Dec 16

Father and Son Golf

The PNC, PGA’s Father Son Challenge Runs Through Sunday – Incredible Collaborations

This time of year is always of great interest to me, when professional golfers of various ages play a tournament devoted to the relationship between father and son. Unless clear and present dangers exist within such a relationship, the potential beauty of the event is unmistakable, and takes many of us back to wonderful days. Without intending to, the father and son tournament is a commentary on the question of golf’s destiny. Frankly, I believe it suggests that golf’s fate is a good one, provided the game returns to the family where it thrives. The way they are playing it at the Father Son Challenge in Orlando is apparently good for scoring. A father might carry out some aspects of  the game that require experience, emotional control, and judgmental restraint. Meanwhile, the son might be clobbering it over the tree out there that we the elders, can barely reach at all. They affirm the part of golf in which it is important to believe and attempt all things.

As proof, just look at Angel Cabrera and his son, Angel Jr. Together, they scored a 59 in one round. The qualities of each have produced a family juggernaut. My father and I went into the same profession, and he often remarked that if we could combine my such-and-such with his such-and-such, we’d be dangerous. My mother reminded us that we were already dangerous, and that a combination of our qualities might be better termed an improvement.
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Mark and Shaun O’Meara are one stroke back, and the elder O’Meara made note of the same point. He cited his son’s drives as surpassing his by as much as 60 yards, and that as a result, he (the father) loved hitting only a 6 iron the rest of the way. Jack Nicklaus, at the age of 77, is playing with his 15-year old grandson. How much fun is that? Bernhard Langer is playing, as he has in the past, with 17-year old Jason Langer. Together they shot eagle on two of the last holes. You mean there’s another one on the way?

I can’t help but imagine what a combined or scramble game would be like with my father. I doubt that there would be much eagling going on, but you never know. The breakdowns in my game shifted from one aspect to another with great rapidity, so that I couldn’t pin them down. My father, on the other hand, possessed one of the world’s finest hooks, not a duck hook, but a big, beautiful long arching hook that could break things made of glass far off the course. That deadly hook caused a state of awe among his children through our entire childhoods.

Speaking of amateur golf between father and son, the game and scenery is so helpful toward breaking through awkward moments. At times, when my mother suggested to my father that he have a talk with his son, the golf course was the way to go. In that venue, questions like “Are you crazy?” or “What’s her name?” or “You want to borrow the what?” can all be followed with something calmer. That includes more ingratiating exchanges like “Nice shot!” “Great putt,” etc. As a child, hitting the drive of your life, or sinking a 50 foot putt (I would have loved more of those) are not the central pillar of the memory. The greatness of it is remembering that you’re dad watched it happen, and applauded. Then, he went home and told my mother – more applause, even if she didn’t really care.
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Father and son golf can be two to three hours of ongoing welcoming, a perfect male intimacy. Each hole is an adventure that through the lens of memory merits a bestseller book, at least for a few hours. It was lived by just the two of you, and if it was bigger to us than was in reality, who cares? Go ahead and tell fish stories, exaggerate at will. As one of the golden times of family interaction, it reminds us that all of them are precious, and at some point will never come again. And, the added perk is, if you’re both really good, you might shoot a 59. You couldn’t do it alone, and neither could he. But together? Unstoppable…just like the Cabreras.

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