Playing Partners By George Peper

He’s not exaggerating. Unfortunately, the game’s pleasantries are nearly poisoned in an alkaline-based obsession. The author, former editor-in-chief at Golf magazine, admittedly “semi-detached” from friends, a child loner who discovered a “blissful monomania” in golf, provides an introspective and often painful account of what golf has wrought on Pepers senior and junior as well as the missus.

Early on there’s an inopportune call from Johnny Miller that interferes with something of a first date (actually a couch moving). The call took an hour. “Golf had come between us for the first time – and far from the last,” he writes. “For the next twenty-five years the game would pull me physically, mentally, and emotionally from my wife.” While maintaining his vows, he nevertheless feels compelled to add, “However, I have nonetheless been criminally unfaithful to her through my fatal attraction to golf.”

Perhaps this book is meant as an apology to the long-suffering Libby. Perhaps he should pack it in. The deadpan earnestness – an admission, really, without the apology – is reminiscent of the criminally negligent at last coming clean, but only to make sure the details are in order.

“Golfers are essentially nice guys,” Mrs. P. suggests in a rare aside, “but they’re insensitive. They need to be beaten over the head with things. Once they understand what it is that you want or need, they’re like big loping dogs, only too eager to please. But until then they’re clueless, so absorbed in themselves and their game that they’re oblivious to everything else.”

That may very well be true, one of the few genuine insights obscured by the myopia – honest and sincere as it may be – that will likely interest only those closely acquainted with the personalities.

Pity there wasn’t more time for the interesting brushes working with name tour players and the occasional celebrity (he helped Bill Murray with his book, which included a “desperate” all-nighter), or even detailing the trials of growing a national magazine. We learn he is very likely the only person who agreed with Jan Van de Velde’s club selection at Carnoustie. It would be entertaining to hear more of his observations about those who display the qualities, as Shoeless Jean has, that he clearly admires in others, namely lack of self-absorption and friendship.

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