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North Carolina Golf and Trump’s Russian Connections

G. MARTIN
Syndicated Columnist

Every North Carolina author would give his or her eyetooth to get a mention at the top of the lead editorial in The New York Times during the week of a new book release.

It happened to best-selling author Jim Dodson last Friday (May 12). His new book, “The Range Bucket List: The Golf Adventure of a Lifetime,” follows his life-long love of golf and an impressive list of popular and critically-acclaimed books, including “Final Rounds” and “A Golfer’s Life” (with Arnold Palmer).

“Range Bucket List” is the Greensboro writer and magazine editor Dodson’s personal love affair with golf and the classic and humble golf courses that are his favorites. So, what did Times editors have to say about Dodson’s new book?

Nothing. Here is what its editors wrote, “The author James Dodson said that another son, Eric Trump, told him in 2013 that Russians have bankrolled Trump golf courses: ‘Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.’”

Dodson’s quote came, not from his book, but from recent conversations as he promoted the new book and talked about a chapter that described his visit with Eric and his father at the Trump golf course near Charlotte. His recollection of Eric’s statements regarding Russian financing caught The Times’s attention in a week that President Trump denied any such connection.

When I wrote Dodson and wondered why The Times said nothing about the book, Dodson wrote back, “Sadly they didn’t — which is what really bugs me. Also, it was four years ago!”

The chapter about Dodson’s short visit with the Trumps is well worth reading even though it does not deal with Russian money. But it shows how differently Dodson and the Trumps look at golf. The Trumps push high-end, expensive versions at costly and profitable golf courses. Dodson loves more the public courses and inexpensive “goat farm” courses where rich and poor can play and build friendships without going broke.

Dodson’s late father introduced him to the game and brought him back to it later in life. The father was so positive and such an optimist that his nickname became “Opti the Mystic” or simply “Opti.”

For Opti, golf was “a metaphor for life, with its unexpected ups and downs, unfair breaks and sudden breakthroughs” and offers “challenges that tested, shaped and ultimately ‘revealed one’s grit under fire.’”

The book’s theme and “Range Bucket List” title came from a list Dodson made at age 13 titled “Things to Do in Golf.”

  1. Meet Arnold Palmer and Mr. Bobby Jones
  2. Play the Old Course at St. Andrews
  3. Make a Hole in One
  4. Play on the PGA Tour
  5. Get new clubs
  6. Break 80 (Soon!)
  7. Live in Pinehurst
  8. Find Golf Buddies
  9. Caddie at the GGO
  10. Have a girlfriend who plays golf
  11. Play golf in Brazil

Dodson uses this old list as a frame to review his life in golf. He meets and befriends Palmer. He helps save Bobby Jones’s golf course in Atlanta. He plays St. Andrews, scoring 13 on one hole. He lives for a while in Pinehurst. He gains many golf buddies. He caddies at the Greater Greensboro Open. He finds a girlfriend who plays golf and who becomes his wife. An exception: he still has not played golf in Brazil and does not remember why he put it on the list.

Writing about the book Dodson says, “In a nutshell, the book is simply my love letter to an old game that, true to my old man’s words, took me much farther than I could ever have imagined it could.”

All the way to the lead editorial in The New York Times.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV.

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