Tom’s Book Review: The Prodigy

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, September 21st, 2018

prodigy

By Tom Ward
TOMPWARD@SBCGLOBAL.NET

Award-winning and widely acclaimed sportswriter John Feinstein’s
latest book is a novel about a 17 year old teenage golfing phenom
named Frank Baker who is making quite a name for himself in the golf
world with his exploits in the U.S. Amateur Championship. He’s a can’t
miss hot commodity whose affectionately become known as “The Perryton
Prodigy” named after his home town in Perryton, Connecticut.
Baker’s swing coach, Slugger Johnson, is also the Head Pro at
his home course and knows golf talent when he sees it. Johnson
reaches out to his old college golf teammate Keith Forman who was a
former professional golfer turned golf writer for Golf Digest. Slugger
had seen the signs and wanted his old friend around to see what he
thought about the young golfing sensation and enlists his old friend
to act as sort of a secret adviser to the youngster.
It turns out that Forman happened to be coming into the area
because of the PGA Tour stop at nearby Hartford. The issue at hand
wasn’t the young golfers ability, it was about his father Thomas, who
was being courted by numerous agents, tour reps and others connected
to professional golf as well as big name sporting goods brands…they
all wanted a piece of his kid. Thomas was starting to see a whirlwind
of activity filling his head with thoughts of big bucks if his kid
signs with them before turning pro.
As Slugger told his friend “Thomas Baker wants to grow up to be
Earl Woods (Tiger’s dad).
Meanwhile, the kid has every college in the country clamoring for
him to come play for their school, however the single father wants him
to skip college and turn pro….sooner rather than later. It turns out
golf tournaments and the travel expenses involved has taken a toll on
the family bank account, and his dad is eager to start cashing in on
his son’s prowess. Young Frank knows he isn’t ready for life on the
pro tour—regardless of the potential riches awaiting him.
Two major story lines are played out in the book involving Frank.
One is during the semi-finals of the U.S. Amateur Championship at
Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles dealing with a cheating
accusation. The other involves Frank’s first appearance as an amateur
playing in the prestigious Masters Tournament. The pressure mounts as
the young superstar golfer has to deal with top notch competition on
the links battling stars like Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Sergio
Garcia and Rory McIlroy as well as navigating his way through the
press that is clamoring for details about his future and the loud
whispers regarding behind the scenes dealings that are going on
concerning his father.
Throughout the ordeals he faces tremendous odds dealing with
secrecy, honesty, integrity, sacrifice, and the decision of a lifetime
to get there.
So, as sponsors line up to throw money at Frank and his father,
can Slugger and his secret adviser Keith keep them at bay long enough
to give the kid a legitimate chance to win a major championship at
such a youthful age?
Also, at stake is his amateur status which becomes jeopardized
and plays a big role of what happens as things play out at hallowed
grounds of Augusta National.
I really liked how the author incorporates real PGA Tour players
and network TV hosts like Fox’s Joe Buck and Paul Azinger as well as
the Golf Channel and U.S.G.A. into the storyline. That was a nice
touch that gave the reader a feeling of being an interloper getting an
up close and personal look behind closed doors of what goes on.
This book can serve as a cautionary tale that should be read by
any parent who has a talented child contemplating turning pro before
heading off to college.
I highly recommend the book as it’s a great look into the perils
of family dynamics, the decisions they make regarding their kids and
the potentially long lasting ramifications that can adversely affect
their kids future and well-being.
As a golf professional this book really touched a nerve as I’ve
seen similar scenarios play out with some of my top junior golfers
over the years.
This book is ideal for golfers of any age, but I think it really
appeals to young golfers of middle school age and early teens. They
can dream along with the young protagonist in the story what it would
be like to compete against the best players in the world at a major
championship like the Masters.
The book is 384 pages and available in Hardcover, Kindle and Audio CD.
It’s published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux and available wherever
books are sold.

Tom Ward can be contacted at www.teetimewithtom.com

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