Golf, much like other sports that are popular in our culture, represents more than just a game to many people. To me, golf is an escape. It’s an escape from stress, the everyday monotony of life and the problems I face in the so called “real world”. It's also an escape from the unfortunate reality I deal with every day.
On November 2 of last year, I lost one of my best friends and the most genuine, kind and loving man I’ve ever known. A sudden and unexpected “cardiac event” took my father’s life and left a family in inexplicable grief.
This year has, without a doubt, been the toughest of my life. My dad didn't get to see me graduate from our beloved alma mater. He never heard that I was accepted into graduate school. And most importantly, he will never get to see his treasured grandsons grow and develop into young men. With all these things I've been forced to face over the past year, I needed a way to escape. I tried alcohol, but soon realized it would only make me feel worse. I tried therapy, only to find myself arguing with my counselor about my feelings. I finally realized that there was only one way that I could truly block out all the noise and distract myself from reality.
Golf represents a way to remember my father and the times we shared. From a very young age, my father taught me all about the game. We would play together, watch tournaments together and talk about golf every chance we got. Golf, to my father and I, was more than a game. It brought out the best and worst in us, and I would give anything to play just one more round with him. All the personal qualities we shared were highlighted by golf. Our competitiveness, our desire to see each other succeed, and the love we had for each other can all be credited to, you guessed it, golf.
This special bond influenced by golf is not exclusive to my family. I remember watching major golf tournaments on TV and seeing emotional victors hug their families and thank their fathers for introducing them and teaching them about the game. On many occasions, I would look over at my dad in his old recliner chair and notice that he was tearing up. It wasn't until I no longer had the chance to watch these moments with him that I truly understood his sentiment.
Whether their fathers competed alongside them, taught them how to swing a club, caddied for them or just supported them on their journey, there is no denying that golf has a significant correlation to fostering father-son relationships. These special moments for professional golfers often remind me of the times spent with my father on a golf course and serve as a metaphor for the memories I hold dear to my heart.
My dad was the most competitive person I’ve ever known. Growing up, he refused to show mercy in any game we played and he never let my sister or I win. Ever. His competitive nature rubbed off on me as the years went along, and I constantly strived to beat his ass in any game we played. I can count on one hand the number of times I have beaten him when we competed. I lucked into one win in a one-on-one game of basketball when I was in high school and, most importantly, beat him by one stroke during a round in Arizona a little over a year ago.
In 1948, Joe Kirkwood Jr. and Joe Kirkwood Sr. became the first father and son pair to make the cut in the same major tournament during the US Open, one of only two duos in history to do so.When I think about the competitive fire that my dad and I brought to the golf course, I often think about how fitting of a story this would be if we switched places with the Kirkwoods. I imagine competing against my dad for one of the most coveted championship titles in golf, the shit-talking that would occur over the weekend and the endless amount of bragging rights that would result from finishing ahead of him in the tournament. Both of us hated losing to one another, but it was all in good fun.
While we certainly wanted to see each other fail miserably when we competed against one another, my father and I also shared a deep desire to see the other succeed in life. My father was a highly successful banker at the nation's largest family-owned bank. He was one of the most respected commercial loan officers in the state and an even better husband and father who constantly pushed me to be the very best man I could be. He supported me through every step I took in life and his willingness to sacrifice many aspects of his own life in order to put his family and friends first is a quality I strive to obtain.
In 2015, Jay Haas served as a captain for the United States team in the Ryder Cup. Each captain is responsible for picking players to compete against the European team. Jay’s son, Bill, is an accomplished professional golfer on the PGA Tour with seven tournament wins. Jay, as a captain, showed the same desire to see his son succeed by selecting him to represent the United States in the Ryder Cup. With the immense pressure of selecting the perfect team to bring home the Ryder Cup, Jay put his title and reputation as captain on the line to give his son, an average golfer by PGA professional standards, the chance to compete in one of golf’s biggest events.
My father constantly put his reputation on the line in order to ensure that I succeeded. He helped land me multiple jobs at his bank when I was younger, knowing damn well that I had a horrific work ethic. He saved enough money before I came to Texas Tech to ensure I would never have to worry about finances and could focus on school. Even when I almost failed out early in my collegiate career, he remained steadfast with his support and pushed me every single day to get it together. One of the hardest parts of this past year is knowing I never had the opportunity to properly thank him for his commitment to my education and wellbeing. However, the faith I hold in getting that opportunity one day drives me to make the most of it.
Many professional and amateur golfers credit their fathers for teaching them about the game of golf, just as mine once put a club in my hand and taught me how to swing. Golf is a game that requires extraordinary patience, skill and dedication. I think that's why golf serves as an perfect mediator for fathers and their sons. The same qualities instilled on a golf course can be found in real world situations that are, in most instances, handed down from fathers to sons.
Justin Thomas, one of the premier young golfers on the PGA Tour and winner of the 2017 PGA Championship, fell in love with golf because of his father. Mike Thomas is one of thousands of head golf pros in the United States and a former member of the PGA of America’s national board. Justin has often praised his father for teaching how to play the game.
Special relationships in life can often be hard to describe in words. In my case, I find it difficult to spell out the true significance of golf as it relates to my relationship with my dad. I frequently become overwhelmed with emotion when thinking about the times we shared together on and off the course. The same sentiment rings true for professional golfers. There are often moments in a professional golfer’s career in which they become emotional after winning a tournament. This emotion is a combination of external factors as well as the thousands of hours of preparation and hard work they endured to get to the top of a leaderboard.
Tiger Woods, who is ironically making his long-awaited return to competitive golf today, is one of golf’s most decorated and celebrated athletes. Tiger also shared a close relationship with his father, Earl. Earl helped Tiger fall in love with golf and pushed him to become the very best in the game. Tiger lost his father to cancer in May of 2006. A couple months later, Tiger, usually a stoic and fiery individual on the golf course, broke down after winning the Open Championship. It was the first major win since his father’s passing.
The incredible connection that golf fosters between fathers and sons starts at an early age. In 2012, Bubba Watson won golf’s most heralded championship, The Masters Tournament. The 2012 Masters was Bubba's first major win, a significant an unforgettable moment in the life of a professional golfer, and it was particularly meaningful because it was his first big win since the passing of his father a few months earlier and the adoption of his son, Caleb, just 13 days before he received his coveted green jacket.
In Bubba's pursuit to defend his title in 2013, he was asked about the days following his 2012 victory in the pre-tournament press conference. Bubba's response shows that, to many people, golf is much more than just a game.
The game of golf has given me so much more than just a way to spend my free time. Golf is my escape from the harsh truths of reality. It is a reminder of the days I took for granted with my dad as we competed, talked about life and strengthened the bond we shared on the course. Many people who don't play golf fail to understand the appeal and interest in the game. All they see is a boring sport in which people spend too much money to swing a club and get angry at themselves. But for me and so many others across the world, golf is so much more than just a game.
Martin, S. (2015, February 17). Golf in his bloodline. Retrieved November 14, 2017, from https://www.pgatour.com/news/2015/02/17/justin-thomas-family-golf.html
Penfield, W. (2017, April 12). Top 10 Family Affairs in Golf History. Retrieved November 14, 2017, from http://bleacherreport.com/articles/818072-the-top-10-family-affairs-in-golf-history
Beall, J. (2015, November 19). Golf's most celebrated father-son duos. Retrieved November 14, 2017, from https://www.golfdigest.com/gallery/golfs-most-celebrated-father-son-duos#10
pusarv. (2006, July 23). Tiger's 11th Major. Retrieved November 29, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ht4BOSlVeY4
CNN. (2013, April 09). Bubba Watson cries over Masters memory. Retrieved November 29, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tiY_I9H-7Q
PGATOURSuperstore. (2017, June 09). Justin Thomas Celebrates His Dad. Retrieved November 29, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3HlMKwmtfk