You don’t have to be hooked on golf to enjoy Dave Andrews’ first novel, “Pops and Sunshine,” but it helps.
It also helps if you have an interest in the Duramed Futures Tour, because the novel centers around a fictitious young Futures Tour player who needs to win her final tournament of the year to finish in the top five on the money list and earn her LPGA card. The pressure on the heroine, “Lisa Nelson,” is intense because her father has died recently, leaving her mother with severe financial problems. Nelson promises her mother that if she doesn’t win the tournament, she will give up her dream of joining the LPGA Tour and return home to help support the family, which includes two younger brothers.
The plot thickens when a
50-plus member of the host club for the Futures finale meets Nelson and is talked into becoming her caddie. “Dave Johnston” is a solid amateur player who is perhaps the best putter and green reader at the club, called Oak Hill in Concord, N.H. His friends talk him into becoming Nelson’s caddie after Nelson joins the group for a practice round on the first day she arrives for the tournament. Johnston, who lost his own wife and daughter to a car accident five years earlier, can’t believe how much Nelson reminds him of his own dead daughter, who he nicknamed “Sunshine.” His daughter always called him “Pops.”
The relationship between Johnston and Nelson is intriguing. There’s plenty of good golf stories that any player can appreciate, and there’s also a love story between Nelson and Johnston’s nephew, a 21-year-old Harvard student named “Robbie,” who wants to become a sports agent.
I couldn’t put the novel down. In fact, I decided to read it during my vacation last week. I read most of it Tuesday afternoon, and I only put it down to attend a Tri-City ValleyCats baseball game. I finished the rest of the 50 pages of the 285-page book the next morning.
One of the things I really enjoyed about “Pops and Sunshine” was its realism. Andrews really captured what the Futures Tour is all about. I’ve covered the Futures Tour since it arrived in the Capital Region at Town of Colonie Golf Course 20 years ago, and Andrews, who researched the novel by attending numerous Futures Tour stops and even caddying for a player or two, is 100 percent accurate in the way he portrays the players, caddies, tour administrators and the press.
I wondered why he was so dead-on accurate in his description of the way The GolfChannel covers the Futures Tour, and Andrews explained when I contacted him during the week.
“I know the ins and outs of television, because I was a television news reporter for 30 years,” said Andrews, a 57-year-old Harvard graduate who is now retired from the news business and plays golf as often as he can.
“I’m really surprised how well this book has been received,” he said. “It’s my very first novel. I got inspired by watching these girls on the Futures Tour play at Beaver Meadow for the last three years. I was going to write a screenplay, and that’s the way I wrote it, at first. Since I’ve been in TV for 30 years, I think visually.
“But when I handed the manuscript fo some friends, they told me it was a great story, and that I should turn it into a novel. Since I had never written either a screenplay or a novel before, I thought I’d give it a try. I wrote it last winter. It took me about three months.”
Andrews said he gets the same reaction from most of the people — and reviewers — who read his book.
“Most of them say they read it in one night, and have a hard time putting it down,” Andrews said.
“With my reporter background, I really was able to observe the way the Futures Tour players acted. I picked up some things, and with some intuition, I was able to write a story around what I thought could happen to a player or two.”
Andrews followed the golden rule about writing about something he knew very well.
“That’s why I set the story in my hometown. It makes it easier. But I could have set it in Albany, for example, because I’ve seen a lot of places like that as hosts for Futures Tour stops.”
Part of the novel talks about the quarries around the Concord area, and Andrews said those descriptions come from experience.
“The quarries are drawn from my personal experience. I grew up around Concord, and everyone used to sneak up to the quarries to meet each other and have fun. Eventually, they closed off the area because it got too dangerous.”
Andrews, a 10-handicapper, also had no trouble keeping the golfing aspects of the novel realistic.
“That’s what I was hoping for,” he said. “I wanted golfers to like the book, but I’m also hoping that non-golfers will also like it, because it’s a good story. It’s not just a sports book.”
The book has received rave reviews from ESPN.com and Golf For Women magazine. It will be available Sept. 5-7 at the ILoveNY Championship at the Capital Hills at Albany. Andrews said he is hoping to make the trip to Albany to see how the sales go. For more information, contact http://popsandsunshine.com.
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