Runk Pens Witty Book on Quirks of Golf
By Rita Papazian
Bob Runk embraces golf in a yin-and-yang fashion. Consider these two anecdotes his wife, JoAnn, enjoys telling about her husband of 38 years.
One day she was playing golf with some friends and a woman in the group began exalting about a humorous golf book she had read. She was talking about "How to Line Up Your Fourth Putt" by Bobby Rusher.
"Seriously, he did."
It was true. Rusher is a pseudonym for Runk's popular humor book on the sport.
JoAnn recalled another time she was standing among the spectators during a pro-am tournament in which her husband was playing. In the distance, she saw him appear. A woman standing next to JoAnn saw Bob in the distance and said, "That's Tom Kite."
Knowing it was not Kite, the pro golfer and former US Open winner, but her husband, JoAnn tried to tell the woman she was mistaken. But the woman was insistent until Bob took a swing at the ball.
"That's not Tom Kite," the woman said.
"How to Line Up Your Fourth Putt" was published in the spring by Doubleday, a division of Random House. The new edition is an expanded version of the book Runk self-published in 1990. The book's sales were such a phenomenon for a self-published book that it drew the attention of an agent who couldn't believe that indeed Runk had sold 55,000 copies through his own marketing.
During a recent interview at his home on Church Street in Southport, Runk said that he attributes his early success with the book to the time he took a booth at the annual Gift Show at the Javits Center in New York City an experience that drew the attention of a vast number of retailers. His first print run was 2,000 copies, which was sold quickly at Brooks Brothers.
"It was the only colorful thing on the shelf," Runk said.
After the initial run, Runk kept going back for more print runs. Not only was it selling at bookstores, but also at pro shops, resorts and in Bill Murray's "Caddyshack"-themed restaurants.
Runk dedicates the book to "golfers who appreciate the simple pleasures of the strange trajectory and the mysterious bounce, and who can laugh at deep divots and the big banana."
This insurance broker's love for the game from his quirky, humor-driven perspective is obvious in the chapter titles: "How to Find a Ball that Everyone Else Saw Go in the Water"; "Why Your Wife No Longer Cares that You Birdied the Fourth"; "How to Let a Foursome Play Through Your Twosome Without Getting Embarrassed"; "The Importance of Hysterical Laughter After the Banana Slice"; and "What to Do If You Hit the Ground Before You Hit the Ball."
Runk was first introduced to golf when his former boss at Parker & Company International, an insurance and reinsurance company, suggested he take up the game.
"He thought golf was important for business. He thought so. I never conducted business on the golf course," said Runk, who played basketball and baseball in high school. He went on to Wesleyan, where he continued with baseball and then became a member of the college's "Uranus and the Five Moons," rock and roll band.
As he wrote, he was giggling about the sarcastic jokes, tongue-in-cheek comments and natural ribbing among golfers. He came home and told his wife he was going to write a book. He continued planning the book as he commuted to New York City, and his wife recalls noticing the little scraps of paper he was beginning to accumulate.
Runk's attitude toward golf reflects his attitude toward life. He tries to find the humor in situations. Quoting Mark Twain, he said, "Golf is a good walk spoiled."
JoAnn Runk said the book is her husband "true and true."
"Sports Illustrated" columnist Rick Reilly read the book and described Runk as "a very funny writer."
The book is successful, Runk said, because it's not just a compilation of jokes. It expresses genuine feelings that people experience on the golf course and the humor that is so intertwined with the sport.
Runk's humorous take on golf and life itself is not confined to the course. He is an avid musician and songwriter. He spends countless hours in his home studio, composing music, writing lyrics and arranging all the instrumental parts for his songs, which he performs. He has written many songs, including "Silver Spoon," which is about "a kid who grew up with a silver spoon." The lyrics describe the boy with the silver spoon as one with a chauffeured limousine and who does not have to get out of bed until noon.
Unlike the rich kid he sings about, Runk does not loll away the time. He is currently at work writing a sequel, "When to Re-Grip Your Ball Retriever," and adding to his repertoire of songs that reflects a variety of themes.