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Mar 24

Mothers, Daughters, Fathers and Sons


Golf a Family Passion

With Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day coming up, and with International Women’s Day just past, the spring season affords many opportunities for parents and children to play together, which at times can be the most important reason for the game’s existence. Throughout history, family relationships have been forged, strengthened, healed and celebrated on the golf course, in ways that only each individual participant could express. Golf is the perfect mixture of nature, a precious patch of free time and a specific brand of intimacy that allows humanity to flourish uninterrupted, outside of a water hazard or two, perhaps.

Curious about golf as a celebration of family relationships, I won’t say that I was shocked to find that so much is going on, but I was certainly pleased. From the Women’s Metropolitan Golf Association of New Jersey to the Castle Golf Club in Dublin (with the backdrop of a Norman Castle and the Dublin Mountains) and the LPGA’s Mother/Daughter Day in Coronado, events that bring women and their daughters together for a day or more are being played absolutely everywhere. Imbue the work week with all the nobility we’d like, but I believe that these times together are central to what humans were intended to do all along – our truly important work.
Edwin Watts Golf
It works for mothers and sons as well. While we played at every available opportunity, the game daunted my mother, who held back at first. Finally, she decided that she was going to have to give it a go, so the two of us sneaked over to the local course incognito. Golf treated her like it treats everyone for two or three holes, but some switch got thrown on the fourth tee, and she suddenly grasped it as someone would much farther down the line.  I was hopelessly impressed, but she didn’t see it. At the end of the day, she felt lucky to get off the course and home without being recognized, while I would have thrown her a ticker-tape parade. I could not for the life of me explain to her that she’d come in at ten or twelve strokes under a normal first round…ah, well. Fortunately for us, she tried it again later, and we all had a lot of special time together through the years.

I was fascinated by a recent article about a gypsy and his son overcoming local prejudice and entering (and winning) the European Father & Son Golf Championship.  Gypsy Joe Smith, a former bareknuckle fighter, and his son, Rymer, walked away with more than a trophy. That tournament is coming around again this July, and has taken on enormous popularity. The article reminded me that golf has been, more than once, a stage for triumph over separateness and fear.

As it did for the women, my search for other Father/Son events was gratifying, including the Father & Son Team Classic in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, played at Barefoot Golf Resort, MBN South Creek (a Palmer design) and the Resort Course of Grande Dunes. Understandably, the men’s events are couched in a somewhat more competitive spirit, where the women’s are more collaborative, but it doesn’t matter. Families are coming together to play, in a place without offices or homework.

Even more than with my mother, being immersed in nature created a haven for fathers and sons, a place where man and boy things (and later, boy/girl things – argh) could be discussed. Surrounded by the silence and walking through idyllic scenes, such life-altering discussions might not have received their due anywhere else, and are kept as some of my most important memories. I suspect that many would second that.

As these holidays approach, I am struck by the endless human possibilities that can unfold on a golf course. I’m also reminded of what a superior experience it is to other “things” we could be doing, things that don’t include each other in this ideal way. I am reminded, above all, to re-prioritize – family first.

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.