More than Just a Game


With Father’s Day around the corner, I’ve been wanting to write a piece about my dad.  It just so happens that golf has been a huge part of our lives, so this basically wrote itself. Enjoy:

From left to right my brother, Anthony, my dad, Vic, my uncle, Russell, myself and my uncle, Lance

The first time my dad took me out on the course I didn’t yet have the physical strength to get the club back and through the ball without driving the head deep into the tee box.  Thinking this had something to do with my hand-eye coordination he gently advised “keep your head down, and your eye on the ball”.  This I did, time and again, leaving my signature divots in the tee box at every hole.  It was so discouraging.  Many days, I would just quit and sit in the cart until I could calm down and my dad would let me hit again from wherever his ball had landed. Each time I approach the ball he would offer tips, encouragement, and often a joke to ease the tension.   He even cut down one of his (actually made of) woods so I could get the club around with less effort.  As frustrated as I would get, I cherished those trips to the course.

This routine continued for years.  Every other weekend, or so, he would say “you want to go play golf?” and I would run out to the garage to put my clubs in the back of our old Ford Aerostar.

“Take your time”. “Is that the right club”? “Don’t think so much”.  I don’t know how old I was when the tips became nags, and the advice became nonsense (most likely in the early teens), but (what seemed like) all of a sudden, golf became a chore.

By the time I was 14 I can remember the question coming much less frequently, because I’m sure my dad knew what the answer would be.  Girls, movies, video games and “real sports” had consumed my life, and I didn’t have time for my dad and especially not golf.  I took things for granted like most teenagers do, and by the time I was 16 I stopped playing golf altogether.

I know my dad missed me.  He sacrificed so much for us growing up.  He lost his job in town and we were going to have to move, but we stayed so we could finish high school in our home town.  He took a job over an hour away.  He commuted, worked nights and even took on a second job, and still found time to play the game.  But he stopped asking if I wanted to go with him.

Fast forward to 1999.  I was 20 now and on my own, thousands of miles away from home.  Some friends wanted to go golfing, and I decided to go with them since I knew a thing or two about the game. I borrowed some clubs from the course, and I beat them all.  The lessons I was taught all came back, and my swing came with what seemed like instinct.  We’ve all felt it before, you have that long drive, that distant putt, that great round and you can hardly wait to hit the greens again.  I had the bug.  Now I wanted it all.  I needed shoes, my own clubs and I had to have the best.  But money was short, so it had to wait.

When I returned home, one of the first things I said to my dad was “you want to play golf”?  I know now that had to have meant the world to him. Looking back, again, I took for granted that he took me out that same day to get a new driver and some golf shoes.  We played every other weekend, but again life got in the way.  Marriage. First-born. Work.  Relocation.  When I would call him he would still ask the question “do you want to play golf”? He knew the answer, but he would say it anyway.  It was then I realized this question of his was more than about playing a game.

In 2005 my dad suffered a massive stroke.  By the time I made it to the hospital, he was in a coma. The neurologist told us if he ever woke up, he would not be able to function.  I went to his hospital room that night and sat by his bed and thought about how I didn’t even get to say good-bye.  The pain was almost unbearable.  I didn’t fall asleep until I could see daylight the next day.  It was that afternoon my brother-in-law told me to come to the hospital “right now”, my dad was awake!  When I got there, he wasn’t speaking.  I didn’t know what to expect as far as a recovery, but he was alive, and that’s all that mattered.

The next few months he rehabilitated.  He learned to walk again. Everyday he showed improvement in his fine motor skills.  When we finally took him home about a month later, he walked with a limp but if you didn’t know, you couldn’t really tell he had a stroke.  The stroke had affected the feeling on the left side of his body and his eyesight, so he is not allowed to drive.  What was not affected, though, was his love a certain game.  One of the first things he wanted to do was play.

Before long, I realized it was time to move my young family with our newborn, second daughter back home.

Now, every other weekend or so, the question comes “you want to play golf”?  But now it’s my turn to take him.