I hear stories on the PGA TOUR all the time about the golf stars and their Dads. We probably all have a story, or if we’re lucky, many stories, of playing golf with our fathers. Many of us were introduced to the game by Dad, a gift passed down from generation to generation that hopefully we’ll pass down to our children, and they to theirs.
My “Dad” story is probably like a lot of yours. He was a wheat farmer in Eastern Washington and got ONE week a year to play, on our family vacation to the Oregon coast. The small coastal town had sandy little 9-hole course that might as well have been Pebble Beach to me, so rugged and rustic. Hey, I was only 8 or 9 and wasn’t versed in the gorgeous layouts of a place like Hilton Head Island. But, to excuse the extension of the farm kid analogy, the seed had been planted. He let me tag along sometimes on his golf adventures (as many as you could have on a tiny 9-holer). Or, he’d leave me at the practice putting green with a single club, a Matzie chipper, and three balls while he played other vacationers he’d been paired with who might not appreciate the wit and wisdom of a 9-year-old who talked too much. In the hours that ensued, I learned how to make that Matzie chipper into a 5-iron, a putter, you name it. The golf balls represented Palmer and Nicklaus and Player and I played “tournament” after tournament around that putting green (Palmer probably won more often, he was my favorite, Dad always rooted for Jack).
But there’d always be at least one round for just the two of us. I remembered them most of all, and they were the basis for our relationship long after we’d parted day-to-day ways after our family split up. When we did get together, we could always go to the golf course. No long, involved discussions of past family issues. No detailed questions about either of our futures, just golf. We could play entire rounds saying only a handful of words, yet those moments spoke volumes about how the game could bring people together.
I’ll never forget the first time I beat him, and his smile the first time he beat me back. I’ll never forget the day he met my future wife and her father John for the first time, at Spyglass Hill, the day after Father’s Day 1991. And I’ll never, ever, forget his one trip cross-country to Hilton Head Island, where my wife and I, and her parents, were also vacationing at the time. We played EVERY day, got the obligatory picture taken with the alligator at Hilton Head National (a tradition I’d love to see return), and were again reminded about what this great game can mean, long before the term “male bonding” was coined. It was one of our last outings together, and to have it be here was special.
Dad’s gone now, but John’s still around, at 87, and moved to Bluffton 4 years ago to be closer to the grandkids. He’s “dad” now, and I treasure our times together on the courses of the Lowcountry as much as I did any precious time I spent with my father on the links.
You have a Father’s Day golf story to share that involves Hilton Head Island? Send it along, I’d love to read it. If not, start a new Father’s Day tradition this year and bring Dad to Hilton Head Island for a golf getaway. Learn more about golf on Hilton Head Island.