the correct one.

By Steven Pressfield
Published by Avon Books4
272 pages
ISBN: 2286116318

In the world of fictional sports novels, we have the mysterious Roy Hobbs in THE NATURAL. In SHOELESS JOE (better known in the movie world as FIELD OF DREAMS) we have the mysterious voice. Both titles, whether considering the book or the film, are entertaining in their ethereal approach to the inner game of baseball.

And in golf, we have THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE. Instead of the voice, we have Bagger Vance himself – an oracle of the skills and mindset of golf who has always been, and will always be. Bagger holds the key to the ‘authentic swing’, to the heart and soul of the true reality of not only golf, but the reality of life as a whole.

THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE is told to us through they eyes of a young caddy named Hardy, who through circumstances of the economy and societal practices of 1920s Georgia, finds himself aligned with local golf hero Rannulph Junuh in a huge exhibition golf match against super-golfers Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen. Junuh has been approached by the town of Savannah to take on Jones and Hagen – and what Savannah gets in the deal is Junuh’s inseparable coach and mentor by the name of Bagger Vance.

Junuh at first wants nothing to do with the match, but through the persistence of young Hardy and through the philosophical words of Bagger, Junuh joins in. Hagen and Jones, the world-famous golfers, bring their celebrity to the event in huge doses; one with glamour and wit, the other with an almost professorial approach to the game. Junuh brings his past with him, which entails military experiences that would shatter many a man, and with an impressive golf pedigree.

As the story unfolds, the three tee off against each other over 36 holes of golf and head through storms, wayward golf shots, amazing putts, and a show of golf skill that had never been seen in Savannah. Bagger, with young Hardy at his side, brings his knowledge and influence to both Rannulph Junuh and Hardy throughout the duration of the event. The conflicts come in the personalities of the three golfers, and even more so in the intermingling of the mindset of Bagger and Junuh.

The story sometimes gets a bit thick in its philosophies of the inner game in the human mind – it can be hard to follow the thoughts as presented by Bagger Vance as he trains Junuh in the ways of the ‘authentic swing’. There are truly exciting moments as the match crosses the golf course with shots of deft control – or maybe total lack of any control.

And like FIELD OF DREAMS and THE NATURAL, the movies and the books don’t always match up in their story lines, but they make a good feast for those who like to read novels or watch movies about sports. THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE is another to add to that class.