Miracle on the 17th Green
I’ve been wanting to review Miracle on the 17th Green for a long time because I like it so much, and for so many reasons. It’s by James Patterson, but there isn’t a detective in sight. He does that sometimes, writes totally out of type. That’s one of the things I like so much about him. That, and his books are so fast-reading because the chapters are only two pages.
The story is a parable of sorts. Unless I really miss my guess, it is not meant to be taken seriously, it is meant to convey some important lessons. Very simply, Travis McKinley is living the life of quiet despair that is so common these days. He hates his job and that dissatisfaction takes its toll on his relationships: He feels distanced from his kids and his wife is so bored with him he knows he’s on thin ice.
Then, salvation! He’s canned. He’s always been crazy about golf and he’s playing so incredibly well lately, he decides he’s going to try out for the senior tour. The odds are astronomical against his making the cut, but this is a parable, so he does, and gets himself a Bagger Vance-type caddy, by the name of Earl, in with the deal.
Travis is on fire right out of the gate. Predictably, he soon starts to lose it. (It wouldn’t be much of a parable otherwise, would it?) So, what does he do? He practices and plays eight hours a day, every single day. Not only that, he does it with amazing focus and commitment. “For the first time in my adult life, I felt like I was laying it all the line, putting my very soul into it, living like an artist.” The following quote is, to me, the heart of the book:
I made a pleasant discovery. You work hard at something eight
hours a day, you get better. Not a lot better necessarily, but a
little better, and that’s just fine, because improving at golf, or
anything else probably, is just a matter of making an endless
series of tiny improvements.
The next step is for Travis to get comfortable with the fact that he truly is a good golfer, that he earned his place on the tour, and he belongs there. That’s what life and business coaches call stepping into your power. And he philosophically realizes that “there is nothing so consistently dangerous … than playing it safe.”
The book is also very well-written. You may know that Patterson doesn’t do all the actual writing on all of his books. (Ten books a year? Are you kidding?) He writes constantly and does have a hand in the writing of every book that has his name on it, and he develops all the stories, but he uses co-writers to help flesh some of them out. This one, Peter de Jonge, is one of my favorites. He’s got a beautiful way with words. And even though I know next to nothing about golf, I could still follow all the golf references. That’s good writing.
Another really good thing about this book is that is short and, like all of Patterson’s books, a quick read. You can get through it in a day.