Debut novel, originally self-published, by a Texas Monthly contributor who mostly avoids the hokey near-religious overtones often attached to his sport—golf—overtones similar to those often attached by baseball writers to theirs. Pipkin occasionally slips up, but mostly his linkster's coming-of-age yarn is snatched from the abyss of the excessively reverent by some colorful local characters, a lost-father riff, and the author's dead-on ear for Lone Star State dialogue. Set in 1965 and filtered through the perspective of 13-year-old caddie Billy Hempel, the story is mainly about a nine-hole grudge match between Roscoe Fowler and William March. The two had played 27 years earlier, on a desolate Texas plain, for ownership of their oil company. Fowler won by sinking a suspicious hole-in-one in utter darkness, and March has never gotten over the insult to either his game or his ego. The foursome now is fleshed out by Fowler's odious ringer, Carl ``Beast'' Larsen, a tremendous player, and March's second, a brilliant but troubled young Hogan-wielder named Sandy Bates. Age and power thus collide with nobility and beauty: Fowler is old and mean; March is a gentleman cowboy. Billy is carrying for Beast, however—at March's behest, a strategy designed to keep the bad guys honest. Maybe. As the match progresses, the wager is changed and new wagers are made; harsh words are lobbed, and skillful—at time dazzling—shots are executed on both sides, equipment is destroyed, and Billy's mother drops in to unload a doozy of a revelation. Then a real reckoning looms for Sandy and Billy both, and not all may be as it seems. A paean to the Scottish game of sticks and flags with authentic lingo, a solid structure, and plenty of old-fashioned masculine wallowing in the transcendent metaphor of silly games.
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