Jun
15
2011
EXCLUSIVE: Some of the Best Moments From “The Swinger” (NSFW)
By Stephanie Wei under General

An artist's impression of Tree Tremont

I wrote a little teaser on Sunday night, with short excerpts from The Swinger, a new golf novel from SI’s Michael Bamberger and Alan Shipnuck, which will be released on July 12. Now that it was officially announced in a press release yesterday, I can reveal juicier and lengthier parts! For some more background info, here’s this from the media blast:

Inspired by SI’s heritage of fantastically humorous storytelling from writers such as Dan Jenkins (Semi-Tough) and George Plimpton (The Curious Case of Sidd Finch), Bamberger and Shipnuck’s novel takes readers between the ropes and the sheets of the PGA Tour to chronicle the epic rise, astonishing collapse, and uproarious road to redemption of the greatest golfer of our time, Herbert X. “Tree” Tremont.

Tremont is a multicultural golfing icon whose 53 Tour wins, 13 major victories, supermodel wife, and two adorable children have made him the richest and most famous athlete in the world. But when a reporter uncovers evidence of Tree’s extramarital affairs, his public and private lives collide, producing the juiciest scandal in sports history. The novel is told through the eyes of Josh Dutra (@TreeScribe), a veteran golf writer for the St. Petersburg Review-American who is hired to join Tree’s inner circle and help manage the crisis.

Without further ado, let’s turn to the excerpts! First, we have the first time in the new year that Josh spots Tree at Kapalua:

Even from two hundred yards away, Tree Tremont was an unmistakable figure. He was built like a martini glass, with powerful shoulders and a chest tapering to a thirty-inch waist, all of its accentuated by his tight European-cut clothing that Belinda hand-picked for him, as Tree liked to remind reporters. (He was giving himself plausible deniability.) By comparison, the other players looked like they had just stepped off a shuffleboard court. Tree’s stride radiated athleticism, confidence and superiority. There was something virile about his presence, certainly for women but for men, too. Twenty weeks a year, whether you saw him live or on your flat-screen TV, people watch Tree Tremont throw grass in the air, and it excited them in ways they couldn’t articulate.

In theory, I was paid to be a neutral observer, but you couldn’t be neutral, writing about Tree Tremont. I knew a lot of sportswriters who felt overmatched, covering him. The speed at which he won his first thirteen major championships and fifty-three PGA Tour victories had no precedent. A lot of us with no blueprint were lost. My take on him was that as easy as Tree could make the game look, he was a grinder at heart. He brought intensity to every shot, and he played in a controlled fury. On Friday, for the second round, it was humid, and his mocha skin was glistening by the first green…

Next up, an example of Tree’s frugality:

“Pizza guy,” Tree said. “It’s twenty-nine dollars. Can you expense it?”

My wallet’s at the house. I kinda had to run out.”

Tree frowned and removed from his pocket a stack of bills, folded in half and held together by a rubber band. He handed me a ten and a twenty. “You do it. I don’t want to have to sign for him.” Arnold Palmer and Will Martinsen loved signing autographs. Jack Nicklaus didn’t but accept that it came with the territory. Tree actively hated it, and he resented how some people tried to make money off his signature.

“What about the tip?” I asked.

“Included,” he said. His cheapness knew no bounds. [Ed. note: I’m still laughing.]

On a table by the door was the hat Tree had worn during his second round. Big Herb was old-school about never wearing lids indoors, and Tree was the same way. I handed the pizza guy thirty bucks. And then the hat.

“Tree Tremont wore this today during his sixty-four,” I said. “It’s got his name embroidered on the back. Sell it on eBay. Don’t take less than a grand.”

Here now, the authors discuss the rivalry between Tree and Phil — I mean, Will:

Everyone knew Tree and Will [Martinsen] had a complicated relationship. When we were on the West Coast during one of our late-night dinners, Tree gave me his take on how it had gone bad. “It all goes back to that US Open at Shinnecock,” he told me. “You know how at Shinny, there’s nowhere to eat?”

Shinnecock Hills Golf Club is on the East End of Long Island, a land of plenty, with restaurants galore. But if you’re Tree Tremont and you despise crowds and slow service, and you have a fear of getting stuck talking to people you don’t want to talk to, there’s nowhere to eat.

“So I hire a big-name chef for the week. The guy wants ten ground. I tell him I’ll pay him two but mention him in my interviews. He says fine. I show up Monday. No chef. Turns out Martinsen has hired the dude away from me. For twelve K. Then Thursday morning, on the range, he says to me, ‘Tree, you and Belinda need to come over for dinner on Saturday night. Missy and I got the best chef. I heard you guys have been eating out. Are you getting killed? That’s brave. We figured, spend the money, eat great at home.’ You know, he’s riding me for being cheap with the chef. Where’d this guy get the balls to hire my chef away from me and then dis me on top of it?”

“Did you go to his house?” I asked.

“Hell no. And the worst part of the whole thing is I had to eat my mom’s shitty cooking the whole week. You know that forty on the back nine on Sunday? Johnny, on TV, kept talking about how bad I was driving it? Malnutrition is what it was. Fucking Will Martinsen. Dude cost me a U.S. Open.

They could not have been more different, Will and Tree. Will was the Tour’s most high-profile family man, his charming wife and children always by his side, not just on Sundays. They had five kids, all under eight, three of whom they had adopted: one from China, one from Bhutan, one from Mali. “Fucking accessories” was how Tree once described them. He claimed Will paid the kids to “entourage” him. He called him “Three-Dollar Will.” My take was that Will was a real person and good for golf.

Remember the quid pro quo deal between American Media and Team Tiger?

“Finky,” Rizzo said, “you’ve taken one of the world’s biggest pussy hounds and sold him as a family man. Absolutely fucking brilliant, man. And, Josh, with your excellent typing, you turned him into a deity. If I could write like that, I’d go straight. But the fact is, we all sell bullshit for a living. Isn’t that right? The difference is, I’m up-front about it.”

….

“You have had a chance to review the photos, text messages, and affidavits provided to us by Emerson Wright. We have more than enough to print a story. A very damaging story. A story that would expose Tree’s hypocrisy and the hypocrisy of those around him. But Tree Treemont is worth more to us with his good name intact. He doesn’t resonate with the Eye’s primary demographics. Housewives, college girls, and old biddies don’t really care about golf. But the fourteen million readers of our leading men’s fitness-and-lifestyle magazine love Tree. That magazine, of course, is TEN! TEN! readers want to know how Tree got so ripped. They want to see him gym at Tree House and the rest of the house. They want to see Tree’s hot wife at the pool. For TEN! this is the story of the year.”

Finkelman was ready for him. “You’re asking for a lot — too much. We can get you a solid hour with Tree for an interview. Absolutely no Belinda. We get image approval. And you give us a guarantee in writing that the Eye will never publish a photo or story that compares Tree Tremont and Emerson Wright.” He sounded lawyerly and impressive.

“Is there no honor among theives?” Rizzo said. “None of us needs a paper trail. You have my word that unless he gets abducted by aliens, Eye will leave Tree’s private life alone, as it should. He’s an athlete, for crying out loud, not a rock star.”

And, of course, what’s a golf novel based on some golfer called “The Chosen One” without tales of his sexcapades, which sound totally normal.

Tree was on his knees on the bed, wearing his green Augusta National sport coat and nothing else. Facedown in front of him was a slender brunette. He was yanking on a handful of her hair while spanking her bottom so hard there were welts on her skin. When Tree spoke to her, it was in a growl. “Bite the pillow, bitch, I’m taking the dirt road home.”

So that was weird for me to type, but also just absurd. I mean, what?? But you can’t really beat the anecdote from the wine cellar at Augusta National? No, they didn’t! Oh yes, they did!

He waved me over to his desktop computer. On the dirty plastic edges of his screen were taped photos of his daughters playing Little League baseball. He went to the Eye’s internal website. “Lemme give you a heads-up on this,” he said. It’s going live in an hour.”

There was a bright red flashing icon on the screen with the message HEAR TREE IN HIS OWN WORDS.

Pete clicked on the red icon. Then came this message: For mature audiences only. Authenticated audiotape of Emerson Wright and Tree Tremont in a private setting, the wine cellar at Augusta National, Sunday morning at the Masters.

“What you do here is you click on this button, and for two-ninety-five on PayPal, you hear the two of them,” Pete said, sounding like a website tour guide.

The clarity of the recording was fuzzy but understandable. You could hear Emerson saying, “Show me what you’ll do to him.”

Tree grunting and saying, “Take that, Will”

A moan. “Show me.”

“Take it, Will.”

“Show me!”

“Take it all, Will!”

I asked Pete to shut if off.

Okay, I felt extremely uncomfortable just typing out the text. Um, so how about the US Open? The weather’s real nice here at Congressional…

More about the entertaining, clever work of fiction that gives readers an inside look into pro golf and life in tour after this week is over. I’m on deadline, but feel free to comment! I’ll be posting more excerpts over at another publication later (will update with link when available).