In the manner of the late Harvey Penick--who provided a blurb for this book--golf proves a metaphor for life in Pipkin's sweet but conventional first novel. Golfing enthusiast Billy Hemphill, 13, is chosen to caddy a grudge match between Roscoe Fowler and William March, co-owners of an oil company. On the line are $20,000, ownership of the company and the affections of Jewel, Billy's grandmother, whom both Fowler and March wooed 30 years ago. Also participating in the match are two pro golfers: Sandy Bates, who's Billy's golf hero, and the Beast, a roughneck with a prodigious swing. Over the course of the nine-hole match--which runs the length of the narrative, interrupted by flashbacks and lengthy asides--Fowler and March attempt to outcheat each other, Sandy tries desperately to defeat the Beast and Billy learns surprising truths about his parentage. Billy is a gratingly perfect boy. He's eager to do right and to live a happy life, and Pipkin doesn't let him down, telling a familiar coming-of-age story in whistle-clean prose. Avid golfers should enjoy this novel's modest charms and its insistence that ""golf is more religion than sport,"" but even they will find more robust entertainment in a second June golf yarn, Rick Rielly's Missing Links, reviewed above. Film rights optioned by Warner Brothers for Chris Columbus. (June) FYI: Fast Greens first appeared in a privately published edition in 1994.