Q+A Michael MurphyThe celebrated author of Golf in the Kingdom waxes philosophic on the 30th anniversary of his mystical--and occasionally mystifying--novel about the game

November 11, 2002

SI: Did you know that last year Sports Illustrated named Golf in
the Kingdom the most overrated golf book of all time?

MM: Yes. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, I could agree with
the author, but we would be in the minority. Most people love the
book. It has sold about a million copies.

SI: You're used to the abuse?

MM: Oh, God, yes. For 30 years the book has sailed through strong
headwinds of criticism, but it sails on.

SI: Why the negative reaction?

MM: A lot of people have not had the mystical experiences
[described in the book], so it's strange, unfamiliar territory.
They feel these experiences I write about do not happen. But
they're simply wrong. I've been hearing about them for 30 years.

SI: Were you on some kind of mind-altering substance when you
wrote the second half of the book?

MM: No. Tommy Smothers once said he had read that part straight,
drunk and stoned, and it didn't make sense any of the three
times.

SI: Do enough golfers cultivate the mind?

MM: If more did, they'd have more enjoyment and they'd play
better. There is a resistance in human nature to change.

SI: How's your game these days?

MM: I gave it up for a while, but I played last Friday for the
first time in a couple of years. I didn't play very well.

SI: Does shooting a good score matter to such an enlightened
golfer?

MM: [At 72] I'm grateful I can finish nine holes without breaking
a leg.

SI: Clint Eastwood owned the film rights for years. Will we ever
see a movie version?

MM: I have the rights back. I'm working on a screenplay. We want
to cast it with unknown actors in Scotland, Ireland and England.
But who knows? It's an elusive project.

SI: You published a sequel, The Kingdom of Shivas Irons, in 1997.
Is that it?

MM: I'm writing a prequel. I don't know if I'll ever publish it.
I'm describing what was going on with Shivas before Murphy
appeared on the scene.

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BURGESS (MURPHY) HEAD GAME Murphy and his main character, Shivas Irons, share an intellectual curiosity. COLOR PHOTO: COURTESY OF PENGUIN BOOKS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)