Monday, April 27, 2009

Freddie and Me perfect for life's lessons

Occasionally a golf book comes along that has golf at its nerve center, but is not totally about golf. Such is Freddie & Me: Life Lessons from Freddie Bennett, Augusta National's Legendary Caddy Master. Freddie and Me is the tale of one man whose life was directly influenced by Freddie Bennett, long time caddie master at the famed Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters. The story spans approximately thirty years of Tripp Bowden's life from a young boy of about ten to a grown man with a career and family. It is an entertaining and at times an educational journey that we take with Bowden.

Freddie... is Tripp Bowden's first book. Bowden was the first full-time white caddy at Augusta National Golf Club formerly a bastion for white golfers and black caddies. Today, as a direct result of Bennett's mentoring, Bowden is a stable family man and owns an advertising company.

Not every individual who has a dynamic influence on the game of golf is a high profile person securely lodged in the upper echelons of the game. Not every specific agent who has a motivating influence on an individual life is a long on education. Such is the case of Freddie Bennett. In bite-size chapters Bowden gives us snapshots of thirty years of his life and how it was gently guided by Bennett.

There are fun and fascinating stories along the way. Throughout this literary journey we learn how PGA Tour player Charles Howell III got his first set of clubs. We are also let in on the secrets of playing AGNC as part of a chapter in which Freddie takes Bowden through the nuances of each hole as part of his caddie education. But the most fascinating instruction we receive are the Freddie-isms, Bennett's bits of wisdom for life.

Get ready at the end for a few tears or at least a little lump in the throat. Even though you know the inevitable is coming, you still can't control that emotion. Why is that? It's because Bowden has drawn us into his life and thus Freddie's life. He has made us care about the characters. We rejoice in their successes and mourn at their demise.

The question Bowden wants each of us to answer is this: Who is the Freddie in your life?

Make sure you answer and thank him immediately after you finish this book.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ancestral Links

Each man’s journey in life - and golf - is special and unique. Each step we take or each swing we make is different from the last and peculiar to each one of us. It is only when we pause during the journey and take time to look into the past that we get a true meaning as to who we really are. Each one of us should be required to take time for such reflection somewhere along the passage.

John Garrity has done this and then put it on paper for us to read in his latest volume ANCESTRAL LINKS: A Golf Obsession Spanning Generations. Garrity is a senior writer at Sports Illustrated (still active) and contributor to Golf Magazine. His other books include such titles as Tour Tempo and Tiger 2.0.
With ANCESTRAL LINKS Garrity takes us on a two-part adventure. On a somewhat self-imposed writing sabbatical in Ireland Garrity’s mission is to explore and discover his ancestry, obviously Irish and heavily steeped in golf while simultaneously attempting to conquer the devilish par-4 seventeenth at the Carne Golf Links. It is these two quests that constitute the essence of the book. He skillfully weaves these concurrent pursuits throughout the book by alternating chapters that focus on the goal.

The story of Garrity's search for his paternal ancestral links is skillfully done so as not to bore us with a scavenger hunt for relatives. We can feel his anticipation and his joy as he looks under the leaves of the family tree. Yet at the same time these chapters did not hold my attention as well as those which chronicle his determination to conquer Carne.

So, for the golf fanatic, the real story is the details of his mission to conquer the seventeenth hole at the Carne Golf Links. Carne is located in the town of Belmullet on the northwest coast of Ireland and it is a true links course artfully carved along the coast and through the dunes. Garrity holds the belief that he can play the seventeenth, a long difficult par-4 in 90 strokes. That's playing three balls at a time on six different occasions. He brings us on this odyssey sharing the physical and the emotional. To get a better feel of what he is up against, I recommend that you explore the Carne Golf Links website.

I also advocate that you delve into this volume to discover how one golf fanatic satisfies his golf fantasies.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Lincicome produces the shot(s) of the year

I am not one for over reaction to the events of the moment. I try not to be inclined to hyperbole like as soon as a player wins a tournament declaring that he or she is the next super star. Or better yet, let’s say a player has never won an event and she is declared the Messiah of the LPGA Tour. There’s a little too much embellishment there for my taste.

That said, I think the final hole performance by Brittany Lincicome on the 72nd hole of the Kraft-Nabisco may well go into the annuals of golf history as the best golf shots of 2009. That’s right s-h-o-t-s - plural. It was not just the second shot from about 214 yards with a hybrid that produced victory. It was the perfect tee shot that set up the perfect second shot. These came in a very well designed and well executed pair.

Golf Channel analyst Charlie Rhymer was spitting all over himself in his analysis of the second shot divining upon it the unique name “The Shot!” (Really original, Charlie). But I think we need to expand our verbal indulgence for this great finish. It was not just one shot or even two shots that produced an eagle on the 72nd hole of a major championship. Rather it was the entire hole. It was a daring drive over a couple of palm trees at the corner of the dogleg left par five. (The actual length we’ll never know because CBS was somewhat short on information.) Then, faced with a second shot over water to a sloping green, Lincicome executed perfectly and watched the ball take the slope and stop about four feet from the hole. In order for her to have any chance of victory or a playoff, she needed a three or four at worse.

Yes, the second shot was great - probably matched only in recent major history by Karrie Webb’s wedge-out in the same event three years ago - it was the drive that set it up and the four-foot putt that sealed the deal.

Now the bar has been set for all major championships this year, men and women.

Will the Masters produce the same drama?

(Photo courtesty Getty Images)