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Original Issue

A scrambling par for the old pro and a kick-in birdie for the rookie

by Dan Jenkins/Doubleday, $24.95

by Mike Shropshire/Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin's Press, $23.95

If you let them, many golfers will tell you that theirs is the
most poetic sport on earth. However, when it comes to the books
of summer, baseball rules the reading rack. There's little in the
literature of the links to rival novels such as Bernard Malamud's
The Natural and Mark Harris's Bang the Drum Slowly. On the other
hand, when August rolls around, who wants to read a great
American novel? Better to collapse into a deck chair, slather
yourself with SPF 2000 and devour a decadent golf yarn full of
off-color wit, unorthodox sexual conquests and lots and lots of
tee shots.

It was Jenkins's 1974 tale, Dead Solid Perfect, that established
the genre: A profane but likable golfer hacks his way through the
PGA Tour and into our hearts. In his latest opus Jenkins
chronicles the odyssey of Bobby Joe Grooves, a throwback who
refers to women as "shapely adorables" and children as '"unruly
little s---s" and whose impression of Manhattan's Central Park is
that "some areas would have made good golf holes." He is not an
attractive protagonist, but you'll root for him anyway because he
is by far the most appealing guy on the Tour. Will the hitherto
mediocre Grooves snag a berth on the Ryder Cup team and triumph
over his arrogant nemesis, Swedish golfer Nuke Thorssun? As
Grooves himself might say, it'll cost you 20 bucks to find out.

There's another option this summer for Jenkins fans:
Shropshire's story of the profane but likable Del Bonnet, who
leaves his job as a golf pro at the Caloosahatchee Pines Country
Club to hack his way through the Senior tour and into our
hearts. Will the hitherto hapless Bonnet snag a berth at the
Senior Open and face down his arrogant nemesis, Bruno Pratt?

Shropshire's publisher's blurb makes no bones about what he's
trying to do: "capture the essence of acclaimed writer Dan
Jenkins." So the question is, who is a better Dan Jenkins,
Shropshire or Jenkins himself? The choice is yours.

It's close, but at least for me Shropshire leads by a couple of
strokes, primarily because Del Bonnet is a little less
predictable than Bobby Joe Grooves. For instance, when Grooves
admires a shapely adorable, he does little more than slobber over
the quality of her "rack." Bonnet is more discerning. His
girlfriend's nose, he says, looks just like the noses on "those
four-thousand-year-old Greek statues where there is no nose
because it has eroded away, but what the nose would look like if
it was still there. You know what I mean." Moreover, Grooves
emits an unending stream of ethnic gibes that not everyone will
find hilarious.

These books may not be poetry, but like golf itself, they offer
plenty of fun on a hot summer day.