He wrote the book on golf
‘Danny Mo’ author knows of what he writes
aseball was John Haines’ sport
growing up, and he calls himself
a salesman. But for the last 25 years,
golf has been his primary sporting
passion, and now he’s used his expe-
riences on the course to fuel a fledg-
ling writing career.
Haines – the golfer, writer and salesman – had his first novel published in
May. “Danny Mo” is as much a story
about family as it is about golf, but
Haines admits he called upon his experiences as a Wisconsin competitive
golfer to create the novel. The story
offers numerous references to actual
Wisconsin people and places, and it
concludes with a fictional State Open at
an imaginary Door County golf course.
Haines, 53, got serious about golf in
his late 20s after entering some long-drive contests. He did well enough in
them that he decided to give up
baseball and pursue competitive golf.
He began entering amateur golf
tournaments around 1987, when he
said he was about a 6-handicap, and
he worked hard on his game. Haines
improved so rapidly that he and partner Tom Halla won the Wisconsin
State Golf Association Bestball Championship in 1990.
“That got me pretty motivated,”
Haines said recently.
Since then, Haines has teamed with
Halla to win the Billy Sixty Bestball
Championship twice (2001 and ‘08)
and won individual events such as the
Wisconsin Public Links Association
Championship (1995 and ’98) and the
1999 WSGA Governor’s Cup, a state
championship for players ages 40-54.
Still, Haines considers his top accomplishment as a player to be the
1994 Wisconsin State Open, where he
earned low amateur honors – by one
stroke over current PGA Tour player
Mark Wilson – and tied for sixth place.
Meantime, Haines had always enjoyed writing. At first, he did music
reviews for a variety of publications,
and he said he took a crack at writing
a novel in the 1980s, but the task
seemed too daunting.
He eventually fell back on his golf
experiences to write a series of essays
on a now-defunct golf website. The
essays “developed a little bit of a cult
following,” Haines said recently with a
laugh, and one of the admirers turned
out to be Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
golf writer Gary D’Amato.
“He was reading some of my stuff,
and he sent me a very nice note
about how much he appreciated the
essays,” Haines said of D’Amato, who
also suggested Haines write a golf-
themed novel. “That note was the
kick-start. I remember the day I got it,
and I just decided over the next month
I was going to think of a story.”
That was back in 2004, and Haines
has worked on “Danny Mo” pretty
much ever since, mostly on week-
ends, particularly in winter, and up to
12 hours a day. Along the way, he re-
ceived a lot of support from D’Amato,
Halla, other golf friends and family.