The great temptation for a mediocre critic, is to find an esoteric passel of words, then title the review in that manner. In A Course Called Scotland, Robert Thomas Coyne supplies such parcels to excess. A great critic would have flagged each combine with highlighter or a sticky-note tab, for future reference. Alas, you are not blessed with a great critic…
A book like A Course Called Ireland, Coyne’s first swashbuckler’s travelogue of golf-country conquering, awakens or sows in the reader an equally-mad notion of I can do that, followed by I will do that, and concludes with Maybe I won’t, but I might do something similar. Throughout the same reading, Coyne subtly, or unwittingly (or both) gave us clues to impending changes in his personal life, which would play an unforeseen and extraordinary role in the follow-up, A Course Called Scotland. I didn’t open Scotland expecting that revelation, but its woven strands shape the sequel in a manner no other writer could manage.
With those two paragraphs as introduction, I’ll gladly access a familiar method of recalling a trip, or reviewing a tournament: four reasons why. Equal parts list, equal parts prose, this format offers a proper inspection of the writer’s work, but leaves the scrutiny and analysis to the reader. Onward, then, with four reasons why you should read Tom Coyne’s A Course Called Scotland.
Reason One: The Golf
Let’s remember precisely why we are here: we love golf, we have visited Scotland, we have read Coyne’s previous works, or we know the game of golf is credited to the territory north of England. No matter how, why nor when, it’s the golf that brings us to this tome. And Coyne seeks no shortcut in his survey of Scotia’s layouts, great and small. Unlike the Ireland volume, he drives this one. As he explains, Scotland is not nearly as compact as Ireland. Attempting to walk it would be a fool’s errand. Instead, Coyne somehow survives the entire endeavor with only one mainland rental car, akin to golfing a round without losing the ball with which you began. Cheers to that large feat!
Along the roadways, Coyne visits most of the 9-, 12-, and 18-hole courses of Scotland. He establishes two goals at the outset: to compete in Open Qualifying for the 2015 British Open at St. Andrews, and to play all 14 courses that have served as Open Championship venues. How these two missions resolve themselves is for the reader to discover, but remember that Coyne spent an entire year apprenticing to play the PGA Tour, detailed in his novel Paper Tiger. In other words, the writer has game and savvy. Does he have enough?
Over the course of Coyne’s time in the kingdom, he plays 111 rounds of golf. He plays 2, sometimes 3, rounds a day. While he doesn’t hoof the entire highway, his 37-pound weight loss (despite all the bacon rolls) is testimony to the demands of the quest. At novel’s end, Coyne contributes an appendix of lists, in which he sorts courses into the following categories and more: Only Doing Scotland Once; True Wanderer; I’d Change My Flight; Wee Ones; and Loves That Didn’t Make A List. He discovers courses built by common people and captains of industry alike. He rekindles his affection for links golf, if not for the weather that accompanies it in the British isles. Coyne goes where all men and women should go, playing courses on a whim, to add to the experience. Despite his confessed mania for control, he often defers management to another, to the delight of the reader.
There is the question of the secret of the game, the Arthurian saga that lingers in the back of every golfer’s mind. Coyne is transparent about his need to learn the answer to this question, and that he expects to find it in the land of the Celts and Picts. So far, we’ve the mysteries of Open qualifying, playing the 14 Open Championship courses, those named to Coyne’s lists, and the secret of the game. And we’ve just begun! So many reasons to read this work. Will it be sufficient for you?
RM: What about the golf surprised you the most?TC: A lot about the golf in Scotland surprised me, especially since I’d already done all of Ireland and thought I had the links thing down pat. I was surprised by the sheer quantity and proximity of so many great, legendary links. Around St. Andrews or in East Lothian or up in Inverness or over in Prestwick, you can’t swing a seven-iron without knocking into another great course you need to play. That convenience was most appreciated given my itinerary. I was also surprised by the affordability of club memberships over there; it’s a pittance of what we pay, likely because they allow visitor fees to help offset costs to the members. And I was struck by the competitive nature of golf at Scottish clubs–every week there was a trophy on or an open or an event for some hardware. They play make-everything golf all the time. Surely makes them better players.
Reason Two: The Travel
Travel provides different things to different readers. It begins with the roads taken. Highways offer speed and efficiency, while side roads gift long views of our world, along with layovers in restaurants, stores, hotels and parks. Gastronomy, photography, biography…they are all provided for along the roadways of a land. We travel with Tom Coyne as he visits a castle, a restaurant recommended at a Georgia diner, islands, mountains, and a great deal more. We miss appointments with him, thanks to weather, exhaustion, and other factors of fate. We round curves, struggle with left-side driving, and nearly miss entryways, to reach our appointed rounds, accommodations, and reservations.
Through the author’s eyes, we are reminded that much that is new awaits, always. Even though we have been many places, and seen many things, the expanse of the golfing world, the traveling world, is vast. It harbors many unexpected vistas and footholds, and is always worth exploring. Tom Coyne shares these discoveries with us, in a voice that echoes our own sense of wonder amid discovery. Although he knows what he knows before we do, he allows us to hear precisely what he felt as he rounded each turn.
RM: What aspect of travel have you yet to master?
TC: I have yet to master total flight comfort. I still get anxious around the airport, even though I spend so much time around them. The control issues that inspire and allow one to plan 57 tightly packed and planned days of golf are not as useful when you get on a prop plane headed for a Scottish island where you are going to land on a beach. I see people sleeping on prop planes and wonder if they’re alive, or what did they take to knock them out.
Reason Three: The Humans
Gramma Billy, Duff, Penn, et al. Leading into the trip, Coyne confessed to having done a dumb-ass thing. While on a well-followed interview show, he invited strangers to email him and join him for parts of the trip through Scotland. While combing Ireland at the turn of the last decade, he had survived in no small part, thanks to the presence of family and friends. It’s the curious moments of indecision that often shape lives, and Coyne’s curious decision to open his world to the unknown offered a shape to the journey that would be inimitable otherwise. Noted in the footnotes are the near-death experiences of two of the compatriots, if that sort of thing interests you. Also noted are the rise and fall and rise of others, as they come to understand not only what Coyne is attempting to do, but what they themselves have enlisted to accomplish.
There are other humans that figure in the resolution of the task: Coyne and his family. Coyne writes about golf and history, but behind the words is his desire to also be a part of golf’s history. He impacts the game by sharing its courses and its experiences with others, and he has rightly earned his small corner of the game. Without the understanding of his life partner, nor the hope that his efforts will one day matter to his offspring, he might not find the wherewithal and the impetus to carry out his impossible dream, part two.
RM: How did the inclusion of complete strangers alter the way your conception of the story to your telling of the story?
TC: I invited people I did not know to join me for a few reasons — one, I’d be pretty damn lonely if all the golf was solo. And the book would be pretty damn boring as well. I think this story, and any good story, is about the characters, so I was eager to welcome all-comers. The stranger, the better. I looked at it as, hey, if someone is a nightmare, or does something ridiculous, that will be great for the story. The people who did come absolutely carry the story and steal the show, in my opinion. So many became dear friends. Their contributions as people and golfers and as my caretakers exceeded anything I could have anticipated.
Reason Four: The Humanity
It’s never easy to say farewell to someone you’ve known your entire adult life. Coyne does precisely that, in the most unanticipated of ways. He hints at the sendoff throughout the book, forcing the reader to consider the outcome, even as she/he digests the courses, events and persons that populate the pages. When you connect with someone during your undergraduate years, the bonds are born of contrasting moments of affection and distress, making them that much stronger. Forced to let go offers a unique finality to what was expected to be only as much as a a golf book. Truth be told, I was more interested in the impending departure of Robert than I was in the discovery of new courses, and that’s quite a compliment to the writer.
There are times that Coyne frustrates, as his story unfolds. He confesses to knowing how to eliminate the errors that hold him back from realizing his golfing potential, but somehow fails to do so. I came to understand that knowing and doing, despite myriad opportunities, might simply be separated by a gulf to difficult to bridge. By the end, oddly enough, I empathized with the emotions, flaws and failures inherent to the task undertaken. No sympathy, mind you; he set the table and was compelled to eat every last morsel. Empathy, however; yes.
Coyne has worked as a professor of English at St. Joseph’s University in his native Philadelphia for a number of years. His work as an instructor of language and literature, along with a linguist’s life fully lived, has brought a maturity to his perspective and writing. In previous novels, the suggestion of such arose, but fruition is apparent in this one. It is worth your money and your time, as Scottish and British Open season approaches.
RM: Can you share a bit about exorcising some of your personal demons?
TC: I don’t shy away from telling the reader pretty early on that I don’t drink anymore. Given that my last book had a pint of beer on the cover, I think it’s fair that I’m upfront with readers about the change in my lifestyle. I also don’t let my sobriety overtake or bog down the narrative. It’s there, and I’m honest about it, but the book is written for laughs and smiles more than it is any sort of sobriety tale. Me not drinking is just there in the backdrop, but I hope it does add some meaning and poignancy to the story. There was a time I could not get out of bed, and a time I didn’t think I would golf anymore, let alone travel to golf like this, so if I didn’t touch on where I had been just a little, I think part of the joy I feel in the end wouldn’t quite come through in the way that I genuinely experienced it. And I did experience it. I didn’t write the book for this purpose, but if there are people who are thinking about giving up the sauce but keep bumping up against this idea that they wouldn’t have any sort of life if they did so, be sure I was once that guy. For a long time. And this book sits on my desk and reminds me that I was a fool for ever believing that.
Morning 9: More on the dollars and sense of TW’s win | Don’t forget Mr. Hogan | Masters ticket scheme
By Ben Alberstadt (email@example.com)
April 23, 2019
Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. More perspective on the financial impact of Tiger’s win
ESPN’s Tom VanHaaren collected some interesting (and wide-ranging) data points related to the financial impact of Tiger Woods’ Masters win
Wisely, Bridgestone is launching a commemorative edition of the Tour B XS with Woods’ image on the box cover and “thank you for letting us be part of your 15th major” printed on the bottom. A source at the company told me that ALL Bridgestone Tour B XS balls are currently sold old.
2. A refresher on Ben Hogan’s comeback
Geoff Shackelford, rightly, quotes Tiger Woods at the 2018 Masters and reminds us that when we call Woods’ comeback the greatest ever in golf, we do a disservice to the legacy of one William Ben Hogan.
3. Masters ticket scheme
Digest’s Stephen Hennessey with the story…
4. Bullish or bearish on Zurich Classic format?
A pair of Golf Digest staffers discuss the merits of the Zurich Classic’s team format.
5. More Williams on Woods
Per ESPN’s Bob Harig, who spoke with Tiger’s former bag man, Steve Williams…
6. Gainers and losers
Strokes gained. Probably the easiest way to see what ailed those who suffered and why those who prospered did so. I’d like to call attention to our Gianni Magliocco’s weekly roundup of the gainers/losers, this week from the RBC Heritage.
7. More on the “Nantz 2.5”
Golf Digest’s Alex Myers (quoting a Sports Business Journal report)
8. Showman Jimenez
Peter Wallace at Golf Australia talked to the Most Interesting Golfer in the World…
Stephen Hennessey on Doug Coupe’s cracking collection of golf balls.
Tour Rundown: Pan finds Neverland, Henderson hammers the field, and more
There was strange golf to be played, the week after Augusta 2019. Vijay dunked three consecutive wedge shots on Saturday. DJ gave seven shots away in a five-hole span on Sunday’s second nine. All of Brooke Henderson’s third-round chasers played like five-handicaps on day four. Scott McCarron tried to give the MEC away on PGA Tour Champions, but no one would take it. Perhaps April Fools came late, or maybe the golf world needed a bit of macabre humor before returning to the major-championship season. No matter the rationale, we found some unique ways to win on this day, and are happy to offer another week of Tour
Pan finds Neverland on Hilton Head Island, wins RBC Heritage
CT Pan had no business winning the 2019 RBC Heritage Classis at Harbour Town. Matt Kuchar had won the tournament before, posted four rounds in the 60s, and improved each day. Dustin Johnson looked for all the world as the guy most likely to finally find his birdie wand and run away with his home-state event. Patrick Cantlay and Shane Lowry had each won on the PGA Tour, poised to add a second title to their shelves. And then came Pan, not yet putting on the par-5 16th after four shots, with the temerity to stand alone after 72 holes at 12 under, one shot clear of Kuchar.
Day four was a space oddity of Bowie-esque proportions. Johnson, the top-ranked golfer in the world, turned for home at 10-under par, where he began his day. Beginning at the 11th, Johnson made three consecutive bogeys, followed by twin double bogeys, to tumble out of the top 10, outside the top 20 to a tie for 28th. That is what tree-lined golf courses, unlike any other on tour, can do to today’s longest hitters. Kuchar won’t ever be mistaken for a long hitter, but he did do one thing Sunday that Pan did not: make two bogeys. One behind the former UWashington golfer at day’s open, Kuchar bogeyed the short 17th to fall two behind. Even a final-hole birdie was not enough to catch the young titleist. Few golfers were able to survive the back nine without a blemish. If they did, as in the case of J.T. Poston, Seamus Power and Kevin Streelman, they shot into the top 10.
Remember Pan’s struggles on the 15th? He survived with bogey, then bounced back with birdie at the next. He closed with two strong pars to finish an even dozen below par, where a tartan jacket and trophy awaited, emblematic of the tournament victor.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 21, 2019
Henderson hammers field for second-consecutive Lotte Championship
Brooke Henderson, like so many snowbirds before her, is developing quite an affinity for warm-weather locales. Learning to flight her ball through trade winds, and roll her ball across tropical grasses, is now second nature to the Ontario native. Henderson and fellow wunderkind Nelly Korda were matched at 14 under through three rounds. While Korda encountered all sorts of messes, en route to a closing 77 and an 8th-place finish, Henderson rebounded from an opening bogey six with three birdies. Her blase 70 was more than enough to distance her from the field. When the final flag stick was replaced, Henderson stood four shots clear of Eun-Hee Ji, with her 8th career trophy in her embrace.
The toughest task of the week was Korda’s. She bolted to a two-shot lead with 63 on Wednesday, thanks to a 50-50 split of nine birdies and nine pars. Korda maintained a two-shot lead over Henderson through 36 holes, despite a pair of Thursday bogeys. On Friday, Korda posted three bogeys on her card, yet still preserved a tie at the top spot, thanks to four birdies on the card. On Sunday, the young Floridian continued trending downward, lowlighted by a double-bogey six at the ninth hole, and wet, quadruple-bogey eight at the finisher. The nearest threat came from Ariya Jutanugarn, who stood at 14-under par with four holes remaining. At precisely the time when she needed a big finish, the former No. 1 closed with a bogey and a double over the final four holes. She tied for third, one stroke behind Ji.
HIGHLIGHTS ?? pic.twitter.com/eWZFQggt9s
— LPGA (@LPGA) April 21, 2019
Lanto Calrissian claims 2nd career Web.Com in Alabama
He’s no spice runner, but Lanto Griffin might be mistaken for the suave, Baron Administrator of Cloud City. Why, you ask? Well, the Californian-turned-Virginian held off Alabama son Robby Shelton in a dramatic, four-hole playoff, to claim his second career, Web.Com Tour event. In the first year of the RTJ Golf Trail Championship, Griffin birdied 4 holes in his outward nine to seize the lead, then bogeyed the 12th to lose it. Playing Cat and Mouse with him was Shelton, who interrupted a run of birdies with a pair of bogeys, then birdied the 16th to take over the top spot. With everything on the line, Griffin made 3 at the par-four finishing hole to join Shelton atop the leader board. The pair played the 18th hole twice in extra time, matching the other’s pars. They moved to the ninth, also a par 4, before returning to the 18th once more. There, Griffin ended matters with an exquisite birdie from 14 inches, his 2nd of the day at the closing hole. The victory moved the winner from 93rd to 9th in the chase for a PGA Tour card. Shelton moved from 46th to 12th with his runner-up finish.
— Web.com Tour (@WebDotComTour) April 21, 2019
McCarron wins first title of 2019 at Mitsubushi Electric Classic
Scott McCarron won three times on the regular PGA Tour, with two of those wins coming at TPC Sugarloaf, near Atlanta. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that he won this week’s PGA Tour Champions event at the same course, but that it took him four attempts to do so. With wet weather wreaking havoc on golfers’ psyches, McCarron needed all of his concentrative abilities to stay the course. On Saturday, within one stroke of the lead, Vijay Singh dumped three wedges into the pond fronting the final green. His 10 dropped him from contention, leading to a T14 finish overall. McCarron made a clutch birdie at the same hole to expand his overnight lead to three shots. He would need all of them.
Jerry Kelly mounted an early Sunday charge, with birdies at his first three holes and fourth on the sixth. He added a lone bogey on the 13th, then closed with shot-savers at the final two holes. McCarron, meanwhile, played topsy-turvy over his opening four holes. Birdies at two and four did not compensate for bogey at No. 1 and double bogey at three. In little more than an hour, his lead was nearly gone. Kirk Triplett, Kent Jones, and Joe Durant also joined the fray. Each would match Kelly, coming up short of the winner’s effort.
As noted, Kelly cooled off after his hot start, while McCarron found stability. His final 14 holes consisted of 12 pars and two birdies, enough to force a desperate field to give chase, something it failed to do. McCarron won four times on tour in 2017, but tapered off to 2 victories and a handful of missed chances in 2018. Will 2019 be the year that he becomes THE elite winner? Atlanta was a good start.
Scott McCarron increases his lead. ????
— PGA TOUR Champions (@ChampionsTour) April 21, 2019
Morning 9: Pantastic! | Henderson greatest in history of Canadian women’s golf? | Rough Sunday for DJ
By Ben Alberstadt (firstname.lastname@example.org)
April 21, 2019
Good Monday morning, golf fans.
Not the Dustin Johnson triumph we expected, true. Nevertheless, C.T. Pan’s W was compelling and steely down the stretch.
2. The (co-) winningest Canadian woman ever
Golf.com’s Pat Ralph…”Brooke Henderson captured her second straight Lotte Championship in Hawaii on Saturday to tie the Canadian record for LPGA Tour wins with eight thus far in her career. The 21-year-old Henderson now shares the record with former pro golfer Sandra Post.”
3. Rough Sunday for DJ…and viewers?
John Strege writes…”Johnson, 6-foot-4 and as athletic and talented as anyone in golf, shot a 77 (41 on the back nine) and tied for 28th. The tournament was won by C.T. Pan, a 5-foot-6 package of professional mediocrity prior to posting his first PGA Tour victory. In nine previous starts in the calendar year, he had not finished better than a tie for 42nd.”
Forgive the length of the excerpt, but Josh Vitale’s (of the Montgomery Advertiser, excerpted in Golfweek) use of Maya Brown, Lanto Griffin’s girlfriend, in his game story is superb.
5. …and Bhatia made the cut
Joel Beall writes…”Bhatia, the 17-year-old who made his PGA Tour debut last month at the Valspar Championship, was able to Monday qualify into the Web.com Tour’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Championship, and has made the most of his opportunity by making the cut at the rain-delayed event.”
A first-round 73 left Bhatia outside the top 100, but the homeschooler from North Carolina bounced back in Round 2 with a two-under 70, moving into a tie for 40th and good enough to advance to Saturday play.
Bhatia finished tied for 42nd.
6. McCarron gets it done
AP Report…”Scott McCarron completed a wire-to-wire victory in the Mitsubishi Electric Classic on Sunday for his third victory at TPC Sugarloaf on the PGA Tour Champions circuit.”
7. President Trump tees off with Lexi Thompson, Rush Limbaugh
Rachel Frazin of the Hill…
8. Every shot technology…almost
Golfweek’s Forecaddie on the Masters attempt to have every shot available to view online…
9. Recapping the Ventus Experience
A handful of GolfWRXers visited Fujikura HQ for a look at the company’s newest wares, fittings, and more. Check out their experiences (along with plenty of photos) in this forum thread.
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