INTERVIEW: Author Robert Runk (aka Bobby Rusher)

(The following is background information referenced on Mr. Runk's website, www.4putt.com.) "A graduate of Wesleyan University, Bobby Rusher (aka, Robert Runk) took up the game of golf in order that he might comprehend what people were saying when they discussed “golf.” His first book, HOW TO LINE UP YOUR FOURTH PUTT, was inspired by the many catastrophic events he and his opponents subsequently experienced, both on and off the golf course."

Mr. Runk got in touch with me via email a couple of weeks ago to inform me of his work, How to Line Up Your Fourth Putt and When to Regrip Your Ball Retriever, and to see if I would be interested in reviewing both books.  Not having heard of either title before (which isn't saying much since I tend to live in a cave), I was very interested in anything that was going to a) make me laugh, and b) provide a unique spin on the game we all love.  Luckily Runk was able to achieve both with flying colors.  (Read CD.com's review of both books here.)

I was able to reach out to Robert via email a few times over the past week for the purpose of conducting an email-based interview.  The following are my questions and his responses after the jump.  Enjoy!

1)      The packaging for each book is rather unique. What gave you the idea of formatting a golf "guide" as opposed to the more traditional "instructional booklet"?

 Like many good outcomes (because people do tell me they LOVE the format) it was a kind of fortuitous accident, the result of my having not a clue what I was doing when I first decided to put HOW TO LINE UP YOUR FOURTH PUTT together.  The suggestion came from my friend Diana Cesaro, a graphics designer who worked at an Ad Agency in Connecticut owned by a good friend of mine.  She formatted the book, and about half way through the process she asked me,  “Bob, how do you want bind this?”  I said, “Bind?”  She said, “Yes.  Do want a traditional hard-bound look?  A paperback? What are you thinking?”  I said I didn’t have a clue.  She then suggested binding the book with a color spiral at the top, so the reader would “flip through” the instructions instead of turning pages right to left – she thought it would give the book a unique look and feel.  I said, “Works for me!”  And that was that.  The rest is history.

2) As both How to Line Up Your Fourth Putt and When to Regrip Your Ball Retriever appear to be quick tip guides, did you happen to gain inspiration from another "tip book"?

 Nope.  I started to play golf at about age 30 because my boss said “it would be a good idea.”  I wasn’t sure why it would be a good idea, but I didn’t want to ask for further information at that particular time out of fear of learning that I had to play well to get a raise or something.  So I started to “play golf.”  A couple of years into this additional career I found myself playing with a client (who became a great friend as well) who was rather puzzled by my “amusing” play.  On the third hole, though, he got a 9, having missed his fourth try on the green.  Something came over me, and, for reasons still to be analyzed, I said, “You should really read my book.”  He said, “And what book is that?” I said, “HOW TO LINE UP YOUR FOURTH PUTT.” I probably should have lost him as a client right then and there, but he said, “Oh Yeah? Well, Lee Trevino has already written that!”  I was crushed. (But of course I later learned that there was no book called HOW TO LINE UP YOUR FOURTH PUTT.)  A few holes later I said, “You need to learn how to relax when you’re hitting 5 from the tee.” Then everyone got in on the act, and every few holes a new quip would be produced.

On the flight home, I sat with a pen and paper, and a Gucci Tea, and wrote down what is now the Table of Contents for HOW TO LINE UP YOUR FOURTH PUTT.  I showed the list to my wife when I got home, and I proudly proclaimed that I was going to write a book about golf!  She said, “Good for you, Honey.”  (This response gave rise to the Chapter entitled WHY YOUR WIFE NO LONGER CARES THAT YOU BIRDIED THE 4TH.)

3) In both works you reference names, such as George and Albert, that one would assume are just arbitrary character names.  However, do these names reference actual friends of yours?

 Well, George is absolutely real.  Albert is fictitious, but to me he is everyman.  George was a joy to play with because his game provided endless material for both PUTT and REGRIP.  His math was legendary.  He’s the guy from Chapter 29 in PUTT who tees off on the Par 3 17th, struggles for a nine, and then, when I ask him “George, what did you get”  … he calmly says, “Five, Bobby … a damn double bogey.”

4) Your humor and wit are seen throughout each chapter in both books, including your hilarious use of exaggeration.  Have you ever gotten to the point of shooting 66 for 9 holes?

I am pretty sure that the answer is no.  That would be 7.33 strokes per hole, right?  So obviously that particular score -- just from a simple mathematical perspective, for Pete’s Sake -- is clearly impossible.  It is also self-evident that I never shot a 67 for 9 either, because  a 67 – i.e. 7.44 strokes per hole – is also impossible.  C’mon, man!  Have you ever heard of anyone shooting a 7.44 on a hole??  Get real.  I mean … if you had thought about it more carefully, you would have realized that any score between 64 and 71 for nine holes is impossible; and, therefore, you would not have asked me that question in the first place.  And I know I never shot a 72 for nine!!  That would be unthinkable.  8 strokes a hole?  No way. Here’s the chart you should study:  

  5) You have quite the fan base of famous names, including Sports Illustrated writer Rick Reilly and even former President George W. Bush.  Who is the most famous individual you have played a round of golf with?

Well, I played with Mark Brooks once in a ProAm once.  (I was the Am).  This was soon after he won the PGA so we were thrilled to be playing with him.  He was a quiet gentleman, serene and focused, an extremely pleasant man to be with.  And – you’re not going to believe this – I didn’t have to show him how to line up his fourth putt. 

It turned out that he gave me some great material for the books.  On about the 5th hole, for example, I decided I now knew him well enough to seek some professional advice on the appropriateness of my golf clubs.  We were heading for the 6th tee and he hitched a ride on the back of our cart, so he was standing right over my clubs.  I turned to him and said, “Hey, Mark.  What do you think of my clubs?  Would you suggest a different brand, or what?”  He paused for a moment, clearly trying to think of something kind to say, and he said: “No, I’d say that for your game these clubs are fine.”   It was only later that I started to cry over this unintentional – but subtle and brilliant -- put-down.   At the same tournament, my wife decided to follow her favorite player at the time, Freddie Couples … “because he’s so cute.”  After the round, she told me this story (and you should know that from a distance I do look a lot like Tom Kite).  Apparently, she was standing with a group of spectators by the 7th green, and I had just hit a rare tee shot from the 7th tee, one that actually ended up in the middle of the fairway.   A woman in the group exclaimed, “Oh, look!  There’s Tom Kite.”  My wife said nothing.  I addressed that ball and took a swing, at which time the woman shook her head and said, “Oh, no – that’s not Tom Kite.”  This hurts still, but, well … “when the shoe fits …” or, to quote Bobby Rusher in WHEN TO REGRIP YOUR BALL RETRIEVER …  “It is extremely difficult for most people to accept this unfortunate truth: the ball goes where you hit it.” 

6) At the end of Ball Retriever you reference a third book in the making, Why Bother Lining Up Your Fourth Putt.  Any hints as to when we can expect to see this final chapter in stores?

As soon as I sell 500,000 copies of PUTT and REGRIP!

7) Finally, the Dot System of Scoring at the end of both books is absolutely hysterical.  Have you or anyone you know actually used the system during a golf round?   Not yet, but it is a great system.  It will be a central part in the screenplay for the movie I am doing based upon the people I have met whose games and techniques I have revealed in the first two books of the trilogy.  The movie is called SHANK (©Runk 2009).