A Sense of Huber: A book is born

Four Days in July
Getty Images & St. Martin's Press
Tom Watson's near win at the 2009 Open Championship at Turnberry was one of the game's most glorious and heartbreaking moments.
Jim Huber

Series: A Sense of Huber

Published: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 | 9:02 p.m.

It's often been said that writing a book is the male version of giving birth.

If that's the case, I had triplets this week…without anesthesia.

A Sense of Huber

PGA.com's Jim Huber provides his thoughts and love of golf and invites you to enjoy and share your passion for the game.

"Four Days in July", published by St. Martins Press, is the story of Tom Watson's exhilarating, excruciating duel with destiny at Turnberry in the 2009 Open Championship.

The title obviously is a reference to the tournament but it could just as easily have been titled "Seven Days in July" for it takes you from the very first day of practice to the last of 76 holes of championship golf…and beyond.

Though this is my third book, it's not like I churn them out, a la John Feinstein or James Patterson. My first, "The Babes of Winter", the story of the old Atlanta Flames and hockey's Southern beginnings, was written in 1976 and promptly forgotten. I think it sold 275 copies and the rest disappeared when the publisher's warehouse somewhere in Alabama burned to the ground (all of which apparently makes that little tome a collector's item: Amazon has rare copies starting at $99, about $90 more than the original price)

My second, "A Thousand Goodbyes", was the story of my father's final 15 months and our relationship. It reviewed nicely and was ready for a good run when the world changed forever. It came out, you see, about two weeks before 9-11 and was lost in the backwash. I remember sitting on the set at CNN, ready for some hype, when we were interrupted by a live shot of some white powder somewhere. Neither the powder nor I turned out to be anything that day. Burned by a jihad.

And so here I am, ten years later, hitting what few shelves are left around the book world with another labor of love, in the strictest sense of both words.

While I enjoy the exercise that writing a book offers, I detest the minor details, like number of words. In my job as a television essayist, I deal with minutes, not words. It's rare to be allowed more than a couple hundred seconds, frankly, since most of my efforts simply interrupt action or Charles and Kenny. A publisher, meanwhile, usually asks for a minimum of 80,000 words to give the book bulk and format.

I can't tell you how difficult that can be. I will write and write, squeezing everything I can out, only to check the word count function and find I'm sitting on 35,000!! Good gracious, where am I going to find another 45,000?

"Relax," my editor would say, "breathe deep, take it easy. You can do it."

And I could feel the contractions.

I am an anxious writer. Producers will tell you that I will have a script on their desk almost before they ask for it. Writing a book, however, is a different task. The research is laborious. I spent a week on the Champions Tour, picking the brains of men like Nick Price and Lee Trevino, their impressions of what Watson accomplished still indelibly etched on their hearts. I took a full morning out of Tom's schedule, looking back four months later. Stewart Cink, who knew the subject of my book, still was generous with his time as he took me through his own week at Turnberry and the hoorah that followed.

Some of the book deals with the aging athlete and, more importantly, the yips. Doctors broke down the cruel disease, men like Ian Baker-Finch and Price took me through how debilitating it can be.

More than anyone, however, it was Watson's erudite caddie Neil Oxman who gave my book both detail and soul. A bright and thoughtful man, Oxman splits his time between looping for Tom and running his own political consultancy, directing campaigns for mayors and governors nationwide. And in what spare time he has, he reviews movies for NPR. Without his help, "Four Days" would have been a rather lifeless offering.

And so it is out and my breath returns. It has a face, it has a name, it has a spine, and one hopes it has a voice. These are not good times, they tell me, for the book industry but some stories just need to be told and I believe strongly this is one of them.

They've graciously given me this column to talk golf and I've interrupted that this week. My apologies but I had this baby to deliver.


I take comments and questions every week here through a variety of outlets. Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, Pony Express.
This comes via e-mail (askjimhuber@turner.com) from Jerry Jacovitz:

You were very kind in assessing J. Smoltz's golf game… I watched him play Glavine on one of the D. Trump shows, and there was nothing about his game that made me think he was anywhere near a PLUS 2 handicap. He got waxed by Glavine, who also is no PLUS 2 handicap…

As a point of reference, Pat Perez stated his handicap was probably a PLUS 6 - yet that only makes him a journeyman on the PGA tour fighting for status. Pat can really play…

My index is 0.9 and I would love a crack at Smoltz…

Jerry, I think John learned a lot about himself and his golf game during that Nationwide outing. He still has designs on a Champions Tour career and knows he has a long ways to go-and some time yet-to reach that level. Funny how the competitive juices just never stop flowing, isn't it? Take a baseball out of his hand and he has to find a replacement, quickly.