Bill Pennington Stays 'On Par'

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Bill Pennington has golfed with Tiger Woods, Lee Trevino, and Annika Sorenstam. He has also wrapped a pitching wedge around a tree in frustration while practicing in his yard, and toppled the wife of a country club president with a shot that ended up on a patio.

Those experiences make Pennington uniquely qualified to write the "On Par" column for the New York Times. He joined Doug Tribou to discuss his new book On Par: The Everyday Golfer's Survival Guide.

Doug's Review of On Par

It would be easy to review Bill Pennington’s new book, On Par: The Everyday Golfer’s Survival Guide, and simply say this: If you like golf, you’ll like it.

But that would be cheating, which might be appropriate given the fact that Pennington cites polls that show 70 percent of casual golfers admit to cheating and 26 percent of PGA Tour caddies have seen a pro break  the rules.

On Par blends practical advice for beginners (“Try not to lose your ball.”); golf history (the term “caddie” first appeared in print sometime around 1630); trivia (there have been nearly 1300 U.S. patents issued for golf tee designs since 1976); and Pennington’s entertaining dispatches from out on the course.

Through his work for the New York Times, Pennington has played with some of the game’s greats and his stories and insights about Tiger Woods, Lee Trevino, and Annika Sorenstam are terrific. However, his tales of his own less-than-glamorous rounds, far from the watchful eyes of tour pros, are just as entertaining.

If there’s a weakness in On Par, it’s the early chapters’ emphasis on the most basic golf rules and etiquette. Veteran duffers may find themselves skimming those pages, but Pennington’s practical, empathetic approach makes them worth reading, even if you already know the sport.

Golf is a funny game and Pennington captures the humor in the insanity. Reflecting on the fashion train wreck that happened when golf collided with the 1970s, the author notes that golf socks were “louder than a drunken conventioneer,” adding, “Belts were as wide as an eight-track tape and just as pliable.”

Pennington has spent time with dozens of elite golfers and even more top teachers. He couples their knowledge with his three decades playing the game (he’s an 11-handicap). One of the best results is the common-sense, take-it-all-in-stride advice for golfers who break 100 once in a while, are stuck in a rut, and resist seeking help.

Not that I know anyone like that. I'm sure you don't, either.

This segment aired on May 26, 2012.

Doug Tribou Reporter/Producer
Doug Tribou was formerly a reporter and producer at WBUR and for WBUR's Only A Game.



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