The Putting Green Whisperer
Suddenly unemployed, Allie Masterson returns home to Cary, North Carolina where she caddies for her father on the PGA Seniors Tour. There, she encounters a man who possesses an alluring gift of reading the contours of the green.
Fascinated with his uncanny ability, Allie is excited to meet the Green Whisperer—until she discovers the easygoing caddy is actually Shoo Leonard, the boy who teased her relentlessly when they were kids.
Despite Allie’s reservations, when Shoo is faced with having to overcome a hand injury, she agrees to use her sport science degree to become his trainer...and then she falls for him.
Shoo Leonard is grateful to Allie for her singular determination to get him ready for the PGA tour, but he isn’t ready for anything more. Still raw from a broken engagement and focused on his career, he’s content to be her fist-pumping buddy…but then he falls for her.
What seems like a happily-ever-after on the horizon takes a turn when Allie decides she’s become a distraction to Shoo’s career. Is it time for her to step away or can The Putting Green Whisperer find the right words to make her stay?
Allie turned the volume down on the radio and rested her forehead on the steering wheel. How would she unglue her behind from the seat and go inside?
After several moments, she sat up, bounced her knee against the locked steering wheel, and tapped down the sun visor, blocking the glare from October’s late afternoon sun. The rearview mirror reflected all her earthly stuff mounded in the back of the SUV. Would her old bedroom be available to dump her things, or was it now a storage or sewing room? Maybe Dad and Karen would direct her to the basement bedroom, which had once been used for guest overflow.
The front door was still painted Carolina blue to honor UNC. The dogwood in the middle of the yard had filled out from the spindly tree Mom planted a few months before she died. Except for the bushier tree, everything else looked the same as it had before she’d left North Carolina to live with Aunt Mae in Atlanta.
Now, seven years and a new stepmother later, she was back in Cary. Maybe that was a good thing. Since Aunt Mae had moved to California, nothing was left for her in Atlanta.
Allie drummed her thumbs against the steering wheel. Maybe she should’ve driven to California. Aunt Mae would’ve welcomed her. Allie had saved enough money from her spring and summer jobs to make the trip from Atlanta to the now defunct Florida position. Would her savings have taken her to California?
Sure. If she’d starved herself and had run on fumes the last hundred miles.
Allie grabbed her tan canvas bag from the passenger seat and got out of the car.
Mom, I need you. Ask your God to help Dad and I reconnect. Please.
After a chicken-hearted hesitation, she shouldered her canvas bag, stuffed her hands into her overalls pockets, and trudged up the slate walkway.
Midway through the doorbell chimes, Dad opened the door. “Allie!” His blue eyes were wide and his smile broad. “You don’t have to ring the doorbell.” He stood aside to let her in.
“Hey.” She crossed the threshold, passed Dad, and looked around for her not-so-evil stepmother. Karen’s plumeria scent hung in the air and interfered with the smell of home. “Where’s Karen?”
“It’s her bridge night.”
“Oh.” She pivoted to face him. Her rubber flip-flop refused to spin on the tile floor, and she stumbled.
Dad moved from the door, ready to steady her.
She regained her balance, and avoiding Dad’s eyes, flipped her ponytail over shoulder. Well, that was awkward.
Dad’s hands slid into his pockets. “I’m sorry the job in Florida lost its funding.”
Not as sorry as she was. “Yeah. Teaching golf to kids is my thing. The coaching job would’ve been perfect.”
“At least you didn’t drive all the way to Florida before you got the bad news.”
Dad looked…fresh. His eyes seemed brighter, and even with gray hairs at his temples, he looked younger. Handsome. More like the Dad she’d known pre-Mom’s car accident.
She looked down at her clothes. Why hadn’t she dressed in something nicer than her knock-around overalls and long-sleeved UNC T-shirt?
Dad drew his hands from his pockets and ushered her toward the living room. “Come in and have a seat.”
The front room was still set up as part sitting area and part game corner. Mom and Dad had seldom entertained, so Mom had decided it was ridiculous to waste a room for the possibility of company.
Allie averted her gaze from the table, where the three of them had played so many board games. But not quick enough. Man, the stab of pain to her heart hurt like a lightning strike.
They settled into white armchairs. Classical music wafted from Dad’s fancy sound system. A book lay open facedown on the round table beside his chair. Most likely one of his thrillers.
Now what would they talk about? The weather? The boring drive up from Atlanta? His blissful life with Karen?
Or maybe his sudden decision to return to the PGA to play golf on the Senior Tour? Please let it be the latter. Since he hadn’t played on the PGA tour since Mom died, his reasons for going back to pro golf was something she’d like to know.
Dad crossed one leg over the other and tapped his thumb against his knee.
Think. Say something. “How—”
“I—sorry, you go ahead.”
“No. No. What were you going to say?”
He paused. “I have a job that might interest you.”
Really? Where did Dad have clout to get her a job that had something to do with golf? She was in no position to turn down a job, but waitressing at Greenside Restaurant at Lochmere Golf Club would dry her out like beef jerky. Would she offend Dad if she asked to keep her options open for a week to see if she could find some kind of job teaching golf to kids? Hopefully, she appeared more interested than fearful. “What job is that?”
“How would you like to caddy for me for the rest of the Senior Tour? I’ll pay you the going percentage of my winnings.”
Her back left the chair. “You’re kidding!”
Dad’s shoulders relaxed. “I was hoping you’d react that way.”
“Caddy on the PGA Senior Tour? Well, yeah.”
“Talk about a dream job. This’s really fantastic, Dad.”
“Good. You start work the day after tomorrow here at Prestonwood. The tour ends in four weeks.”
Questions about her new job popped like popcorn. What caddy duties did he expect, other than those she’d done when she’d caddied for him in the past? Could she bring her clubs as they traveled from city to city? Would she have any of her own time to play golf? She took a breath to ask the first, when “Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog” broke the silence. Dad pulled his cell from his pocket.
No way! Classical-music Dad had “Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog” for his ringtone? She’d installed that same song on her own phone. Had he remembered from his first PGA come back—when she was his biggest fan—that the song was her favorite tune?
Dad looked as though he’d be on the phone awhile. Allie eased outside through the French doors off the sunroom and walked the short distance through the woods to the fourteenth hole on Carywood Golf Course. She perched on a tree stump at the edge of the tree line overlooking her favorite green.
Wow. Her homecoming was off to a good start. Four weeks on the Senior Tour, traversing the links with the over-fifty golfers she'd admired since she was fourteen. And she and Dad would travel together again. Just the two of them.
The Carywood course looked in good shape. Maybe she’d enjoy playing a round tomorrow—as soon as she unpacked the SUV. How she’d missed jogging through the woods to this hole early in the morning before the parade of golfers hiked up the rise in the fairway. There was nothing better than watching the morning sun rise over the green, turning dewdrops into diamonds. A breeze ruffled her bangs and cooled her face.
She could do so much for Dad’s game. He’d paid UNC big bucks so she could become a sports trainer. He could add conditioning and training to her caddying duties. That was, if the over-fifty pros did much training anymore. Picturing paunchy, balding men puffing while they worked the weights, she couldn’t help smiling.
Three balls dropped onto the green within minutes of each other. The raised green hid the fairway leading to it and the approaching golfers.
She breathed in to fill her lungs with North Carolina’s autumn scents. The aroma of steaks grilling nearby jarred the moment. At least her empty stomach seemed to think so.
The golfers’ chatter preceded their golf caps rising above the knoll. Their laughter rang out as four twenty-something guys gradually emerged. The length of their shadows on the Bermuda grass confirmed they’d have a tough time completing their round before dark.
Three of the guys drew out their putters and dropped their golf bags on the fringe of the green. The tall guy carried a putter but no golf bag. He strode to the flag and removed it. Why did he tote only a putter? She counted three balls on the green, which the other guys had claimed. As far as she could see, no fourth ball lay on or off the green. Curious.
Of the four, the tall guy was the most athletic-looking. He seemed at ease on the course. And his tan was deep. He probably spent many hours on golf courses.
Before each of the other three men putted, the tall one traveled the green, bending, squatting, and raising his putter like a plumb line. Then for each of his companions, he moved closer to the hole and pointed the toe of his putter to a spot on the green. All three took his advice and sank their putts.
Allie blinked. Wow!
The three men pitched their golf balls to various places on the green that were difficult to putt from. Were they planning to stop their play and practice putting? Couldn’t they see the sun was rushing to the horizon?
The tall guy moved to each ball, studied the green’s undulations, and then putted. Each ball sank home.
Who was this guy? He was like a dog whisperer possessing an eerie understanding of canines and their ways, except this guy could read the greens. The others were good, but Green Whisperer had a gift.
Engrossed in their play, the men hadn’t noticed her, but, boy, she wanted to stride over and shake Green Whisperer’s hand.
The golfers moved on toward the next tee.
As soon as their backs were to her, Allie rose and crept along the edge of the course, staying hidden as much as the trees allowed. If Green Whisperer borrowed a driver at the next tee, she’d get to see him drive. She had to know how far this guy’s golfing miracle went.
Once the men reached the tee, Allie stopped, crouched behind a young holly tree, and peered over its prickly leaves.
Green Whisperer stood away from the other guys. While Orange Shorts executed a few practice swings, Green Whisperer bounced a golf ball off his putter head as if it were a rubber ball tethered to a paddle. Confidence oozed from everything he did.
Her foot cramped. Sheesh! Wouldn’t popping up from behind the bush like a jack-in-the-box be a charming way to introduce herself? With fumbling fingers, she loosened her shoelaces. Biting her lip, she unfolded her leg behind her and stretched her toes toward her shin. The pain remained.
She stood and rocked her weight onto her toe. The cramp tightened. She hobbled farther into the woods and stamped her foot again and again. Once the muscle finally released its death grip, she skulked toward the holly tree, making sure she didn’t stumble on her shoelaces.
The pock, pock, pock from Green Whisperer's ball against the putter ceased. She froze. Had her cramp-dance drawn his attention? She peeked over the tree.
Green Whisperer craned his neck in her direction. She dropped to a squat, her ponytail catching on holly leaves and bending a prickly branch against her face. She remained motionless and bore the pain.
Crack! Orange Short's drive.
The pocking sound resumed.
Leaf by leaf, Allie freed her hair from the holly tree. A berry dropped into her mouth. Yuck. Were holly berries poisonous? Thpwoo. She wiped her tongue on her sleeve.
The threesome completed their drives, collected their golf bags, and marched toward their fairway lies, the irons in their golf bags rattling. Green Whisperer rested his putter over his shoulder and followed, whistling an upbeat tune.
If only he’d borrowed a driver and hit a drive from the tee. Then she’d know if he was a stunner. She turned away from the retreating men and strode home through the woods.
How could she find out who Green Whisperer was?
If she wasn't careful, she could become a fan—a groupie. A chuckle percolated inside.
As if Allie Masterson could be anyone's groupie.
Question 1: What do you think is behind Allie’s affinity for golf?
Answer 1: Golf is something she can control, demonstrates her self worth, and represents the times she was happiest with her father.
Question 2: Allie, her father, and Shoo have made mistakes that have affected each other and themselves. What do you think were (or are) their most harmful mistakes?
Answer 2: Mill chose to send Allie to her Aunt Mae’s rather than mourn and heal with Allie. His choice allowed him to sink further into depression and made Allie feel shut out. Too often Allie reacts quickly according to how she judges events. She makes mistakes when she thinks Shoo cheats to allow her father to win, Shoo has stood her up for a golf groupie, and Shoo’s father is his biggest problem. Shoo is hurthat she doesn’t believe the best about him. Shoo let young Allie out of the locker, but snuck way without telling her the truth. She has hated him for years. He takes Allie to his home without giving her warning. In her vulnerable state, she thinks Steve tells her to get out of Shoo’s life. Also, in Shoo’s blindness to Allie’s romantic feelings, he hurts her when the dates he asks her on aren’t dates.
Question 3: Shoo respects Olympic runner Eric Liddell as his role model and wants to be a good sports example for youth. How important do you think sports role models are for youth today? What are the pros and cons?
Answer 3: With so many fathers absent from homes today, I think children are going to look to celebrities for role models. I’ve observed my son admiring faithful Christian football players, making him want to be a better Christian. Sports role models have the opportunity to display perseverance, team loyalty, and honesty. However, when an athlete succumbs to such vices as spouse abuse, game gambling, adultery, lying, or addictions to alcohol, drugs, or sex, this can devastate youth, who either think doing these things is OK or give up trying to be better persons.
Question 4: Allie doesn’t intend to fall in love with Shoo. Whether she realizes them or not, which of his qualities do you think draws Allie to Shoo?
Answer 4: He loves golf as she does, his golf ability is exceptional, he shows interest in her as a person, he welcomes her to use her expertise to help him, and he doesn’t allow her wrong judgments to drive him away.
Question 5: Because of his past family problems, Shoo’s pro golfer father advises Shoo to choose a career other than pro golf, but Shoo believes God’s calling him to be a golf role model. He wants to honor his father and God. He wants to play pro golf and have a family. Have you experienced a similar dilemma? What were your opposing options, how did you resolve your predicament, and what were the results?
Answer 5: I believed God called me to befriend a widow in her eighties. I worked a demanding job and didn’t want to give up part of my Saturdays to visit her. I obeyed God and was blessed by our ten-year friendship.
Question 6: How does Shoo’s relationship with Allie change and grow, and how is his relationship with God involved in this process?
Answer 6: At first, Shoo sees Allie as a ministry. His belief that God has called him to befriend her, keeps him going when she wrongly judges him. When she loyally joins him in his golf goals, he considers her his best friend. He believes God has orchestrated her to be his trainer, affirming his golf career. As in a team or marriage, he begins to depend on her and wants to spend non-golf time with her and take her home to meet his family. When his eyes are opened to her romantic love for him, he believes God has chosen her for him and that he can have a career and a family.
Question 7: How does Allie’s involvement in Shoo’s career change during the story, starting from when she first witnesses his green-reading gift?
Answer 7: She wants to meet the golf wonder; his golf expertise and his past ill treatment of her cause inner conflicting feelings; she knows her expertise could help him; she’s excited to be his trainer; his career success becomes her goal; she considers his father or any obstacle to his career and success an enemy; she overstep boundaries in expressing her opinions; she becomes his main source of encouragement; she’s willing to do anything to get him ready; she’s willing to take her “enemy’s advice for Shoo’s good; she sacrifices her love for Shoo for his career; she wants to do her job as his caddy; and she submits to Shoo’s belief that their relationship with each other and Jesus is more important than golf.
Question 8: In Chapter 8, Shoo refers to Proverbs 27:17: As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another (NIV). What do you think Shoo meant by this verse in referring to Allie?
Answer 8: Allie willingly comes alongside of Shoo, trains him, and pushes and encourages him, helping him to be the best golfer he can be.
Question 9: Under her shirts, Allie wears a cross pendant. What do you think the cross symbolizes about her faith?
Answer 9 She’s angry with God and delegates Him to the “closet” beneath her shirt. It also represents her Christian mother that she keeps close to her heart. She’s forced to bring God out of the “closet” to help others. When it’s lost it symbolizes her state of being a lost sheep and what a tragedy it is to lose faith.
Question 10: What characteristics make Allie and Shoo so opposite?
Answer 10: Shoo is patient; Allie rushes into everything. He’s calm; she’s intense. Shoo has a strong relationship with God; Allie is angry with God. Shoo thinks his career is important, but so are his relationships with family, friends, and God. At first, Allie harbors distrust with her father, Karen, Shoo, his friends, and his father and then, if they pass her judgment, she becomes loyal to them. Shoo doesn’t want a romantic relationship and enjoys his friends, including Allie. Allie doesn’t want a romantic relationship, including one with Shoo, but falls hard for him.