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Woog's World / Novel approach for a 'golfaholic'

Published 6:48 am, Saturday, September 22, 2012
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It's the addiction no one talks about. It's rampant in the suburbs; high-powered, high-achieving men are particularly prone.

The addiction is golf.

John O'Hern has a gallery's-eye view of the devastation this addiction can wreak. It is particularly harmful to marriages.

It's also wickedly funny, in that laugh-till-it-hurts way.

O'Hern -- a Westport resident for 20 years -- spends a lot of time on the golf course. He's got an excuse: He teaches at Longshore. Of course, he's got to play nine or 18 holes there as much as he can, right? It's his professional responsibility.

His other profession is writing. His first book was "A Rooster in the Henhouse," a memoir based on his wife's pregnancy that Lifetime will most certainly NOT adapt into a TV movie. This was no rosy look at the wondrous womb, from holding hands at the sonogram viewing to gazing in awe as Junior pushes his way into the world.

"Rooster" is told through male eyes. That means chapters on his wife's diet and physical appearance, and the couple's sex life. It also includes a chapter called "It Didn't Happen if She Didn't Know About It." (She didn't know, for example, that the baby fell off the coffee table on O'Hern's watch.)

O'Hern -- a stay-at-home dad while his wife worked in corporate America -- turned "Rooster" into a one-man show of the same name. (He'd already had years of acting experience.) Westport's Theatre Artists Workshop helped him craft it professionally. It ran off-Broadway; O'Hern calls the first couple of weeks of that experience "terrifying." By the end, he says, he could perform it in his sleep. He also took the show on a New England tour, and did a benefit for the Westport Arts Center.

After "Rooster," everyone wanted to know what O'Hern would write next.

"I had never considered myself a writer," he says. "I was working full time at Longshore. I was enamored with golf." But -- like any good writer -- he realized there was a story there.

Once again, the Theatre Artists Workshop helped. O'Hern wrote a number of scenes, riffing on the "golf as addiction" theme. "I'd be sitting there at the Longshore booth, seeing these golfers in constantly altered states. They'd be edgy, actually jonesing to get out on the course," he explains.

One of O'Hern's favorite sections involved a man polishing his golf clubs with a wax buffer in his bedroom. His wife says, "There's not room for three of us." I would tell his retort, but this is a family newspaper.

"Sweetspot: Confessions of a Golfaholic" is "about marriage, and the way a relationship wanes," O'Hern says. Gradually, the physical sensation of hitting a great shot replaces, well, other physical sensations. (I told you this was a family paper.)

When the protagonist is forced to choose between his wife and his clubs, O'Hern says -- well, it's obvious. He runs away to North Carolina -- "just like some guys run away with their secretary" -- in a quest for the perfect golf swing.

"Sweetspot" was first performed as a two-person play. For three nights, golfers packed a 270-seat theater in Bridgeport.

O'Hern's director and female co-star had never played golf. They wondered about the humor in scenes like the wife telling her husband, as he sneaks away in midwinter, "You can't go out. It's 20 below!" "Yeah," he replies. "But there's no wind."

Trust me, O'Hern told them. It's funny.

He was right. Audiences roared.

Despite the great reception for "Sweetspot," O'Hern could not find a producer. So he went back to the practice range, and rewrote it as a novel.

It took six weeks. He figured -- to mix a sports metaphor -- he'd driven it out of the park.

The folks at Westport's Write Yourself Free had other ideas. They called it "a nice outline." After six more months of revisions, they suggested he take lessons, and learn how to write.

For the next two years O'Hern worked, reworked, and re-reworked every section. He estimates he rewrote "Sweetspot" 15 times.

Now, he says, it's time to let it go. "Sweetspot" will soon be available on Amazon, and through the website www.Sweetspot.com.

It is not, he emphasizes, "an ode to golf." O'Hern calls his novel "mean and dark." Teenagers who work in the Longshore golf shop have read it. "They love it for that `Superbad' type of sensibility," he says proudly.

Now that "Sweetspot" has been transformed from a play into a novel, O'Hern hopes once again to find a producer. In the meantime, he's marketing it to the golf community. Whether he's doing a book or a two-man show, he hopes -- like his protagonist -- to hit the road.

When he does, he promises, "I'll play every course around."

Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his "Woog's World" appears each Friday. He can be reached at dwoog@optonline.net. His personal blog is www.danwoog06880.