Reviewed in the United States on November 17, 2007
First, in full disclosure, I went to MIT with the author. We were fraternity brothers and fellow physics majors. Unlike Reid, my natural athletic talents were much more modest. I recall watching Reid hit a tennis ball in college and think what the hell happened to my DNA. His movement was so natural and intuitive. I did not even know he played golf until he showed up at a pre-wedding golf outing years later. He tells the story in the book of how he pulled an all-nighter in surgery, drove from Ohio to Connecticut to get there right as we were teeing off, borrowed clubs, played barefoot and shot in the mid 70's. What he left out is that he was wearing tight black jeans on one of the hottest days that summer when we were all in shorts. Yet for him it was effortless. He was somehow just born to swing a golf club. He talks a lot in the book about the importance of the short game. I vividly remember on that golf outing he hit a ball that ended up resting between the fork in the roots of a large tree fifty or so yards from the green. There was no shot unless one had left handed clubs. He hit the ball with the back of his club to within a few feet of the hole for a birdie. I remember this hole so clearly because it was the day I gave up any serious idea that I would ever be a golfer. Thank you Reid for saving me and my family thousands of hours of wasted effort. I decided to be a mediocre tennis player instead.
With that disclaimer in mind, let me tell you why I think you non-golfers like me should read this book. Well obviously there is the simple fact that every book about golf is really a book about life and how to live it. This book is no exception to that rule, yet instead of getting a life lesson from some famous super pro like Tiger Woods with whom you probably have almost nothing in common, this book is about someone always on the edge of qualifying for greatness. It is about maximizing your talent to hang on and improve day by day in the hopes of getting a glimpse of greatness, of running with the big dogs even if in the back of the pack. It is about juggling your dreams with your professional career. It is also about learning to relax and enjoy every swing of the club and every rough and hazard and hole.
In many ways, the book is also about our world and our need to fit into it no matter how confusing and at times scary it might be. The stories about being a surgeon in Southeast Asia removing acid burned skin in a shower stall and performing delicate surgeries in urine smelling shacks were very powerful. It was also a much needed jolt for someone living in an affluent suburb to be reminded of the importance of giving and helping those in true need. The photos and stories of severely disfigured children whose lives were turned around by the skills of our clever surgeon were far more important to me as inspiration than the golf advice I will never really use. Lastly, I was brought back time and again to my college days whenever Reid found another amazing but elusive beauty among all of the poverty of Asia. Somehow, he was also able to do this at MIT. He would frequently show up with some young startlingly beautiful girl on his arm (for an MIT student without a medical degree this is harder than you might imagine).
To sum it all up, I guess what I got out of this book is not just to pretend you are keeping your dream alive by continuing to dream it, but to actually go after it with some degree of thoughtfulness. Figure out why you are not the best by studying those that are and then use that information to get as close to greatness as you dare. It's a great read. Enjoy