October 19, 2001
I confess–I like anthologies.
Collections of short pieces, if collated and edited well, seem to work especially with golf writing.
Michael Konik’s new book, Nice Shot, Mr. Nicklaus is itself a nice compilation. (Huntington Press, $23.95 SRP).
Most of the articles originally appeared in Delta Airlines’ Sky Magazine, for whom Konik is the resident golf columnist.
The title piece that begins the book recounts an opportunity Konik seized to caddie for Nicklaus at the opening of a new Florida golf course. Konik is appropriately awed, but not so much as to be fawning.
It reads like he had a great time, and the Walter Mitty-like atmosphere he recreates is equally enjoyable.
The next several pieces cover a wide range of intriguing golfing stories. Konik plays in the Cow Pasture Open in Montana.
He observes the wild swings, in mood and otherwise, of players in the DuPont World Amateur Championship.
Konik himself flails around at a fantasy golf camp, and assesses his fitness for a 25-minute round of speed golf. He also does a nice job describing the physical and mental strains of competing in the Compaq World Putting Championship.
The next twelve articles are personality profiles, from Justin Leonard to Vince Gill. I thought Konik did his best work on these pieces in his interviews with Laura Davies and Corey Pavin. There’s also a connectionbetween these two players that Konik uncovers for his readers.
Konik also wrote a nice piece on Skip Kendall, a journeyman Tour pro who played Little League with Konik when they grew up together in Wisconsin. Konik weaves his own remembrances into Kendall’s story, without taking over its emphasis on what it takes for a very good athlete to make it on the Tour.
The next segment of the book is devoted to travel pieces. As one might expect for a magazine designed for airplane passengers, Konik’s trips are a bit more exotic than Rehoboth Beach, or Myrtle Beach, South Carolina or Monterey, California. Try Valderrama, a golfing barge trip through Scotland, or golf in Central America, instead.
Unlike other travel writers, however, Konik injects a note of realism into his pieces. For example, he’s careful to note the disparity between the golfing class in Central America and the stunning poverty that lurks not far from the gated surroundings. I give him credit for not glossing over those unfortunate facts.
The last segment of the book includes some of Konik’s best pieces in the collection.
Konik writes in praise of caddies, by retelling some fond memories of several Scottish characters. He nicely captures the feeling of easy companionship and common purpose that a caddie can add to a round of golf.
The last piece, called “Alacrity and Demeanor,” should be appreciated by any golfer who wonders whether some of the finer traditions of the game are being lost or diminished. Konik understands and conveys the sense that golf can be a good test of character. He argues for playing “efficiently and pleasantly:”
Meet your small triumphs . . . with gleeful appreciation. Meet your predictable failures with graceful equanimity. Struggle with dignity. And do it without inconveniencing all the other strugglers waiting to play behind you.
Do all that . . . and I will consider you a magnificent golfer. And I will look forward to the pleasure of playing with you for many years to come.
It’s an appropriate finish to a good anthology.