The Prodigy by John Feinstein

‘Stage fathers always wanted complete control, and anyone who threatened that control—whether from the inside or the outside—was usually thrown off the island.’

Teenage golf phenom Frank Baker is not just country-club good, not just amateur-tourney good, he’s Masters ready. But the Perryton Prodigy will have to weather the grind and pressure of that 5 inches between his ears (Thanks Bobby Jones), and the varied demands of those around him. Frank and his talent are stuck right in the middle. An Earl Woods of a father, a corporate ‘players representative,’ his hometown swing coach, and a world-weary journalist all vie for his ear and his trust as he just tries to concentrate on getting that little white ball in the hole.

Coming off a good showing at the US Amateur the year before, the expectations are high for the now 17-year-old. The first half of the book places Frank in Los Angeles competing in the current Amateur championship. A series of ups and downs on and off the course drives the tension as his trust in his swing is tested time and again. His success there propels him to golf’s holy land in Augusta. Will Frank’s dad back off and let him play, or will Thomas Baker’s overreaching desires for money and fame get the better of him?

Feinstein gives us an accurate look at what it’s like to live in the world of an up-and-comer on the circuit. The writer’s expertise is apparent from the details of life inside the ropes. Yet, the writing doesn’t get bogged down in the minutea of the sport; he keeps the drama high and the human element intact.

I absolutely love how Feinstein places anecdotes about tour pros throughout the text. He also writes in some of the PGA Tour’s biggest stars as significant characters. This is in no way name-dropping or heavy-handed, but provides valuable insights for Frank and the reader.

The Prodigy is an outstanding read. It may be labeled as a young adult novel, but I found topics and themes that would be compelling for any reader. I would say that someone should have some knowledge of golf, yet the author does provide good background info throughout. Very fun read, with great commentary on the game and the roles parents and others should have in the development of young athletes. Highly recommended.

5 out of 5.

Releases on August 28th.

Thank you to NetGalley, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and John Feinstein for the advanced copy for review.

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