Monday, May 25, 2009

A Weekend in the Netherlands

After his mediocre start of the season, Sam did not expect to be chosen for the Belgian national team. Surprisingly, however, he was picked to travel to the Netherlands with the team to practice for the upcoming European Team Championships.

Ten boys participated in this weekend training session. Only six will end up playing. Sam still thinks he will be will not make the final cut but is now confident he will be picked next year after many of the top players leave for college. He returned with a smile. The team stayed in a swish Hilton Hotel in Utrecht and the course was superb.

“I’m beginning to feel like I belong,” he says.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Author Frustrations

Book promotion feels frustrating these days. I worked almost two years to complete Shooting For Tiger and a week in New York and Philadelphia has showed me how much of a struggle it will be to sell it. Yes, I appeared on television and radio shows. Yes, I met with my publishers and came up with a plan for sparking additional coverage and excerpts. Yes, I sat in front of the pro shop at the Upper Montclair Country Club during the LPGA tournament last weekend and sold a total of 25 books.

My first three books received extensive reviews in publications ranging The Washington Post to the Wall Street Journal. This time, almost no reviewers have responded. Why? I’m not quite sure. Certainly, newspapers are struggling. Perhaps books on a sports theme gain less traction than ones on food and wine. Whatever the reason, it feels like an uphill struggle to get a full hearing.

When I took a book leave, I remember some friends asking whether I was crazy. Why put my full-time journalism job at Dow Jones in jeopardy for a book project which paid little and which offered little chance of true commercial success? The answer was that I needed a break and saw this book as a journey with my family.

And it has been a great journey. We traveled two months together throughout the United States, visiting parts of my homeland that I never have thought I would see – Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio – and much, much more. I was paid to explore a subject close to my heart – parenting. I also had the freedom and time to play many rounds of golf on terrific golf courses with my son.

Now my children have a book to treasure for the rest of their lives. Even if I sell no copies and never make another cent on this project, I feel blessed.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Success Without Dad

Maybe it is best to stay far away from Sam. While I am in the United States promoting the gook , he entered a tournament for under 18s at a diabolical Belgian golf course near Leuven called Winge. I say diabolical because, on several holes, it slices through woods offers blind shots or plays at near 90-degree vertical to narrow greens. It is easy to lose balls and take triple or quadruple bogeys.

In the first round, Sam told me afterward how he found his touch to shoot a two-over-par 74 –the best score of the day of all age groups. In the second day, he is leading by two strokes until the 17th hole – perhaps the trickiest, worst-designed on the entire course. He drives into the woods, pitches out, makes it to the green in three – and then, nervous, three putts. He finishes with a 76.

The tournament goes into a playoff. His opponent is Matthias Bosmans, one year old and full-time student at a sports academy in Flanders. Bosmans is member of Winge and a large crowd is cheering him. But he, too, seems nervous, missing a five footer on the 18th hole.
On the first extra hole, Sam leaves a birdie putt inches short. On the second, he finds himself squeezed behind a tree and must hit to the open part of the green. Bosmans hits close – and sinks the birdie putt for victory.

But when I return from the States, Sam says he still feels good about himself and his game.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Book Tour Thing

Most authors tell you they hate book tours, going from interview to interview, repeating the same old story. But this tour in NY has been fun. I've had a chance to visit friends at the Wall Street Journal and they just came out with a nice interview.

And here's a great new interview with an Orlando radio station:

Danger signs for parents

Today, I am off to Philadelphia to do yet more interviews. Will keep you posted.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Promoting The Book

On the plane to New York, I write Sam and express my concerns that I am putting too much pressure on him. At the same time, I tell him that I want to support hi own ambitions and make sure he receives the opportunities to achieve them.

I tell him that I am proud of the man you have become and that has nothing to do with golf. I was thrilled to see your good report card from school and really believe you are on the right track in life.

Golf must remain first and foremost a game to have fun.

I’m coming to the States to promote the book. I have been appearing on sport radio talk shows across the country and now am scheduled to participate in a few television shows and do a book signing at the Sybase LPGA event in New Jersey next weekend.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sam Struggles - And So Does Dad

Sam played today in the AFG Grand Prix. If he scored well, he would be picked for the Belgian national team. At the upcoming European team championships The setting was a hilly golf course called Falnuee. It runs only about 6000 yards, but has narrow, forest-lined fairways and requires many second shots to hilltop greens.

Perhaps the pressure was too much. Or perhaps the round just exemplified the vagaries of the game. Sam was cruising along until the seventh hole, a par five, when he hit a magnificent drive almost 300 yards. He had only a three wood to the green. But he sliced two shots out of bounds and ended up with a catastrophic nine.

To his credit, he fought back and hit a number of sparkling shots during the rest of the round.

But four makeable birdie putts lipped out and he ended up nine over, missing the cut by two

Afterward, he was visibly disappointed and so was I for him. I began to fear that I had moved from encouraging to pushing. By trying to help you figure out an ambitious golf program and encouraging him to be recruited, have I upped the pressure on him too much?

I am going to step back.

Monday, May 4, 2009

More Exceprts

The Global Post, a cool new internet news service based, in Boston, has published a series of three excerpts of the book, along with my photos. The combination looks great.
Part One is a general introduction.
Part Two tells the story of golf academies.
Part Three recounts the rise of Korean junior golfers.

Hopefully, more excerpts soon will come.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Junior Junior Golf

This time, it was eight-year-old Ben and ten-year old Julia’s chance to perform. The Belgian golf federation has a wonderful series of tournaments for preteens called the Scapa Tour. The kids play nine shortened holes, and the atmosphere is more of pleasure than competition.

This is Ben and Julia’s second year playing the Scapa. Neither is as avid a golfer as their older brother. They don’t like to practice and prefer other sports or activities. Julia, in particular, was scared about playing in a golf tournament. But they can hit the ball and surprisingly adored the Scapa events. They played in one tournament near Antwerp – and then on the seaside at a fabulous links course just outside of Ostend.

This year’s first event is near Waterloo at a hilly layout called Empereur set in verdant farmland. Like in any high-level golf tournament, starters announce the players. On the first hole, a 100-yard par three, Ben stepped up and whacked a five iron right near the hole. For a split second, it seemed to be going in. “Almost champagne, Benjamin,” said a stunned starter from the Belgian federation. Ben proceeded to three putt. Throughout the rest of his round, he showed the same tendency to hit a magnificent shot, followed by several imprecise strokes. He finished with four points (one point for a bogey, two for a par, three for a birdie), far down in the competition for eight year olds.

Julia shares the same erratic tendencies as her brother. She can hit a bal nicely, but struggles close to the greens. After a slow start, she surprises herself on the ninth hole by sinking a long putt (it lingered on the lip before falling in) and responded with a Tiger-style fist-pumping celebration. Like her younger brother, she also finished with four points and well down the standings.

But her smile coming off the ninth green was champion-sized. “I had a great time,” she beamed. “Me too,” added brother Ben.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Publication Approaches

The Wall Street Journal today published an excerpt of the book about Vicky Hurst. It looks great and my hopes are rising that Shooting for Tiger will be a success.

The official publication date is on May 4. Despite the Journal success, I know from previous experience as the author of three books that publishing is a bit of a crap shoot. Why one book sells and another does not remains a mystery . Success requires talent, but also luck. My previous works received good reviews in prestigious publications including the Journal, the Washington Post, and the New Yorker. Yet they sold modestly.

I keep my expectations in check. After the Journal article appears, I see the book gets a sales bump, but then quickly falls back in the rankings to around 9,000.