The quest for a state title has been a staple of sports novels for decades, but first-time novelist Hollingsworth adds some unexpected twists in his sweet tale of five Oklahoma high school golfers growing up in the 1960s. The narrator is Kyle DeHart, who excels in sports and academics but finds a home for his perfectionist tendencies on the golf course. Kyle's fellow underdogs, who compete together to win the state championship, are a diverse and engaging crew: nerdy, dictionary-quoting Jay Justice; brash, macho Peachy Waterman; mercurial Buster Nelson; and "jock supreme-o" L.K. Taylor. Hollingsworth's golf writing is folksy, incisive and funny, but he is less consistent in his descriptions of teenage social life. The major subplot is a clunky romantic triangle in which Kyle is forced to choose between his gorgeous and precocious girlfriend, Amy Valente, and an erratic former childhood friend named Gail Perdue, who resurfaces and claims that destiny has brought them together. Stronger strands of the story describe Jay's effort to cope with the death of his dad in a plane crash and L.K.'s clashes with his own tyrannical father. There's some stock coming-of-age material, and the treacly finale is especially clich d, but Hollingsworth's portraits are vivid and affectionate. A solid effort that will please sports fans. (Apr.) Forecast: Originally released in hardcover by Sleeping Bear Press, Flatbellies is poised for bigger numbers the second time around. The film rights were recently optioned, too. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.