Coyne mixes fantasy, history in “The Caddie who Won the Masters”

With the PGA’s final major of the 2011 season a wrap, golf fans who can’t get enough big-time championship golf may already be looking forward to next year’s Masters. If so, prolific author John Coyne has just the book for you.

You don’t have to read “The Caddie who Won the Masters” to know how it turns out. But as the PGA Tour bids adieu to Bobby Jones’ Atlanta Athletic Club, Coyne invites you to look ahead to the house that Jones built in Augusta by leafing through his fanciful notion that mixes today’s game with the lore of yesteryear.

Coyne combines fantasy, a little history, and a lot of knowledge about the Masters and Augusta National Golf Club in a novel that offers light reading for the rest of your summer vacation.

Here’s the Cliff notes rundown of the plot:

Middle-aged college professor Tim Alexander qualifies for the Masters by winning the U.S. Mid Amateur

His wife, who’s dying of cancer, insists that he plays

While practicing at Amen Corner, Alexander comes upon the ghost of Clifford Roberts, illustrious chairman of Augusta National who committed suicide

Roberts offers Alexander a deal: fulfill Jones’ wish that an amateur win the green jacket and your wife will live (and Roberts’ soul will be freed from its eternal wanderings at Augusta)

Alexander hooks up with a rookie caddie with his own back story and receives visits and tips from other ghostly luminaries such as Jones, Ben Hogan, and Byron Nelson, who help him — you guessed it — win the Masters

Sure, it’s hokey, hardly suspenseful (see title), and a bit too reverent about the hallowed grounds of Augusta National for the tastes of this reviewer. There are also gratuitous sexist references (“golf courses are like women — no two are alike”) and racist nonsense (Roberts rants at one point about the country’s current “mixed blood” president).

But Coyne does a fair job of linking golf’s past and current icons (yes, there are the requisite Tiger Woods/Phil Mickelson appearances) as well as a vast knowledge of a tradition unlike any other into the story line with a light enough touch to make for a generally entertaining read.

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