The pride of Goat Hills, Jenkins, perhaps our best living golf writer, returns to his thinly fictionalized version of the PGA Tour for the first time in a quarter-century.
When his novel Dead Solid Perfect was published in 1974, Jenkins (Rude Behavior, 1998, etc.) became one of the only writers to offer a fictional look at life on the pro-golf circuit. Few have taken up the challenge since (other than some mystery authors), and now Jenkins returns to this still relatively virgin territory for a second golf outing. The protagonist-narrator this time is Bobby Joe Grooves, a middle-of-the-pack pro with two ex-wives, a passion for golf history, and a taste for J&B and the good life. Although the setting is the golf tour and the story is larded with tour lore and history—the best parts of it, really—this effort isn’t much different from Jenkins’s previous novels about pro football or journalism: a stand-up comedy routine that goes on for nearly 300 pages, offering a bawdy, cynical, and outrageous picture of Good Ol’ Boy America as seen from the inside. There are lots of funny one-liners (“Nobody in pro golf reads the money list closer than ex-wives”) sprinkled in among the tales of horny men and willing women. But this is an aimless and meandering tale whose big plot development—that Bobby Joe wants desperately to make the Ryder Cup team and represent the USA—isn’t unveiled until Chapter 17 and whose denouement is both telegraphed and underplayed, with the result that the payoff to all the wandering is minimal at best. Jenkins, too, seems to have lost interest long before the final page.
It’s dismaying to see a great sportswriter reduced to feeble self-parody, becoming a potty-mouthed adolescent whose chief delight seems to be thinking up new ethnic and gender epithets. Pathetic.