Putting for Paddy

March 17: Those looking for a reader's way to toast Ireland on this St. Patrick's Day might consider Tom Coyne, the Irish-American golfer-writer who wrote A Course Called Ireland: A Long Walk in Search of a Country, A Pint and the Next Tee. Forty golf courses in four months, all arrived at by walking around the coast of the ancestral homeland. Readers can judge for themselves the appropriateness of Coyne's two opening quotations:

Think you're escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home. (James Joyce, Ulysses)

It's no simple business being mad. (Paddy from Westport)

Another quotation has near-epigram status, this from early in the book when Coyne attempts to sell his wife on his big idea. "The greatest round of golf ever attempted," says Coyne, "I might end up in the Guinness Book of World Records." With which his wife concurs: "You'll end up in the Guinness. That sounds about right." Of Coyne's three topics, golf certainly takes third place, but the love of the pint doesn't often beat out the love of the country. The following comes at the walkabout's halfway point, Coyne having reached a rope suspension bridge near the coastal village of Ballintoy, County Antrim:

The Carrick-a-Rede bridge had been suspended over the waters of the Atlantic for hundreds of years, used by fishermen to cross from the mainland out to a promontory of rock where they could string their nets and trap the salmon swimming through the channel between. …Behind me was the expansive beauty of the Antrim coast, green hills rippling into the mist, and birds circling the blue waters, indifferent to the waves crashing on the rocks below. A dolphin swam in a still cove beneath an eroded rock face, and I was watching for it to break the surface again when I was told it was my turn to cross. I'd come for golf, but somewhere along the way, I'd picked up a simpler sense of contentedness, maybe even a peace. I had food to eat and a bed in my future and enough tread left on my shoes to get me there. Good enough. …Living as a dot on an endless road had begun to make the world feel larger and this walker feel smaller—not insignificant, but a bit less complicated, shedding worries with each mile until it was just me and my sticks and a view I hoped I would never forget.

Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.

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