ONE OF THE JOYS of having a golf blog is the opportunity to meet (whether online or in person) people who share a love for the game. I’ve been fortunate to connect with all types of folks in the golf world, including authors such as John Coyne. Occasionally, these new acquaintances become friends. That is certainly the case with John.
John wrote me an email a few years ago about Ben Hogan, and since then we’ve corresponded, talked on the phone and met up a few times at places such as the Masters, United States Golf Association and, last night, New York City. On a weeklong business trip, I came in from New Jersey and John traveled from his home in Westchester County. We met at the clock at Grand Central Station and headed to the Algonquin Hotel for a glass of wine, then on to a nearby Indian restaurant for a leisurely dinner.
(Photo: John Coyne)
I better explain the title of this piece. John is a longtime writer and novelist who started out in the horror genre, in which he enjoyed commercial success and cranked out more books than some people read. Yet in recent years he delved into one of his first loves: golf. There are few golf novelists, but that didn’t prevent him from starting a series of caddie novels: The Caddie Who Knew Ben Hogan and The Caddie Who Played with Hickory. Both were published by St. Martin’s Press (Thomas Dunne Books). Another caddie novel is on the way.
As a former caddie at Midlothian Country Club in Chicago, John knows his subject well. Both of his published novels are set at Midlothian, where John worked as a caddie for many years. I learned at dinner that John became the caddie master at Midlothian when he was 15 and oversaw 400 caddies. They ranged in age from young kids to old men. Imagine that!
John’s job at Midlothian gave him an indispensable education. First, he learned a lot about golf. Second, he observed the many differences between the privileged set and working class that are detectable in country club life. (John came from a working class family.) Third, his job at Midlothian allowed him to complete college.
Another thing I realize each time I encounter John is that we both share a deep appreciation of golf history. And, as he reminded me last night, so does his brother. The name Ed Furgol came up—his brother once caddied for Furgol—and we laughed. Who but the two of us (and maybe a handful of others) would remember or know of Ed Furgol?
It’s always good to have golf friends. But a golf friend who knows of Ed Furgol is a rare friend, indeed.
−The Armchair Golfer