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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

June 23, 1996|MICHAEL HARRIS

THE GAME FOR A LIFETIME by Harvey Penick, with Bud Shrake (Simon & Schuster: $21; 208 pp.). Harvey Penick died last year at 90, just after his pupil Ben Crenshaw won the Masters golf tournament for the second time. Barring communications from the Great Beyond, this fourth book of instruction and homespun philosophy will be our last word from America's favorite golf teacher. Like its predecessors, beginning with "The Little Red Book," this volume is a distillation of the wisdom Penick acquired in seven decades as a club pro and 33 years as golf coach at the University of Texas. The book is aimed at the "seasoned player"--old in playing experience if not in years.

In "The Game for a Lifetime," Penick tells us why he declined to fix the swing of Leaping Lucifer, an amateur who had learned all too well how to compensate for his faults. He tells us how a caddie, rather than any of his club's highly educated members, rescued a cow stranded in an ice storm. He offers a solution to "Waxo's puzzle"--an aging sportswriter's lament that he hit all his irons the same distance--and elaborates on what the maxims "sweep the grass," "clip the tee" and "take dead aim" really mean. The dozens of short chapters here include anecdotes about famous players, an account of Penick's last days and an epilogue by his son, Tinsley. As always, it's Penick's personality that keeps us reading. It's ironic that the man's reputation for bedrock decency and indifference to financial reward should have become, at the end of his life, the inspiration for several multimillion-dollar businesses, including this series of books. Too late to do Penick much good, but also too late to spoil him.

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