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By Troon McAllister
What are the essential elements of a great hustler?
According to Troon McAllisters first golf novel, The Green, there are several requirements:
The Green shows its readers the quintessential golf hustler, in the best environment to show how he does his work. Not merely a match game, but the greatest match game in professional golfThe Ryder Cup.
McAllister knows that most tournament golf is an individualized contest against the golf course. The players simply try to make the best score over the usual four rounds. Their focus remains almost always on their own performance and what they have to do to score as low as possible.
When put into a match play contest, however, the pros then must contend with another elementtheir opponent.
Eddie Caminetti is a Florida golf hustler. Allen Bellamy, the narrator and the captain of the Ryder Cup team, sees Caminetti in action while Bellamy is enduring a corporate outing. Bellamy is sufficiently intrigued by what he sees to find Eddie and offer to play him. He learns a sufficiently painful personal lesson that Bellany decides that this hustler, whose entire earnings depend on match play, must become part of the American team for the Ryder Cup.
After all, the European team is heavily favored to win the Cup from the Americans. It will take all their talents and then some for the American side to simply tie the Europeans and "keep the Cup."
Bellamy works out a way to bring Caminetti out of the shadows and into the harsh light of Ryder Cup prominence. How Caminetti makes the team is as intriguing and funny as the Ryder contest that fills the second half of the book.
McAllister takes the time to fully develop Caminettis character. Eddie shows a few signs of genuine care and concern for others, to be sure. Nonetheless, there are far more instances where his talent for taking advantage of others weaknesses is on full and funny display. In nearly every instance, Caminettis competitors hear only what they want to hear, not necessarily what Eddie says. This usually leads to grief, but the reader is forced to conclude that the "victims" brought it on themselves.
Several other well-drawn characters enhance the book. Derek Anouilh is a Tiger Woods-like player, and the side story of his eventual acceptance by his fellow tour professionals seemed eminently plausible. Andrew Firth, a Scotsman in the story, is a caricature of Colin Montgomerie on a bad day (a bad week, really).
Personally, I would love to know upon whom the character of American pro Joel Fleckheimer is based. Fleck plays Firth in the Sunday singles, and its a critical part of the story. If real, Fleck would be a great guy to know.
One constant theme in the novel is that people do not actually listen to what a person is telling them. Their own cares, concerns, and especially desires impede their comprehension. Caminettis teammates and his captain forget that what motivates them may not motivate Eddie. By comparison, Caminetti is nearly totally honest, and his ability to understand others while keeping to his own routine is perhaps his greatest talent.
The descriptions of the action during the Ryder Cup are very good. McAllister either attended such contests or spent far too much time in front of a TV set.
The ending is a bit of surprise, but Im certainly not going to give it away. It makes sense, but readers will feel compelled to go back to other segments of the novel to see if there were any clues to the eventual results.
The clues are there. McAllister is as honest with his readers as Caminetti is with the people he plays.
Im looking forward to following Eddies example in my next match.
Review date: June 11, 2000
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By Troon McAllister
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