Book Review: Missing Links

by Roy M. Barineau, Ph. D. on December 20, 2012

Roybob’s Book on Golf: The Hucks, A Golfer’s Divine Comedy, and a Religious Philosophy of Golf

Book Review: Missing Links

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Rick Reilly, Missing Links, Random House, New York, 1996.

The Ponkaquogue Municipal Golf Links and Deli was named by Golf  Ilustrated as “possibly the worst golf course in America,” but it is home to a devoted group of players who call themselves “the Chops.” Among the Chops is the narrator, Ray Hart, otherwise known as Stick because of his exceptional golfing skills. Other Chops include Two Down (because the bet does not begin until he has lost twice), Hoover (because he sucks), Cement Head (because he is not too bright), Meltdown, Chunkin’ Charlie, Crowbar, Thud, and an attractive female pro shop assistant named Dannie.

One day, trying to recover his sphere, Hoover gets his ball retriever stuck in a hedge on the seventeenth hole. When Hover, Dannie, Stick, Cement Head, and Two Down yank on the ball retriever, they rip a two-by-three-foot gash that enables players to see the Mayflower Club.

In contrast to Ponkaquogue (or Ponky), the Mayflower Club is the nicest, wealthiest, most elite club on the Eastern seaboard. Ponky serves as the parking lot during the Mayflower Carousel, an elaborate four-day tournament. Golf Magazine ranks the Mayflower Club as the fourth best course in America. Members are required to prove that they are descendants of those who came to America on the Mayflower, and they are required to be wealthy. While Ponky was designed by Ronald Ross, the Mayflower course was designed by Donald Ross.

Ordinarily, a twelve-foot high brick wall shelters the Mayflower Club from any intrusion from Ponky, but here, behind the green at the seventeenth hole, a four-foot high electrical control box necessitated a break in the otherwise insurmountable wall. So, for the most part, the Chops get their first peek into what appears to be a golfer’s paradise.

Two Down soon conjures up what is described as “the best wager in the long and colorful history of Chopdom.” “Everybody puts up a thousand dollars. Cash. First Chop to play the Mayflower keeps it all.” Other than Two Down, though, there are only two takers, Dannie and Stick.

A large part of the book, up through page 158 out of a total of 278, consists of stories relating the humorous efforts of Two Down, Dannie, and Stick attempting through various means to play a round of golf at the Mayflower Club. Readers also learn about Stick’s background and a “secret weapon” which ultimately enables him to win the bet. Stick’s father is a member of the Mayflower Club. The problem is that Stick hates his father and only wants to utilize that connection as a last resort.

Although Stick wins the bet, both Two Down and Dannie have figured out their own ways to play the Mayflower, and now they are all playing there on a regular basis. Two Down assumes the identity of a formerly inactive member, and Dannie connects with a young Mayflower male by the name of Browning.

Two Down’s goal is to create a steady flow of winnings from the Mayflower members, but Two Down gets bettered by Stone Concorde. Stone is a cheater, but he wins thousands of dollars from Two Down. Two Down gains the upper hand when he discovers that Stone and Browning, Dannie’s boyfriend, are lovers. Browning, as it happens, is a cross dresser, and Browning’s relationship with Stone explains why Dannie and he have yet to consummate their relationship. Two Down’s upper hand falls down to the bottom when Stone learns Two Down’s true identity.

To settle matters, a double or nothing golf outing is arranged by Two Down. Two Down and Stick play Stone and Stick’s father for all the cash. They play nine holes at Ponky’s goat ranch, and they play nine more at the Mayflower. During the match, the Chops cheer for their side by employing “The Chop,” a mantra originating from the Florida State Seminoles. In the course of the match, Stick learns a lot about himself, and all is reconciled.

The book is a rather long read, but it is an entertaining read. One wonders, in light of the sequel, Shanks for Nothing, whether Reilly should have created a trilogy. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this golfing novel, and I am awarding Missing Links a full sleeve of balls.

For a related review see Shanks for Nothing.

Roybob’s Book on Golf: The Hucks, A Golfer’s Divine Comedy, and a Religious Philosophy of Golf

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