The Back Nine
By Billy Mott
Publisher Alfred A. Knopf
(div. of Random House)
"The Back Nine" by Billy Mott was an interesting take on the old washed-up sports hero story. Meet Charlie McLeod, fleeing from an unknown something in his past. Charlie lands at an out of the way members-only golf course near San Francisco and falls into a job working as a caddie, something of which he is very familiar. As the story develops, we learn that Charlie is a former child prodigy of the golf game. Something terrible happened to him and he lost his ability to play.
But a miracle is about to occur. Charlie is about to pick up a golf club of his own again. And when he does, he is overcome by the pull of the game. The hunger for success. The drive to beat himself on the greens. While Charlie is finding his way back to the fairways, he catches the eyes of all the players and caddies around him. Particularly one player and one caddie who then attempt to exploit Charlie's long lost talent.
Charlie's character is dark and troubled, and the author does a good job of leading us to discover the reason for Charlie's anguish. Through the course of the story, Charlie goes through some highs and lows and even finds love. But throughout, the thread of the power of the game of golf carries on. Charlie is drawn to it.
If you're a golf fan, you will more appreciate the subtleties of the storyline. The detailed descriptions of the courses; the grass, the pin placement, the lie of the ball. The subterfuge was actually almost a minor sideline to the main theme of the story, which was Charlie getting past his past. It was interesting, and it ended on the happy note that I always prefer. All in all, a decent read.