2006.04.12: April 12, 2006: Headlines: Figures: Writers: COS - Ethiopia: Sports: Golf: Kalamazoo Gazette: John Coyne writes about first love, golf

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Peace Corps Library: Sports: January 23, 2005: Index: PCOL Exclusive: Sports : 2006.04.12: April 12, 2006: Headlines: Figures: Writers: COS - Ethiopia: Sports: Golf: Kalamazoo Gazette: John Coyne writes about first love, golf

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John Coyne writes about first love, golf

John Coyne writes about first love, golf

"Somebody once said to Hogan, `What's the most important shot in golf?' Hogan said, `The next one."' This became an important metaphor in the book, Coyne said. "He always felt sorry for kids who grew up rich," he said, since they never had the learning experiences that lower classes got while struggling upward. John Coyne, editor of the "Peace Corps Writers" web site, served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia in the 1960's.

John Coyne writes about first love, golf

Years in Ethiopia launch WMU grad's writing career

By Mark Wedel

Special to the Gazette

Writer John Coyne grew tired of the horror novels he had cranked out since the 1970s. So with "The Caddie Who Knew Ben Hogan" (2006, Thomas Dunne Books, $23.95), he turned to something that has long interested him -- golf.

Coyne said from his home in Westchester, N.Y., that he had been writing a horror novel a year: "The Searing," "The Fury," "The Piercing," "The Shroud" and others. He tried something new with his 1987 novel about the history of an Irish family, "Brothers and Sisters."

The horror had sold well, but he stopped writing. Coyne was burned out, he said, and facing writer's block.

He returned to the Peace Corps in the 1990s, but he felt the itch to begin writing again.

"Then I went to my first love, golf," said Coyne, who worked as a caddie at the Midlothian Country Club when he was growing up in Midlothian, Ill.

He had written instructional books: "Better Golf," "New Golf for Women" and "Playing With the Pros: Golf Instruction from the Senior Tour."

Then, inspired by Mark Frost's 2002 historical golf novel, "The Greatest Game Ever Played," Coyne decided to take a swing at his own childhood golf hero.

"The Caddie Who Knew Ben Hogan" is due for release on May 2.

Publisher's Weekly says: "Known more for his novels of the macabre, Coyne moves onto the links and comes up with a terrific blend of golfing lore, PGA tournament drama and country-club soap opera. ... Coyne's descriptions of the strained practice round and the gripping first day of the Chicago Open are masterful sports fiction, with (fictional caddie) Jack reliving every drive, chip and putt, adding savvy golf tips and caddy tricks."

Coyne wrote a "novelistic" story centered partly on Hogan, a golf pro as famous in the '30s through the '50s as Tiger Woods is now, and partly on the fictional young caddie, Jack, who meets Hogan in 1946.

Jack's experiences as a 14-year-old caddie were inspired by Coyne's teen years hauling bags around the Midlothian Country Club (which just happened to have been founded in 1898 by a former Kalamazoo resident, George Robinson Thorne, Coyne said).

Everything that happens in the book is fiction. "You use your experience and squeeze it through your creative lens," Coyne said.

Jack's father was killed in the war. "My father died in Paw Paw, Michigan, at the age of 85," Coyne said. The club where Jack works is south of Chicago, just as Midlothian is. Jack caddied for Hogan. Coyne never met the man but has long been fascinated by him.

Hogan (1912-1997) won nine out of 16 pro majors from 1946 to 1953, including six after a near-fatal car accident.

Hogan was an individualist, Coyne said. Other pros copied his swing, his intimidating icy manner on the course, even the way he dressed, but few could beat him.

He had a mysterious personality. Coyne studied all the information he could find about Hogan and tried to get his manner of laconic speech in print.

"Somebody once said to Hogan, `What's the most important shot in golf?' Hogan said, `The next one."' This became an important metaphor in the book, Coyne said. "He always felt sorry for kids who grew up rich," he said, since they never had the learning experiences that lower classes got while struggling upward.

Coyne sent his manuscript to a surviving friend of Hogan at the U.S. Golf Association and got advice for making his depiction accurate.

In the novel, Hogan is the catalyst to some life lessons for Jack as well as another young golfer. The real Hogan had a reputation for being cold and distant, but Coyne said that wasn't always the case.

"Some say my interpretation of Hogan was a little kinder than he was in real life. But what I do know about him is that Hogan always was warm and friendly and cooperative with kids, young people."

When this story was posted in April 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Kalamazoo Gazette

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