2006: ‘Paper Tiger’ addresses the Tour dream, with a few short misses

For every daydreamer who has ever hovered over a 10-footer on his club’s practice green and imagined the twisting birdie putt was the only thing standing between him and a green jacket, or peered at a Sunday PGA Tour telecast and wondered what life inside the ropes is like, Tom Coyne has created the dreamer’s manifesto.

“Paper Tiger” is the payoff to that bet you make with your club’s single-digit stud. Think you can hit it like a tour pro? Coyne put a year of his life, and every penny he could squeeze out of his Visa card, on the line to find out. With the right instructor, workout regimen, diet, equipment and environment, Coyne set out to transform himself from hapless hacker to a play-for-pay predator.

For 12 months, Coyne lived an enviable dream in an attempt to beat the odds, and his easy storytelling ability humorously walks the reader through every anxiety-filled moment. From his commitment to the curious cause to his single-minded focus, Coyne – whose previous work includes “A Gentleman’s Game” – weaves an insightful and entertaining tale.

Yet while the concept of “Paper Tiger” is universally intriguing, the execution is at times cumbersome and confusing. Coyne, a weekend player with a single-digit USGA handicap index at the start of his odyssey, blithely waxes over the quantum leap it must have taken to devote an entire year to what almost certainly would be a lost cause. However, a few chapters later he prattles on for eight monotonous pages about each specific flaw in his golf swing. You know the drill: keeping the club head in front of you, posting on your left leg, early release in wrists. This may play well on The Golf Channel’s “Playing Lessons from the Pros,” but in print it’s just clumsy.

Like many pros, Coyne also becomes obsessed with distance, and he spends a great deal of energy and ink addressing the subject. His revelations about the power game are sometimes insightful, such as his observation about steroids: “If they can ever find a way to put long and straight in a needle, trust me, somebody will be taking hits at the turn.” But other times, he is in error, as when he writes, “Let’s face it – they’re not playing U.S. Opens at Merion anymore.” The Ardmore, Pa., club reportedly is a lock to host the 2013 championship.

But for all of Coyne’s miscues, his self-deprecating writing style and impeccable comedic timing make “Paper Tiger” a tale worth reading. Especially for anyone who has ever dreamed of climbing the pro golf mountain, one range ball at a time.

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