Denny Burke knows that a golfer's best resource isn't a putter or a three iron, but the ability to shut out the rest of the world and focus on the game. Burke has been doing that since he was a kid, rising from poverty to a scholarship at the University of Southern California. After graduation, he takes a job at a country club's pro shop, to rake in easy money while he considers joining the professional tour. It's here that he falls in love with Judy Faulkner, and his ability to ignore the outside world disappears.
Burke is hunting for a ball in the rough when he finds Bud Venier, priggish scion of one of the town's wealthiest families, lying dead in the chaparral. As the murder investigation turns the club upside down, Burke doesn't know if his next stop will be on the pro tour, or in the electric chair.
NO, YOU CAN'T SAY any of us saw it coming. Not even me, who did some of the hating, nor the killer, who in his way knew love. And certainly not Judy, any more than the other girl, the one named Olive; neither of them foresaw murder, though maybe they should have. For both were pretty enough, seductive enough, bold enough in body as well as mind, to understand the violence of lust.
The trouble was that they, being women, could conceive of only one variety of lust. They could not comprehend, for instance, the lust of golfers-no, nor the possessive, protective lust of fatherhood.
Which brings me to my own Dad.
I guess it's fair to say he really had only three good years. Those were his three varsity years at SC. He was All-Conference for those three years and All-American his last year. Maybe it's unfair to say that Dad never got over being a halfback. And maybe there's nothing wrong with that, only it wasn't for me. I knew that when I started high school.
I'm not putting the rap on Dad, understand. He fed me and clothed me and never played the heavy father. Mom was handy with a needle and she had an eye for style, so she kept us going through those periods when Dad was "between jobs." He was between a lot of them.
I grew up in a community that begins where Sunset ends, a place the Post Office Department calls Pacific Palisades but which actually is just another piece of Los Angeles. In my early years, it was a lower middle-class haven overlooking the sea. And then Beverly Hills filled up and Brentwood and Bel Air and the money people came out to the Palisades-the studio people and the native-son rich people-and it got to be quite a mixed-up little town.
Dad wanted me to go out for football in high school, but I didn't. I caddied after school and through the summers and earned some money. And saved it. I hoped to save enough to send me to college.
I learned to hit a golf ball.
Don't ask me what's important about hitting a golf ball well; I can only say it became important to me. It wasn't the competitive nor the social angle that appealed to me; I preferred to play alone.
When I was thirteen, I won the Southern California Junior Championship.
And Willie Partridge, the pro at the Canyon Country Club, told me he thought I had a future in golf.
Well, I thought, my dad had probably been told he had a future in football, too. I didn't give it too much thought, at the time. Even at thirteen, I'd talked to enough pros to know that tournament golf was a highly speculative profession and being a club pro wasn't anything that would make a man rich.
If you think it's cynical for a thirteen-year-old to worry about money, you're right. Or you're rich.
At the tender age of sixteen, during my senior year in high school, I carved out a 66 on the Canyon layout, playing the championship tees.
That's only six under par but, with the back tees, the Canyon course is a test and the papers played it pretty big.
Dad bought all the papers.
And after dinner, while Mom was doing the dishes, Dad said, "Have you seriously thought of golf as a career, Denny?"
"Not seriously," I said.
"Why not?" he asked-too quietly, almost humbly. "Golf isn't football," he went on. "Hogan, Snead, Mangrum, they're all crowding forty. And still playing."
"They're great," I pointed out. "They're-giants."
He nodded. "I think you are, too."
I'd never felt closer to him. There had been admiration in his voice, and regret. The admiration was for me and the regret for him. That was as far as he'd ever been from the All-American halfback.
I took a deep breath and looked at the worn living-room carpeting. My eyes were misty, for some reason. I looked up at him and shrugged.
"I could have gone pro," he said. "I was the number-one pick of the Green Bay Packers. Don't blame football for wha