Synopsis: The Last 18 is a story of a mother and her two sons, and the bonds between a family that cannot be broken, no matter the ailment. It explores the question: What would you do if you had two months left with a loved one? Do you make their final days comfortable, normal, routine? Act like nothing was different or wrong, like so many request? Or do you attempt the fantastic, the amazing, the miraculous?
When Janis Lammey’s two youngest sons — Jay and Brian — are still in high school, she is diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s a late diagnosis. In two months, Janis Lammey is going to die. She will never see her sons graduate from college, she will not cry at their weddings, she will not cradle her grandchildren. But there is one thing that she can still do, and that’s watch her boys play golf. Jay and Brian have a freakish knack for the game. College prospects are on the horizon. It’s only a matter of time before the Tour comes calling. But time is no longer a luxury they have.
They set out to do what their mother had wanted to see ever since they first
picked up a club: play professional golf. With the help of a college coach,
the boys receive an exemption into a tournament where their mother’s dream of seeing them play on Tour can be realized. And so they play, with their mother close-by, the last 18 holes of golf she will ever see.
Where you can buy it:
The story behind the book
My first of what I hope to be many books, The Last 18 was published in May of 2015, by Saguaro Books, a small publishing house in Fountain Hills, Arizona, and it was a milestone achievement for me for a number of reasons. I had always wanted to write a book. What precocious reader and aspiring writer doesn’t, really? But I didn’t think I ever would. Books are hard. Books are long. Books require an attention span longer than an hour, a day, a month, a year. Books will teach you how to cope with rejection more than any high school dance or college date ever could. I didn’t know this when I started, of course. I just knew I had an idea, a laptop, and fingers that were itchy to write.
But first, the idea: Where did it come from? An ESPN feature. I must have been 15 or 16, just beginning an internship with a weekly newspaper in Baltimore County called The Community Times. I was sitting on the couch in my living room with my younger brother Cody, and ESPN had one of those feel-good features about this wildly precocious golfer who was the best junior in the nation, or one of them. The girl’s mother loved nothing more than watching her daughter play golf. Her dream was to watch her girl play professionally. But life has a curious habit of getting in the way of our dreams sometimes, and the mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Well, somehow (I do not remember the exact details) the LPGA caught wind of the situation and gave the girl a sponsorship exemption to a professional event, and so this girl’s mother was able to see her daughter play professional golf before she died, which she did shortly after. It’s an incredible story. I love that kind of stuff, and I love writing about it. While that was playing, I was drawing similarities to my own life. I was a high school golfer at the time, as was Cody, and our mother loved — absolutely loved — watching us play golf. The woman, bless her heart, never missed a match. What if I took the storyline of that ESPN feature, and tweaked it to fit my own little novel? An idea was born. One problem: I was not a good writer.
I let the idea marinate for a few years, and in the meantime, I enrolled in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, where I realized just how terrible of a writer I was. God, it sucked. I received more zeroes on assignments than I thought possible. But I was learning and progressing an alarming rate. I loathe failing at things. Doesn’t matter what it is. Could be badminton for all I care. If I’m bad at it, I’m going to work at it until I’m not so bad. So I read everything I could get my hands on, developing a habit of re-reading Sports Illustrated to the point that it was a borderline fetish. During my sophomore year, I felt confident enough to begin writing the book. I’d pick at it here and there when I wasn’t busy emptying Natty Lights or working on homework or failing another writing assignment. And let me tell you: That initial rough draft was terrible. I finished five chapters and scrapped the whole thing, leaving it alone again for another two years.
By then I was a senior in college, working part-time at The Washington Post and at a weekly paper called The Gazette. I was also still emptying Natty Lights and failing assignments, though I was failing less of them, and I was passing nonetheless, and The Gazette had offered me a full-time position covering high school sports upon my graduation. With a job guaranteed, all I had to do was pass my classes (Cs get degrees, right?), so I shifted my priorities, revisiting this book project that had been collecting metaphorical dust for the past few years. And I just lit into the thing. I’ll always remember the exact moment I finished the manuscript, too. I was sitting in the apartment of my girlfriend at the time, and I hit that final period, and I just sat there. I had no clue what to do. I turned over to her and wondered aloud, “What do I do now?”
Turns out, edit. And edit. And edit. Edit a little more then do it again. When I was finished editing, or thought I was, I sent it off to New York for a professional look at it, and when I got it back, I cleaned it up with the hundreds of recommended edits. Ok. It’s edited. It’s clean. So…now what?
Turns out, Random House doesn’t accept submissions from writers with exactly zero experience and zero qualifications. Time to look for an agent. My editor, a man named Hillel Black, passed along the names of 100 agents, and I began blindly querying them, probably pissing off 99 of them until I eventually landed on James Fitzgerald, who took a shot on me, something I’ll never be able to thank him enough for. From there it took a year — a long, shitty year filled with more rejection and second-guessing and confidence-depletion than I had endured in 24 of them. And then it came. That email from Saguaro Books. They loved it.
It doesn’t matter how many rejections you have, so long as you have one acceptance, right? And I had mine. It was easy enough from there. Saguaro edited it and we put a nice little cover on it. It looked good. It read — well, I honestly didn’t know if it read well. I’d probably read the thing 3,000 times. Maybe it was pure gibberish to everyone else. But I didn’t care. I had a book. I was an author.
Now it was time to write another one.