BookWalking with Jack: A Father’s
Journey to Become His Son’s Caddie
Don J. Snyder ’72
Doubleday (2013)

 

No one can accuse Don J. Snyder ’72 of living an unexamined life. Novelist, nonfiction writer, and memoirist, the author of The Cliff Walk has spent his career reflecting deeply on relationships, real and fictional.

In his latest memoir, Walking with Jack: A Father’s Journey to Become his Son’s Caddie, Snyder turns his unflinching gaze to the story of his pursuit of a dream—to caddie for his son Jack, a college golfer with PGA aspirations, on the professional tour.

That Snyder had never caddied—had never even used a caddie—did not deter him. A few months after a farewell father-son golf trip to Scotland, Jack begins his collegiate golf career at the University of Toledo; Snyder heads in the other direction, the venerable courses of Scotland to begin his life as a caddy.

It’s 2008. He’s a 57-year-old American with a bum knee. One golf course rejects him after learning he’s a writer. Another course allows him in, and the professional caddies, a platoon of weather-beaten, philosophizing veterans, see him as a curiosity but take him on. He may be Don J. Snyder the writer back home, but to them he’s “Donnie” who could use a pointer or two.

Snyder and his compatriots are like hunting guides, ushering golfers from around the world along the challenging Scottish links, imparting advice like diplomats. Snyder knows his golf and golf history, and the anecdotes are sprinkled like birdies throughout.

But this is more a book about a father and son and their fitful relationship than it is a book about golf.

Jack Snyder is kicked off the team for bad grades, loses his bid for a full-ride scholarship, and two dreamers—father and son—are rudely awakened.

But Snyder won’t give up on his son and returns to Scotland for a second caddying season. Jack eventually graduates from the university and decides to give the pro tour a shot. Father and son are reunited as golfer and caddy for a satellite tour in Texas.

It would spoil the suspense—and Snyder’s hole-by-hole account of the tournament rounds is close to gripping—to reveal Jack Snyder’s fate on the tour. And in the end, this is a book about trying to hold onto something—children, defining moments, innocence—that slips through our fingers no matter what.

“Part of falling in love with all of you when you were babies,” Snyder writes of his four children, “was believing that I would have you forever. And there was a moment when it became clear to me that I wouldn’t.”

But he won’t let go without a fight, or at least without doing everything possible to create those special times and commit them to memory. Even non-golfers will find it worthwhile to follow him around the course.