I just returned from the first of what I’m sure will be many trips to the driving range with my seven year-old, Sam. As he took his first few wobbly swings that actually got the ball into the air, he uttered magic words, “I want to be a professional golfer when I grow up.”
Without an ounce of expectation as to the fulfillment of his statement, I was fully satisfied because I had accomplished what I had set out to do, pass golf along to my son, just as my dad had done for me.
While golf has been, for me, a sparse reality over the years, mostly due to the finance and schedule ramifications of my career choices, it has been a sincere love since my dad arranged the first date. I remember coming home to see a used set of used junior Wilson Sam Snead woods and blades on the kitchen table.
An installation of the values of the game followed immediately via my dad’s instruction and formal lessons. As I learned, I learned to play by the rules, conduct myself appropriately and control my emotions. I remember clearly a day that we picked up a single along the way, a decent player and big hitter but unmistakably hot-headed. We learned this with clarity after he shanked a five iron off a long par 3 that lit the fuse on string of profanities that would have embarrassed most longshoremen. This before tomahawk throwing his club at a tree–hard enough that it would have it stuck if the rotation had been a little better. My dad turned to me and said, “He’s not a golfer.”
My story is really the same as everyone who has had a proper introduction and, clearly, one that I hold dear, most, because it granted me a platform of relationship with my dad. I played with him more than I played with anyone. There was a lot of bad golf along the way, but the memories are beautiful.
It was shortly after he passed away in 1993 that I was driving back from Eastern Montana to my home in Portland. I stopped late at night in Missoula to grab a few hours of sleep in the car. I woke early in the morning as the sun was coming up in the east; it was shining through the back window and hitting my rear-view mirror. As I woke it was with this extreme sense of peace and joy that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. They were feelings that had been evasive for a few weeks as the season following my Dad’s death were predictably difficult. The pleasant emotions were certainly welcome, though mysterious. It was several miles down the road with the sun still shining low in the mirror when the dream that I was having just before waking came to mind. Dad and I were playing golf at sunrise with the sun coming up behind us. It was a perfect morning. I can’t remember if we ever had the actual experience that I dreamt about, but the dream was enough for me.
Sam put in his range time tonight. Years of joy to come.