Author tells tale of quest to break par

For years a question rattled around in the back of John Richardson’s mind: Could a gainfully employed family man who struggles to break 100 improve fast enough to shoot level par on his home course in the space of a year without upending his domestic or professional lives?

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That question became an obsession, at which point Richardson began taking lessons, collecting training aids, consuming golf magazines, books and videos at a voracious pace, and beating balls until 10:30 p.m. or later at Blackwood Golf Centre while Lesley, his golf widow, sat at home watching “West Wing” DVDs.

The Northern Irishman’s effort resulted in “Dream On,” which became something of a sensation when released in the United Kingdom last year. Skyhorse is launching the book in America this month.

Richardson saw fast improvement but hit a wall because of shoddy putting and “the fragility of my mental game.” So he immersed himself in the writings of Bob Rotella, Timothy Gallwey and others, and introduced us to mental strategies such as “anchoring” and “tapping.”

Though he finally achieves his goal – we can share the ending because, let’s face it, there wouldn’t be a book if he hadn’t – Richardson concludes that he has a “slightly plastic game” that doesn’t travel well beyond Blackwood. Not that he cares. His desire to improve “instantly disappeared” upon achieving his goal.

To Richardson’s credit, though the process was self-indulgent, his writing is not. He continually brings the book back to themes readers will understand: the strains of family life, not making excuses, overcoming obstacles, the search for contentment. He came to view the challenge as a catalyst for changing his life. He quit his job, found more satisfying work and resolved to spend more time with his wife and child.

The title of the book comes from a dismissive comment by Sam Torrance when asked if Richardson had a chance of achieving his goal. In the epilogue, Richardson turns that comment on its head.

“Don’t let your final living thought on this earth be: ‘I wish I had . . .’ Far better that it was, ‘I’m so glad I did . . .’ And be sure to ignore anyone who says it isn’t possible. . . . Dream on.”

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