The One Lesson Dad Never Taught Me
Currently I’m on the 16th tee box at Chockoyotte CC in Weldon, NC… light breeze over my left shoulder… hole bends sharply right 200-225 yards down the fairway… a small pond guards the left corner… and I don’t have a damn clue what to do.
Unfortunately, golf was one of the few sports my dad didn’t teach me while growing up. Because of his schedule, he simply didn’t have enough time to work it in.
From the time I was five-years-old, dad coached every one of my youth league teams — baseball, basketball and football. He was still too preoccupied when high school ball rolled around. I lettered nine times in three sports and dad never missed a single game. He never got around to teaching me golf when I was in college, either. That’s because he would leave work at noon when I had a home baseball game or not go in at all on away days. Sometimes he would travel all night to see me go 0-4 at the plate or pitch one inning of relief three states over.
Studying this particular hole and lining up my tee shot, I can almost hear him saying, “Just keep it out of the trees or in the lake.” -Bud Key
There were no father-son golf lessons after I left college. My three-year stint playing semi-pro baseball (I got paid $50 for pitching both games of a double-header) and then high-level softball kept him way too busy. Just like the local Putt-Putt tournament I decided to enter on a whim. It ended at 3am in the morning with me losing in the finals. Dad walked every hole of every match.
Dad and I did begin playing golf together when I hit my 30s, two southpaws playing together from the wrong side of the ball. But by that time, I thought I already knew everything — both about golf and life. I’d blast 300-yard drives sometimes two fairways over and he would play it short but straight down the middle. How boring, I would think. And then after the round I would find out he beat me by 10 strokes.
So yes, what I know about golf I learned myself. Which may explain why I’ll never be as good at hitting that little white ball as I was at sitting on a fastball or taking a curve to the opposite field… or calmly sinking free throws or making life hell for post players twice my height… or completing 20-yard, down-and-out passes or avoiding the sack.
Which brings me back to my current dilemma. My dad passed away at the age of 88 just a few weeks ago. It’s an unusually warm and sunny February day, and I am playing alone, by choice, so that I can forget the sadness for a few hours and remember the multitude of good times dad and I had together. Studying this particular hole and lining up my tee shot, I can almost hear him saying, “Just keep it out of the trees or in the lake.”
It would be so much easier, dad, if you were here to teach me how to hit a draw.