March 15, 2002
“The old man can wander around with words. I’ll give him that.”
“This here novel of his, about a PGA golfer who’s moderately successful when he plays golf and not so much anyplace else, meanders so often I got tired before I finished it.”
“Tell you what, it was fun and all, but it sure took its time getting around to the grins.”
Or something like that.
I’ve listened to Dan Jenkins during his occasional appearances on the Don Imus show. He talks like he writes, at least in his novels, which is fine for him, but it takes some getting used to. Personally, I like my corn pone and molasses light on the side, and not as the main dish.
Others may have a finer appreciation for Jenkins’ newest golf novel, The Money-Whipped Steer-Job Three-Jack Give-Up Artist (Doubleday, $24.95 SRP).
Bobby Joe Grooves is the hero of the story, a PGA Tour pro who wins every 18 months or so, but can’t seem to win a major. While he’d surely like to, there’s always something holding him back.
Maybe it’s his two ex-wives, although he seems to get along fine with them now that they only want some extra cash and the occasional golf lesson. Maybe it’s his parents, who enjoy spending his winnings while slowly falling apart, with Jenkins’ dead-on portrayal of elderly frailties.
Maybe it’s his girlfriend, who is smart, good-looking, and with a finely developed talent for using the f-word in all its various colorful optional forms—noun, verb, adjective, adverb, and as occasional extra modifier for even coarser terms.
It’s not his caddie, the ever patient Mitch, mistaken by others for Michael Jordan on at least one funny occasion. Mitch is the kind of caddie most of us would love to have on our bag, if we were lucky enough to make it onto the Tour. Grooves knows enough to appreciate his fortunate choice of employee.
Grooves seems fairly resigned to his non-major fate, but he has another goal—make it onto the Ryder Cup. He had a pretty good first year, and if he can put together a good season in the second year of qualifying, when the points double, Grooves could make it.
But first, he’s got to get through the season.
That gives Jenkins the chance to offer his readers a bit of a tour of the Tour, from a perspective nearly devoid of political correctness. We learn the dubious pleasures of playing in pro-ams, and what the pros really think of their playing guests. We find out why the Bob Hope Classic, and a few other events, have such trouble bringing the top talent to compete in them.
We discover the social intricacies distinguishing among the hookers and hangers-on that follow the Tour players. We are treated to the talent differential among the gaggle of journalists that cover the events.
Jenkins also manages to slip in a snide comment or two about Fort Worth society, display his familiarity with certain unique aspects of New York City life, and make the occasional rude remark about women. If he ever had any friends in the LPGA before he wrote this, Jenkins will have some explaining to do. In addition, Jenkins’ depiction of some allegedly fictional PGA players seems suspiciously like he’s taking a shot or two at some actual players, living and/or dead.
After working through how great Hogan was, passing on the occasional playing tip, and conducting a guided tour of well-known golf courses and their architects, I had the impression that Jenkins was coasting a bit on this novel. It started out slowly, and took its own sweet time getting around to any kind of a plot. Eventually, however, the story took over from all the smart remarks, and ended with a wry, satisfying flourish.
This is not Jenkins’ best work. It’s pleasant enough for a rainy afternoon, but don’t be fooled into thinking this novel must be Dead Solid Perfect II.