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Reviewed by Steve Leshin for Readers' Favorite
The Judge Merit Golfing Club by Matt Hargrove takes place in a tiny town in Texas in the late 1800s. A young teenage boy, Sam Stallings, shows up with two hundred dollars cash in his pocket, carrying a set of golf clubs in a bag, a satchel, and a mysterious past. He wanders into a small town, Merit, and meets an older gentleman named L. T. Murchison, who we later learn is the owner of most of the undeveloped land, and one of its oldest residents. Sam wants to buy land and Murchison wants to sell, despite the strange circumstance of a teenager with that amount of cash in his pocket, and volunteering hardly any information about his background.
As the title of the book implies, Sam buys the forty-acre plot of land and starts to build a three-hole golf course. Sam spends time playing golf every day for hours. Soon word gets out about the course and people begin coming into Merit to buy land and build. Soon the railroad comes through town and Merit becomes a stop on the rail line due to the course and an ice cream parlor that opened up. A famous golf legend called the “Whammer” from California shows up and challenges Sam to a match. The whole town comes out to see the two golfers put on a show.
The Judge Merit Golfing Club by Matt Hargrove is an engrossing work of sport-themed fiction with a set of interesting characters. Matt Hargrove gives a good description of the small town and surrounding areas as well as the main characters, Murchison and Sam Stalling. As you read on, you will find more insight into the history of the town and the judge whom the new country club is named after. As a golfer, I enjoyed the story. I especially liked the way Hargrove describes the golf match between the "Whammer" and Sam and what goes through the mind of Sam when he lines up a shot. Not to reveal the ending, suffice it to say something happens that you might not expect. Overall, a good first novel for Hargrove.