Hole By Hole
It's about golf.
|Novel depicts blind golfer's return to the PGA
The Cape Gazette
November 2, 2001
I stayed up late one Saturday night to finish Bob Cullens new novel, A Mulligan for Bobby Jobe, (Harper Collins, $26 SRP). The payoff came immediately, with a Sunday round the next day that was 6 strokes under my handicap.
Bobby Jobe is not really a golf instruction manual. The redemption story of a PGA golfer who returns to competition after being blinded by lightning just happens to include some great playing advice for golfers of all types.
Thats just a side benefit to the real intent of the novel. Cullen explores the ways that people recover from what happens to them.
As the novel begins, Bobby Jobe is trying to beat two things at once during the final round of the PGA championshipother golfers, and his own tendency to choke under pressure while in the lead. Jobe, whose immaturity is set out with a few deft passages, becomes distracted by some female eye-candy in the gallery, much to the annoyance of his caddie Henry Mote, the narrator.
Jobes inability to focus leads to disaster, both during and after the round.
Mote has his own problems. His own immaturity makes him act unprofessionally in reaction to Jobe. It leads to a major flare-up, his departure from the course back to his home, and a guilty feeling that he helped create the conditions that led to Jobes blinding.
Motes home life after he leaves the Tour is no bed of roses, either. His mother, Eudora, struggles to keep the familys little 9-hole public course going, despite the poor economy in the Virginia coal region. Henrys father Clayton, a professional golfer himself, abandoned the family some years before in at least two waysliterally and mentally.
Cullen displays unusual sensitivity in describing the insidious effects of the mental illness that afflicts Clayton. The fractured relationship between the father and the son is another focus of the novel, and will be all too familiar to many readers in several respects, even without the added element of psychiatric trauma.
Angela Murphy, a rehabilitation counselor, works with Jobe to recover from his accident. She determines that not only should Bobby return to golf, he should also use Henry Mote to assist him.
Though talented in her field, as shown with several vivid examples throughout the book, Angela herself has a troubled past, especially in her relationships with men. Mote is attracted to her, but cant help notice that the counselor is intrigued by the charismatic Jobe.
Motes often painfully lame efforts to change her romantic focus are not only frequently funny, but also illustrate how much he has to learn about relationships on and off the course. Fortunately, hes a fairly quick study.
In preparing for this novel, Cullen worked as a caddie on the PGA Tour, and also drew upon his previous acquaintance with Pat Browne, a winner of many U.S. Blind Golfers Association Championships. The novel clearly draws upon those contacts.
For the formerly sighted, at least, blind golf requires intense focus and a highly developed ability to visualize. Initially that sounds a bit cruel when writing about blindness, but as Cullen describes Jobes recovery and rehabilitation, thats what comes across.
Mote learns to set Jobe up for his shots, and figures out how to describe the surroundings so that Jobe can make his swing. The reader discovers that the process of preparation is not really different for blind golfers than it should be for the sighted. It just requires a close relationship between the caddie/coach and the player. The novels primary story line develops this theme, and is the reason why its also a useful guide to playing golf.
Cullens prior work as a novelist is much in evidence, in that the characters that should be three-dimensional meet that requirement. (That cant be said for others who attempt fictional treatments relating to golf.) No character is wholly good or wholly evil. Instead, they are fully realized, flawed human beings, whose stories remain intriguing throughout the book.
This is a truly enjoyable golf novel that goes well beyond the normal confines of sports fiction. I highly recommend it.
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A Mulligan for Bobby Jobe
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A Mulligan for Bobby Jobe
By Bob Cullen
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