable insight into the life and times of Woods. . . . The Swinger is a golf book, but it is a 21st century sociology lesson, too.
The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451657555
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 7/12/2011
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Bamberger and Alan Shipnuck are senior writers at Sports Illustrated.

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Read an Excerpt

The Swinger


  • I took my bills to work, stuffed into the big pocket of my Target backpack with the crappy refurbished Toshiba laptop that the paper gave me five years ago. For the longest time, I’d still find eyelashes in the keyboard from the guy who had the computer, and the golf beat, before me.

“Joshuamon, what brings you to the paragraph factory?” Pete, the sports editor, asked me.

It was late December. The new golf season was still weeks away. The high school football season was over. I wasn’t on the copy desk rotation. My paycheck—$1,362.50 biweekly, after all the deductions—was on automatic deposit. There was no reason for me to come in, no good reason.

“My kid needs mold samples for a science project,” I said to Pete.

The truth was that I had to make some calls that I couldn’t do on my cell phone from my usual office, the crowded Starbucks on First Street in downtown St. Petersburg. I had to call the mortgage company about refinancing, I had to call Visa and American Express to figure out some kind of payment plan, I had to call my ex-wife and ask for more time on our son’s tuition at his summer lacrosse camp, and I had to make sure my girlfriend, Lily, didn’t get wind of any of this. I needed multiple phone lines and a soupçon of privacy. Ten in the morning on a Saturday in winter, there shouldn’t be anybody in the sports department of The St. Petersburg Review-American. But there was Pete, wearing his short-sleeved plaid shirt and plaid pants without a hint of irony.

I worked my way into a corner. I swept a week’s worth of old papers into a big blue recycling bin. There was something comforting about being at the paper. We were dying a little death every day, but there was still an undercurrent of macho arrogance in the place, like We might not be relevant now, but you should have seen us back in the day.

I got out my Visa card and squinted at the 800 number. I had tried on some 1.0 reading glasses at CVS, but I’d left them on the rack, not ready to make another concession to middle age. Pete came ambling over. “I heard something that might interest you,” he said.

I knew the various preambles of Peter Henry Hough down cold, and this was one of his favorites. Pete loved everything about the reporting game, and the editor-as-tipster was near the top. Pete loved news. If you had news, he wanted it. In the paper, on RevAm.com, on our blogs, in our Tweets, he didn’t care, as long as we had it first and had it right. A few days earlier he had taken great delight in a little item I had posted about a local high school baseball coach who got ticketed and breathalyzed for doing 62 in a 25. The coach called and read Pete the riot act. That made Pete’s day.

“I heard Tree’s been stepping out,” he said.

Pete, drawling Southerner, milked this most unlikely of sentences, dripping Spanish moss on the whole thing.

Tree. What everybody called Herbert X. Tremont, Jr., the damnedest golfer who ever lived. Tree’s father was a black Creole from rural Louisiana who spent twenty years in the army; he had a master’s in political science from Howard and a jazz collection that rivaled Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s. Tree’s white mother was from Chicago, where she had been a schoolteacher. The parents, who had married fairly late and were now separated, hadn’t worked in years. Tree was their job. He was an only child, homeschooled by his mother and coached exclusively and secretly by his father until Tree entered, at age nineteen, the first tournament of his life, a U.S. Open where he finished ninth. Since then he had become not just the most dominant golfer of all time but also the richest, most powerful, and most popular athlete in the world. He was modest and handsome, with perfect Hollywood teeth and the family to go with them: the beautiful wife, the adorable twins. Everybody wanted a piece of the action, and before long, Tree Tremont became the first celebrity ever to have endorsement deals with Coke and Pepsi. His Crest deal alone was worth $5 million a year. Tree could have lived anywhere in the world. He lived in Florida because the Sunshine State has no state income tax. He lived in St. Pete because he fell in love with a boat.

Only one sportswriter knew what the X stood for. Me. And I was sworn to secrecy.

“Stepping out,” I said, incredulous.

“That’s what my peeps are telling me.” Pete’s slang was always outdated by a few years, not that he knew it.

“You’ve seen his wife, right?” I asked.

Of course Pete had seen his wife. Snaps of Belinda DeCarlo Tremont, a former Italian bikini model, sunbathing topless had become an Internet sensation ever since plaything.com paid a fired housekeeper a reported $250,000 for them. When I saw the pictures, I couldn’t stop looking at the beads of moisture deep in Belinda’s cleavage. I didn’t know if the droplets were sweat or Mediterranean seawater, and I didn’t care. Lily caught me looking at the pictures one day. She pushed up her A-cup breasts and said in a fine mock-Italian accent, “Good golf buys hot tits.” I loved that girl.

“Hey, it’s like I always say, dudes want a piece of strange,” Pete said. He had seen it all and done it all. “I hear Tree’s been going upstairs at Gents, dealing Benjamins like he’s working a Vegas blackjack table.”

I made a mental note: Steal line for screenplay. If I could just sell my screenplay—the one I’d been trying to write for years—I could make everybody happy.

“Let’s say it’s true, Pete,” I said. I took a good look at my boss, standing in his brown Wal-Mart shoes on the linoleum floor of our dumpy sports department, wearing his extraordinary plaid-on-plaid ensemble, casually offering a tidbit that could bring down an empire. A tidbit that could fell the Tree Corp. “Let’s say we could get the girls on the record.”

“You’d have to,” Pete said. “You’d need to have it dead to rights.”

“Fine, you got it dead to rights.”

“You’d need pictures,” Pete said. “You’d need art.”

“Okay, you have art,” I said. “You have some girls on the record. You give Tree the chance to deny it. What are you gonna do with it?”

“We run it.”

“With our publisher?” The patrician, silver-haired Charles B. “Salty” Morton IV. Ringer for the pompous blowhard in Caddyshack, Judge Smails. He owned the paper free and clear, having inherited it from Salty III, who got it from Salty Junior, who got it from the first C. B. Morton, who predated Morton Salt and the family nickname. Salty IV was more interested in his golf than in his newspaper, and he was on the fast track to becoming a player in the hierarchies of both the United States Golf Association and the Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters. “You really think Salty’s going to let us run that story?” I asked.

Pete ran his thick fingers through his fine hair, leaving an oily film on his nails. “I don’t know,” he said. “But you’d like to give him the chance, right?”

He grabbed a reporter’s notebook off my desk. He wrote a name and a phone number under a scribbled quote from the high school football coach in Tampa who had let his kids score seventy points against a team that managed one lousy field goal. Did it kill ’em? Don’t see no dead bodies over there.

I looked at the name. Emerson. I looked at the number. Area code 917. A New York cell phone.

“You didn’t get it from me,” Pete said. He actually sounded giddy. Which was weird. Because Pete didn’t do giddy.

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