Miracle on the 17th Green

Miracle on the 17th Green

BY James Patterson & Peter de Jonge

Just when we need some magic in our lives, bestselling author James Patterson and Peter de Jonge bring us a stirring tale of life, love, and the power of miracles.

Travis McKinley is an ordinary man living an ordinary life—he has a job that he despises, a marriage that has lost its passion, children from whom he feels disconnected, and at age fifty, a sense that he has accomplished nothing of consequence with his life. But on Christmas Day, he goes out to play a round of golf, and for the first time, he finds himself in the "zone". He sees the putting line that has eluded him for years. Always a fairly good golfer, he finds himself playing like a pro and is so caught up in his excitement that he continues to play, sinking putt after putt, missing Christmas dinner with his wife and family. It is too much for his already troubled marriage.

His family collapes—but Travis is soon too busy living his dream to notice. His amazing new golf skills catapult him into the PGA Senior Open at Pebble Beach, where he advances to the final round with two of his heroes, Jack Nicklaus and Raymond Floyd. And with his wife, children,and a live television audience watching, a miracle takes place on the 17th green that will change Travis, and his family, forever.

Part One | A Little Noise from Winnetka


THAT NIGHT, the Midwest got blitzed by the first real snowstorm of the winter. The town Billy Sunday couldn’t shut down, was.

Although I welcomed the closed offices and the temporary interruption in the flow of junk mail and bills, I was dying to get back on the course and find out if I could still see the line on my putts. Was my improvement permanent, or just a blip in the cosmos, a one-day Christmas gift from God?

It was five days before the snow had melted enough for me and my regular golfing buddies, Ron Claiborne, Joe Barreiro, and Charles Hall, to drive out to Medinah, one of the best courses in the country, where Ron’s father-in-law was a member.

Medinah is a long, narrow, nasty test of golf. When it hosted the U.S. Open in 1990, the best score all week was a 67 by Hale Irwin.

That’s exactly what I shot. With all the bonus payouts for greenies, birdies, sandies, presses, and double presses, my winnings were more than enough to buy lunch and drinks in the Men’s Grill.

That afternoon, we had the place to ourselves. As we sat in one corner of the huge wood-paneled room, shooting the breeze and stewing in our ripe middle age, I picked up a spoon and banged it on Ron’s half-empty Amstel Light.

“Gentlemen, I’m glad all of you are sitting down, because I have a rather shocking announcement,” I said.

“You’re getting a vasectomy,” said Ron. “Congratulations.”

“Talk about flogging a dead horse,” said Joe.

“I’m going to the Senior Tour Qualifying School.” I said, interrupting the high hilarity. “Starts two weeks from today in Tallahassee.”

The silence was deafening. I’d been playing with these guys for twenty-five years. They were all top local amateurs and former college players, and until the sudden improvement in my putting, I don’t even know if I was the best player at the table.

“It takes more than one sixty-seven to go up against Lee Trevino and Jimmy Colbert every week,” said Ron finally. “You’re completely out of your fucking mind, and that’s putting it politely.” It was almost as if he was angry.

“I appreciate your confidence,” I said. “Really, I’m touched. I’ve broken par six nines in a row, and something wild has happened with my putting.”

“No shit,” said Joe.

“But that’s not the point,” I said. “The point is it’s what I want to do, and for once before it’s too late I’d like to know what it feels like to at least try to do what I want.”

“You’ve already got the cushiest job in the Western World,” said Joe. “You rotate the superlatives in McDonald’s jingles. I mean, how many things can you come up with that rhyme with ‘sesame seed bun’?”

“I hate it,” I said with a vehemence that surprised even me. “And I’ve hated it every day for twenty-three years.”

“Time sure does fly when you’re having fun,” said Charles.

“Listen,” Joe said as he put a hand on my shoulder, “if you’re really in trouble at the agency, call Stan Isaacs at the Tribune. He’d hire you in a second.”

I groaned out loud. “I am in trouble at the agency. The word is they’re canning twenty percent of the department. They’re just waiting till after Christmas. But that still isn’t the goddamn point.”

“We can’t seem to get the point, fellas,” said Charles.

“I’m tired of groveling for the right to go on doing something I don’t want to do in the first place. The other day I walked by Simon’s room, where he was listening to some CD, and this angry grunge chant was coming through the door. Maybe I’m destined to be stuck in adolescence forever, but I knew exactly what those teenage mutant slackers meant. I know the life they’re all afraid of—I’m living it.”

“It’s turtles,” said Joe, “and by the way, Travis, what does the lovely and talented Sarah have to say about your sudden athletic ambitions?”

“Actually, I haven’t told her,” I said. Confided is probably the word I should have used.

Suddenly, three middle-aged men started laughing so hard that tears were soon streaming down their grizzled cheeks.

Not a word from any of them—just laughter. Not a believer in the bunch.

Copyright © 1996 by James Patterson

Read by Hal Linden

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Miracle on the 17th Green
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