National Golf Day: Why I Play Golf: Dad, Tiger Woods, and Growing Up With the Game

Jun 7, 2015; Dublin, OH, USA; Tiger Woods tees off at the first hole during the final round of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 7, 2015; Dublin, OH, USA; Tiger Woods tees off at the first hole during the final round of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

National Golf Day gives me pause to remember the game’s lessons and inspirations

It’s National Golf Day and today you’re going to see a lot of us here at Pro Golf Now sharing our stories about why we love the game. We all get to draw something special from this sport, and every story is unique.

Golf was never my first love. I was born in Bloomington, Indiana. It’s as close as you can get to the epicenter of basketball, so of course my goals were all on the hardwood. I didn’t dream of having the green jacket draped over my shoulders at Augusta. I dreamed of donning candy-striped warmups at Assembly Hall and cutting down nets in March.

National Golf Day
Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

Practicing my dribbling, free throws and jumpers, I knew little of golf. I did know it had become my dad’s hobby. A lot of Saturday mornings, Dad would head to the course, but he would almost always be back before my brother and I were even out of bed, if not shortly after. I’m all for early tee times, but that’s pretty impressive stuff.

Weekend afternoons, at least when the Hoosiers weren’t playing, often meant golf on TV. It didn’t matter what tournament it was, but I remember hearing plenty about Greg Norman, Lee Trevino, and more. I even learned what a “Skins Game” was.

To me, it couldn’t have been more boring. That is, right up until 1997.

The “Tiger Effect” was real

In April of 1997, I was 12 years old, and right along with the rest of the world, I was transfixed. Tiger Woods, 21 years old and fist pumping all over the place, was running roughshod over the Masters.

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Everybody knows it, and it’ll be written about for decades to come, but it’s worth mentioning here. This is the type of thing you could hardly dream up in Hollywood. I grew up wanting to be “like Mike”.

Suddenly, along with seemingly my entire generation, “I am Tiger Woods”.

It was more passive then, but I bought in. Sure, my golf consumption was solely limited to weekends on CBS, but it was a spark. As a teenager, I had little real interest in picking up a club. My interests wouldn’t allow me to dedicate four whole hours on a weekend to the game. Video games (I know the island green at Sawgrass like the back of my hand) and tournaments on TV gave me all the fix I needed.

Fast forward to my early twenties. I was always a decent athlete, but far from great. My hoop dreams died pretty early; that’ll happen when you top out at 5’11” with no special attributes to speak of. In high school, I had moved to football. That carried me into college, but my story was no different than anybody else’s. Eventually, the pads got hung up for the last time.

Growing Up, Golf and Life Lessons Learned

I wanted to stay involved with sports. I also wanted to spend more time with my dad. He was, after all, the one who helped guide me through plenty of rocky times growing up, even if I didn’t always think I deserved it.

Better yet, I could tell how excited he was to share “his” hobby with me.

National Golf Day
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Of course, in the true spirit of golf, it wasn’t always easy. I’m my own worst critic, and pretty competitive, not exactly a perfect recipe for a budding golfer of any age. I never threw a club or anything, but some colorful words and poor outlooks must have worn on my dad.

To me, though, I was playing with a great golfer, one I could probably never live up to. I don’t think he ever kept an official handicap, but if he wasn’t a single digit, he must have been close to it.

As an adult, it turned out, I didn’t want to be like Mike, or Tiger. I just wanted to be a little more like Dad.

That connection is a big reason why I play golf, and even why I write about it here. One of my most treasured memories is the last round I ever got to play with him. Neither one of us was playing particularly well, and we were both a little down on ourselves. At the turn, we put away the scorecard and just enjoyed our time together doing something we both loved.

I could have shot 200 that day and it would be the best round ever.

I’m a dad now, and I don’t know if my son will wind up as a golfer. I hope he does, obviously, but more, I hope to share some of those lessons and that love with him.

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A good walk spoiled? Not on your life. They’re often the best four hours of my day. Happy National Golf Day. I hope you hit ’em long and straight.