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Golf is more than just a game; it's all-out war

Bruce Ollstein seems like a nice guy until he starts talking golf. Then he says things like:

+ "Take no prisoners."

+ "Never violate the military principle of security or it will come back to haunt you. In other words, never give your handicap to an opponent because it will give him some insight to your weaknesses. Tell him nothing."

+ "Use the principles of PSYOPS or psychological operations. PSYOPS causes your adversary to make mistakes. It goes beyond merely feeding the enemy misinformation. It penetrates the enemy's psyche and permanently alters his ability to think clearly and fight effectively."

+ "Only one man comes home alive, and a winner."

+ "Golf is war."

If he sounds like a military man, that's because he is. His official name is Capt. Bruce Warren Ollstein, a West Point graduate, former infantry defense instructor, drill instructor and helicopter pilot, and now, writer.

His first book is Combat Golf and it's selling quicker than machine-gun fire.

Just two months off the presses, it has sold more than 30,000 copies, 70 of which were purchased recently during a book signing in the NationsBank Tower in downtown Tampa.

Secretaries bought them for their bosses' husbands. Vice presidents bought one for themselves. One head honcho took six with him, and Christine Bencivenga bought three _ one for her parents, two for her uncles.

The book has been so successful, in fact, that appearances on David Letterman's Late Show and Jay Leno's Tonight Show are not out of the question.

"This is amazing to me," Ollstein said. "My life has completely changed the past two months."

Ollstein, 32, got the idea for Combat Golf while playing with a general who wasn't physically gifted but who abused his opponents with military-based mind games.

"During that round I said, "I've got a book here,' " Ollstein said. "I started writing right away."

The next thing he knew, through a series of incredible connections, President Clinton, an avid golfer, perused a copy of the manuscript.

"Then I got a letter from the President saying he loved the book," Ollstein said. "What an endorsement!"

Ollstein, who lives in Tampa, had worked two years writing a 1,000-page fictional military, psychological thriller that never made it to print.

"After that I thought I might try something smaller," he said.

Combat Golf is 102 pages chock full of positive thoughts. There are no lessons on swing mechanics or putting alignments. This is strictly mental, with strategic military-type preparations applied to the course. In a lot of cases, it's more applicable to match-play strategies, where you play an opponent head-to-head.

"It's all about what you want to get out of it," said Ollstein, a low-handicapper who wouldn't give a precise number for aforementioned tactical reasons. "It's like defining your mission before you get to the golf course. Are you there to have fun with a friend, schmooze with a business partner, or kick somebody's butt? No one should ever go into battle without a clear mission in mind."

His final comment: "It is imperative that you not let this document fall into enemy hands."

Then he winked.