Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Novel That Deserves an Audience: Room Of Tears

The tragedy of 9/11 has spawned countless books, but author Linda Merlino tackled the difficult task of telling a remarkable story that occurred in the aftermath of that horrible day. Merlino's new novel, Room Of Tears, is the gripping tale of a firefighter's widow and her astounding life after the attack, told from a unique vantage point.

The protagonist, Diane O'Connor, was widowed when the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed at 9:59 that morning. The event destroyed the life she had planned and shattered her faith, but it didn't crush her willingness to face her fate. She kept a note hanging on her kitchen cabinet as a poignant reminder of the words she left for her husband that terrible morning.  She also kept a journal of the year that followed 9/11, revealing it only because she knew her son, born nine months after that fateful day, needed to know what was in it.

Merlino says she was moved to write Room Of Tears by a chance encounter she had in 2008 in the Raleigh Durham Airport while on a book-signing tour for her first novel, Catalina Hudson (originally published as Belly of the Whale). In the airport, Merlino met a woman whose husband had been a New York City firefighter that day. He survived by chance; he had switched shifts to accommodate a doctor's appointment. "We moved down here to get away from the memories," the woman said. She went on to tell Merlino about the funerals, the widows, the waiting, and the grief. "Write your story," she said. "I may not be able to read it, but it needs to be written."

Room Of Tears needs to be read. It's a tribute to one woman's strength and a testament that miracles can really happen.

Available in eBook and trade paperback. ISBN: 978-1-927792-10-0

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Coming of Age at St. Andrews

An American Caddie In St. Andrews
At least once in their life, every golfer should make the pilgrimage to the Old Course in St. Andrews. Oliver Horovitz not only made that trip, he turned it into a coming-of-age book about his experiences working as a caddie there during his college years. An American Caddie in St. Andrews is an enjoyable, light read that covers the young man's summers looping on the Old Course while completing his education at Harvard, chasing girls, and pub crawling through the ancient town.

If you're a golfer looking for hole-by-hole insights into the Old Course, you'll probably be disappointed in this book. On the other hand, if you'd like to know what really goes on in the caddie shack, you'll be rewarded by the many tales Horovitz tells. As most of us have long suspected, caddies don't exactly have positive opinions of their clients. A tip less than 100% of the standard fee is generally met with disdain, for example. The caddies also have a private language for ridiculing their players--often right in front of them--to other caddies. It's not unusual for a caddie to purposely give wrong information to a player just for the sake of having a funny story to tell when they get back to the shack. Basically, two types of golfers are accorded caddie respect: scratch players and celebrities. The former gives the caddie fewer errant balls to look for and the latter gives them something to gossip about.  If you don't fall into either of those categories, according to Horovitz, you're just another chump, at least as far as the caddies at St. Andrews are concerned.

There are some non-golf story elements that turn the book into a memoir of sorts. The author chases girls and catches a few, shares various bachelor-pad type apartments with other caddies, and spends one summer filming the caddies as an assignment for one of his classes at Harvard. He also develops a fond relationship with an elderly uncle who lives in St. Andrews. A recurring theme is the way he was treated by the old caddies at the course and how, over time, he earned their trust and respect.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

American Triumvirate

American Triumvirate: Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan and the Modern Age of Golf, written by James Dodson, has earned the United States Golf Association’s Herbert Warren Wind Book Award for 2012. Dodson previously won the award in 2004 for Ben Hogan: An American Life.

“Snead, Nelson and Hogan set the standard for professional golf for three decades and were instrumental in defining the modern professional game,” said Robert Williams, director of the USGA Museum. “James Dodson did a masterful job not only telling the story of these three men, but also bringing an entire era of golf into sharper focus. This book is an impressive accomplishment that will undoubtedly stand the test of time.”

American Triumvirate brings to life the colorful personalities and compelling stories of three of golf’s all-time greats: Sam Snead, Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan. Interviews with friends, family and fellow competitors helped Dodson paint a picture of determined athletes, all remarkably born in the same year, 1912, who would revitalize a struggling game in Depression-era America.

Through Dodson’s expert storytelling, the reader experiences the dominance of Snead, Nelson and Hogan from the late 1930s through the 1950s. The passion, skill and competitiveness displayed by these giants of the game helped to forever change the public perception of golf and to plant it firmly in the mainstream of American life.

“This is a story about three extraordinary men, who were very different, but each helped put golf on the front pages of newspapers in America,” said Dodson. “Hogan, Nelson and Snead were the founding fathers of the modern game.”

Snead won 82 PGA Tour events, which remains the record. Six years after capturing the 1939 U.S. Open, Nelson won 11 consecutive PGA Tour events in 1945. And Hogan won four U.S. Opens, including the 1950 championship at Merion Golf Club, site of the 2013 U.S. Open.

Writer-in-residence for The Pilot newspaper in Southern Pines, N.C., Dodson also edits three arts and culture magazines published by The Pilot: PineStraw, Salt and O.Henry. Dodson, who spent two decades as a contributing editor and columnist for Golf Magazine, received the 2011 Donald Ross Award from the American Society of Golf Course Architects.

“This book was a real labor of love in the purest, best sense,” said Dodson. “Winning an award named after a mentor and friend is a huge honor for me. Mr. Wind gave me the inspiration to write the book, and called them an ‘American triumvirate.’”

The Herbert Warren Wind Book Award was established in 1987. The award recognizes and honors outstanding contributions to golf literature while attempting to broaden the public’s interest in, and knowledge of, the game of golf. Wind, who died in 2005, was the famed writer for The New Yorker and Sports Illustrated who coined the phrase “Amen Corner” at Augusta National. He is the only writer to win the USGA’s Bob Jones Award, the Association’s highest honor.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Great Golf Swing Oil Myth

Beer and Golf
It’s one of the great burning questions in golf: does alcohol make you play better or just think you play better? In other words, should you drink while playing? According to Dr. Phil Striano, “It all boils down to whether you want to shoot the lowest possible score or to have the best possible time.” Guess which choice involves loading a cooler into your golf cart?

Putting the whoop-it-up factor to one side for a minute, we decided to find out just how alcohol affects your golf swing. We turned to Striano, a Titleist Performance Institute certified chiropractor and avid, low-handicap golfer, to apply some science to the question in his golf studio at Rivertowns Chiropractic in Dobbs Ferry. Under (barely) controlled conditions, we asked a dozen pretty average golfers to hit some golf balls into a net, drink a few beers, hit some more balls, drink some more beer, hit more balls, drink, hit, drink, hit, etc. The test grew a little raucous, but the goals of science were eventually served.

Striano and Keith Melnik, assistant pro at Ardsley Country Club, used some of the latest technology, the K-Vest, which plots the movement of the body during the golf swing, and the TrackMan radar system, which measures swing speed, shot distance, accuracy, and a bunch of other metrics, to analyze the groups’ performance. We used a conversion chart to estimate blood alcohol levels based on their body weight, consumption, and time spent drinking.

The guinea pigs were golfers just like you and me. They ranged in age from 25 to 64, handicaps from 0 to 25, and number of rounds played per year from 10 to 50. Every one of them said they drank while playing—at least sometimes—and most said they felt more relaxed when they did. Most of them figured a little “swing oil” improved their game although more than one confessed they really didn’t know. Or care.

Our volunteers didn’t shirk their responsibilities. They consumed anywhere from three to eight beers (yes, we were counting!) and hit 229 balls (not including warm-ups and goofing around) for the test. By the time they finished, five of them were over the DUI limit of 0.08% blood alcohol and most of the rest were really, really close to it.

The results? Not surprisingly, the more beer you drink, the worse you play. Quite frankly, though, especially considering how many of the volunteers were slurring their words and telling raunchy, pointless jokes by the end of the test, the impact on their swings wasn’t too bad. The distance they hit the ball suffered the most, with the average loss of 8.2 yards in carry using a six iron, although three of the twelve gave up more than 20 yards.

Accuracy actually improved a bit for the group after they’d had a few, at least as measured by how far the ball landed from an imaginary target. The average was about two yards closer, although five of the players got worse while seven became just slightly better—or luckier. When you combine distance and accuracy, average player performance went down by about 4% when alcohol was involved.

There was a clear correlation between blood alcohol levels and golf ability. As more pickling agent hit the blood stream, the golf swing became more erratic. Incidentally, high handicappers suffered proportionately more, as did older golfers.

Striano and Melnick analyzed the K-Vest data to see just how the golf swing responds to a suds bath. “When you start drinking, a whole lot of things happen. Beginning with alignment, the golfer becomes erratic,” Striano said. “Plus, there’s no question that there is a definite swing oil effect. Most of the guys got a lot looser and there was more turn in their hips and shoulders.”  Yes, but did it help?  “That made their swings longer, which actually reduced how far they hit the ball.”

We couldn’t measure the effects of beer on the golfer’s judgment, although given the way many of them were acting after a few, we suspect it doesn’t get more conservative. Carry that water hazard with this three wood off a down-hill lie? Sure—why not!  Equally un-measureable was the attitude factor, although our test subjects were certainly happier at the end of the test than when they began, regardless of how—or where—they hit the ball.

Perhaps the best guidance about booze on the golf course came from a real aficionado of both, Dean Martin, who once said “If you drink, don't drive. Don't even putt.”

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf