Behind the Page: Jeffrey John Eyamie (Take 2)

Turnstone published No Escape from Greatness in Fall 2016.

I’m writing this in summer, 2020. Not much has changed in this time period, right?

Only everything.

In addition to the upheavals we’re inundated with every day, a new spectre visited me and my family in April, 2017: my wife’s beloved father, Dan, still working at the age of 70, died in a workplace accident. It was sudden, followed by a week of intensive care. An ICU infection is what he ultimately couldn’t recover from. He never woke up after his fall.

Every day brought hope and fear in magnetic poles, and we vacillated back and forth like little iron filings, contained in the waiting room at Health Sciences Centre, dropping in for visits that opened wounds in us that have never quite healed, even though he’s been gone for three years.

One of those nights, as it became clear that Dan was slipping further away from us, in the fog of sleep deprivation and world-rending trauma, I had this vision: for Dan, golf was a happy place, and it was a place we could visit together. There was more golf to be had, between us. So what if we golfed in the afterlife?

I like to write about things that obsess me—one requires a metric tonne of impetus to get a novel-length story finished, and that means one better be excited about climbing that particular mountain. Golf has definitely become an obsession for me and I wanted to know why. I wanted to explain to the reader why I had fallen in love with it, and I hope James does explain it in Still Me.

In the early days, I figured out that I wanted the entire book to take place on golf courses. I can’t find a golf book that does the same thing. For a time, in its early iterations, the book resembled Groundhog Day on golf courses. It quickly became something else.

Golf is an easy host for metaphor because golf is metaphor. That’s the appeal … the unanointed merely see sticks and a ball and a good walk spoiled, but golf is not a game or sport. It is an act. Most typically, it is the act of seeing one’s reflection. If it wasn’t something profound, people wouldn’t continue to dedicate all of this time, money and land to it.

Golf slides a curtain open, just a tiny little crack, and offers the golfer a glimpse into some inner workings of the universe. I truly believe that. How many times does a golfer think “this is what life is about?” You don’t need to golf well to be faced with this realization.

The one thing I knew I didn’t want to have in the book is a professional golfer. This is about people who don’t golf well, but do it anyway. The true value in golf isn’t winning a tournament! We are all trying to be better people. We are all trying to be better golfers.

I knew from the outset that Southwood Golf & Country Club in Winnipeg would play a big role in the story. I knew that one of Canada’s all-time great course architects, Thomas McBroom, had been brought in to design it. I reached out to Mr. McBroom and he could not have been more kind to me, offering to read the book and its tribute to the designer. If a golf course is a metaphor, what does it say about how life is designed? Is someone setting up the tests and challenges in a certain sequence? Still Me explores the similarities and differences, and in my research, my appreciation for McBroom’s ability to allow nature to provide the drama in his course designs grew and grew. You’ll find several of his works featured in the book.

You’ll also find my most-frequently-played course, Victoria Beach. I love the lack of pretense at the VB course, while it’s age, beachy atmosphere and tradition make it perhaps the most accessible on-ramp for the novice or casual golf fan that there can be. Anywhere. It’s real golf, with a daunting par 5 and well-manicured greens.

Surprise! I’m going on and on about golf. I have to thank Sharon Caseburg for providing me with the note that changed the whole book – “you’re a fiction writer. You don’t have to visit every course you write about.” And so I didn’t. But I’ve been to a great many of them! And if someone wants to take me to Oviinbyrd …