Coming Home, my first full length novel, is now available for pre-order on Amazon at
Here’s a sneak preview of the first chapter to give you a feel for the book until it launches on August 7th in time for The 100th PGA Championship at Bellerive. Hope you enjoy…
“It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. Then you realize what’s changed is you.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald
A week after suffering the biggest setback of his life in his first attempt at PGA Tour Qualifying School, Tyler decided to crawl back home in search of his coach Mack. In truth, he had nowhere else to go. In his most despairing moments, he had half entertained the idea of quitting the stupid game altogether and going to work in his old man’s garage. But, when Tyler stopped by to give him the obligatory explanation for what had gone wrong, that first smell of grease had unleashed a flood of memories that only reinforced why he had gone to college in the first place and what golf was for him: his ticket out of Poplar Bluff.
It’s not that Poplar Bluff was a bad place, but in Tyler’s mind, it was more one stoplight than bright lights; a small Midwest town just a bit too bereft of any real opportunities besides marrying his high school sweetheart and settling down to a life of comfortable mediocrity. A simple life whose highlights would have likely included coaching Little League, starring in the Thursday night softball league, and turning enough wrenches during the week that he’d have some extra spending money to play poker with his high school buddies on the weekend. Besides, that ship had sailed when Katherine, the girl who would have happily played Bonnie to his Clyde in just about anything if he’d just asked, and the only part of that vision he regretted leaving behind, had gone. He couldn’t blame her. She’d run off to chase her own dreams after he’d broken her heart by telling her he needed to chase his, none of which she had pointedly told him apparently included her.
His old man was another part of the problem. Jack Foster was larger than life in Poplar Bluff. A legendary high school quarterback who had gone on to star at Mizzou for three years; an All-American and Heisman Trophy runner-up. That was all before an ugly knee injury ended his NFL dreams and sent him back home along with his own high school sweetheart to start a business with his other true love: cars. Jack Foster was still a legend in Poplar Bluff, though. And, to get out from under that big shadow was what had led to Tyler disappointing his folks, and just about everyone else in town, by accepting a scholarship from rival Vanderbilt. He argued that it was one of the top golf programs in the country, and played a better schedule than Mizzou. But in truth, he was tired of being ‘Jack’s boy’ and wanted to strike his own course. Jack had been supportive of his son’s decision to play golf, partly because his own larger-than-life father, Jack Sr., had introduced Tyler to the game, and partly because Jack came to the realization that his ‘boy’ didn’t have the requisite size to likely make football or basketball something he could excel at.
“Hey, Pop,” Tyler said as he walked into the all-too-familiar sight of his old man with his head under the hood of someone else’s classic car.
“Son,” Jack Foster said in way of response without looking up from what he was doing. “Can you hand me a 3/16?”
Tyler did as he was asked, grabbing the wrench from the opened giant Snap-On tool chest that seemed to follow his old man around wherever he went.
Jack finished tightening up a couple more bolts and then finally broke the silence by grabbing a grease rag to wipe his hands and looking up from under the hood.
“So what are you gonna do now?” he asked.
“You heard?” Tyler asked.
“Of course I heard,” his old man said flatly. “You think we live in a vacuum here? I know this town’s a bit backwater for your big city tastes, son, but we have managed to get the Internet.”
“Well, I’m gonna call Mack.” Tyler said as if that statement alone was sufficient.
“Aren’t you a little worried you might have burned that bridge, son?” his old man said only half condescendingly. “The man only spent a decade teaching you how to play, and treating you like one of his own, and then you snub him when you likely could have used him most. Besides, I think your problems might run a bit deeper than just how you swing the club.”
Tyler listened to the rest of his old man’s I-told-you-so speech, partly out of respect and partly because he knew he had earned it.
“I’ll make it right, Pop,” Tyler finally said once his old man had said his piece. “I screwed up. I should have taken Mack. I know that now. But I had my reasons, and it just didn’t work out. Mack will understand, and he’ll help me get back on track.”
“So you’re not giving up on this thing?… I spent a good portion of what I had set aside to re-do the kitchen for your mother to finance your little meltdown. How are you going to pay for the next go-round? Where are you planning on living? The way I see it, you need a job, son.”
This was the part of the conversation Tyler had dreaded most. It was half statement, half offer. It was bad enough having to come back and explain to his old man what had happened, but having to ask for his help in the same breath was the worst part. He hadn’t finished his degree at Vanderbilt, falling 12 units short of a liberal arts degree that in the back of his mind would have allowed him to get a job as a P.E. teacher someday as a worst-case scenario. His eligibility had run out, and when he chose to go to Q-School that fall, instead of returning to Vandy to finish his degree, neither of his folks had been too happy. But they begrudgingly supported him, at least partly because they knew it was his dream and because everyone knew he was that good. The other part, Tyler suspected, was because his old man was getting to the age when he wanted to start taking a step back, and he needed help to do that. Tyler knew he half hoped that if the golf thing didn’t work out he could ultimately talk his son into coming back home to work in the garage, and they could put a plan in place for him to take it over someday.
The problem with that plan, and why Tyler had always resisted spending too much time around the garage, was that it meant giving up and giving in. Golf was his ticket out of Poplar Bluff, and he knew his old man would want a full-time commitment, which meant giving up on his dream. And he wasn’t ready to give up on a goal he’d been working toward for the past decade. Tyler also secretly felt that his old man resented the fact that his son might make it in a way that he never had. As good of a life as his old man had built for himself, and as much as he was still a legend around town, Tyler knew there was a part of his old man that still dreamed about what might have been. And when Tyler talked about getting out of Poplar Bluff, he would always disgustedly say something like, “This life isn’t good enough for you, son?” or “What do you think you’re gonna find out there you can’t have here?” He didn’t understand.
“I think Mack might take me on as an assistant,” Tyler finally replied. “That way I could work in the mornings and practice every afternoon until dark.”
Tyler knew that wasn’t the answer his old man wanted to hear, but he bit his tongue for the moment and simply said, “Well, even if he does take you on, son, that’s not enough money to live on. You plan on moving home or have you got other ideas?”
Tyler didn’t have other ideas, unfortunately. Moving back home after living large in Nashville as the ‘Big Man on Campus’, at least as large as a college golf star can, seemed like such a huge step backwards from what he’d gotten accustomed to, but he didn’t have a lot of other options at the moment.
“Would that be a problem?” Tyler finally said. “Between work and practice, and playing in all the local events I can get in, I really wouldn’t be there all that often.”
“I’ll talk to your mother,” his old man said after a long pause.
Tyler knew his mother wouldn’t object – in fact, she’d be ecstatic. He’d called on his way home to break the bad news to her ahead of going to see his old man and she’d already assured him he was more than welcome to move home for the time being until he decided what his next move was. Sure, she’d work on him every day, try to get him to settle down, listen to his father, and finish his degree so he’d have the backup plan that his own father never had. But in that brief call he’d understood that she relished the idea of having her only child home again.
“Thanks, Pop,” Tyler said. “I’m going to call Mack and see if I can go by and see him today.”