The Caddie Who Knew Ben Hogan was written by author John Coyne who has penned over 20 books of fiction and non-fiction. Several months ago, we reviewed his latest book, The Caddie Who Played With Hickory and if you enjoyed that story, you most certainly will want to check out his earlier work as well.
The story weaves between forbidden love, the bond between a golfer and his caddie and wisdom about life as told by none other than Ben Hogan. What happens is a story about golf, life and the choices we make and how "it's always the next shot that is important."
The main character of the story, Jack Handley, is invited back to an exclusive country club in the Midwest to speak on the anniversary of the Chicago Open and to recount his days as a caddie from the summer of 1946 and discuss when Ben Hogan stopped in to play at their club. The story bounces back and forth between Jack telling his story at the anniversary dinner to the members about that summer and the actual anniversary dinner itself, in which some skeletons from the past are let out of the closet.
In the summer of 1946, Jack Handley is a caddie at an exclusive country club. While also caddying for the members, he spends a great deal of time as the caddie to the assistant golf professional, Matt Richardson. He and Matt strike up a friendship and bond together almost as brothers, which is important to Jack who's father died at the end of World War II. The dialogue between the two during a round is fascinating as Jack knows all of Matt's tendencies and knows his golf game inside and out.
Two circumstances change this pairing forever, forbidden love between Matt and the daughter of the club's president and an encounter with the immortal Ben Hogan who shows up for a practice round which ends up being a competition against Matt, with the prize being the caddie services of Jack in the upcoming Chicago Open. During the round, Mr. Hogan dispenses some fatherly wisdom to Jack who must then make a decision that sets in motion events that will influence the rest of the summer and his life.
Throughout this story, you get a good glimpse of country club life in the 1940's. The members who make up the aristocracy and the workers who serve them are seemingly from two different planets as the members can pretty well do as they please without any consequences whatsoever while the staff walks on a tightrope in order to stay employed. Indiscretions by the members get buried, but not for eternity.
The story flows together nicely and I knocked out the book fairly quickly as I had a tough time putting it down as after each chapter I wanted to know what was happening next.
Two words: Ben Hogan. If you've read nothing about the icon, you are in for a treat as Mr. Coyne has done quite a bit of research and spoke with those who know Ben Hogan in order to weave his true personality into a fictional story. Offering bits of wisdom about golf and life (and his 'secret' to both), Mr. Hogan is brought true-to-life in this story. If you are a fan of Ben Hogan, you will enjoy this book.
The vast majority of stories pertain to Ben Hogan and his time on tour. You can a glimpse of where he came from and how he became the golfer and the man he was through various experiences that occurred throughout and shaped his life. There are some other interesting "nuggets" spread throughout the book like the story behind Gene Sarazen's real name, how Paul Runyan won the 1939 PGA Championship, and how life was on the PGA Tour during the time Ben Hogan played.
The story is a work of fiction but there are enough actual historical events included that may get you to do a little research on your own pertaining to the game of golf during this time period. It really is quite a fascinating time in the course of the great game we all love and play.
The Caddie Who Knew Ben Hogan is a very good story not only about the game of golf but also about the game of life and the choices we make and the hand we are dealt. If you like golf and are especially a fan of Ben Hogan, this book is definitely one you should add to your "must-read" list. Consider it a good gift for the golfer on your Christmas list.
Even if you're not a fan of golf but appreciate a good story, this book will grab and hold your interest and how knows, it may lead you down the path to explore a bit more of golf's grand history and to pick up the game itself.