David was No. 1 at Tech again. The tension on the team was growing unbearable. Puggy called in sports psychologist Bob Rotella and held an encounter session, no holds barred, in the team lounge. The sheep ganged up on David. He was shocked. "Why is this corning out now?" he asked. "Why didn't you have the courage to be honest with me before? At least you knew where I stood."
Puggy gave up trying to knit a team and settled for the next best thing: two teams. Two rental cars sometimes. There went four Georgia Tech golfers in one car to eat Mexican. There went David and Puggy in the other to eat American. Roommate assignments? Puggy and David. Practices? David might show up at the same time and country club as the others—might not. "It was the only way," Puggy says, "to keep them from killing each other."
Ahhh, Puggy's taking care of the Cadillac again, the others grumbled. They didn't know what was occurring in that other car, at that other restaurant. Yes, Puggy was reassuring the boy who could show no vulnerability to anyone else, affirming his greatness. He was also going hammer-and-mace with the boy; they were two old and powerful forces wearing the garments of golfer and coach.
You need spirituality, David. You need people. You can't keep alienating them. You're going to fall one day, and then you'll realize. There's a dimension you can't see, where all humans merge, and singular paths dissolve. Everything happens for a reason. There's a design, a loving design that we can't always understand. In so many words, that was Puggy's hammer—the mallet of Jesus.
A design, Coach? If there's a design, what designer filled my brother's marrow with poison? A man's got himself and his quest; he mustn't try to step on toes, but if avoiding toes means detours and delays, he's failed himself. Greatness, the very reaching for it, justifies the singular path. That was David's mace, so hard and sharp inside him that he could never quite put it in those words—the mace of Roark.
Yes, Howard Roark, the fictional architect in The Fountainhead, the 695-page novel by Ayn Rand that David would soon discover in a New York City bookstore, and in which he would finally see himself. Roark was the flame that burned inside him, the fire the world kept trying to extinguish: the premise that a man's integrity could grow only from following his own truth and ego, serving his own purpose and passion. Roark's was a noble and healthy selfishness that accepted the hatred of all the sheep who called it arrogance. "The basic need of the creator is independence," Roark declares. "The reasoning mind cannot work under any form of compulsion. It cannot be curbed, sacrificed or subordinated to any consideration whatsoever. It demands total independence in function and in motive. To a creator, all relations with men are secondary."
David would read passages like that and feel his life justified, his heart sing. After he finished the book, he purchased it on tape and drank it with his ears. God, it was almost eerie; architecture was the path David would have pursued at Georgia Tech if it hadn't left so little time for golf. Somehow, because Roark existed, if only as a concept, David wasn't quite so alone. He smiled when his friend Kevin Cook read the book and called him the Howard Roark of golf.
Oh, yes, Puggy sensed how complicated a task he had undertaken. Asking the boy to change his stance toward life was like asking him to change his stance over the ball: Would those 280-yarders still scream off his driver if he opened up more, if he bent, if he reached out, if he felt? Would his two-irons still land and lie down one caress from the cup? No, David couldn't risk it; somehow the two stances seemed inextricably entwined. As if to verify his thesis, his two grandfathers died within three days during his sophomore year; he carried the coffin of Harry Poole to the freshly shoveled hole and looked inside. Where was the togetherness down there?
Yet the boy couldn't resist the magnetic pull of Puggy, his wife, Gail, and their three children. There was a wholeness to that family of five that kept drawing David to their dinner table, to their family room to roll on the floor with the kids, to their backyard to play catch. David let Puggy see something that few others could see: "That little soft spot," as Puggy would put it, "on the underbelly of that hard shell. You'd see it and start to give your heart to him, and then he could stick his hand in your chest and jerk your heart right out."