Sunday, June 21, 2015

"My grandson Sam Saunders has been playing golf since he could hold a club and I spent a lot of time with him over the years. Like my father taught me, I showed him the fundamentals of the game and helped him make adjustments as he and his game matured over the years." Arnold Palmer

Father's Day and Sunday at the U.S. Open fall on the same day every year.  I think both have great lessons to teach.

A father's love and influence cannot be measured.  Early childhood lessons from dads resonate as loudly as the later-in-life quiet talks with dads, as father and child reflect on what has been learned in the life the two have shared.  Life lessons are passed from generation to generation, each incorporating the "Dad-isms"  into the lives of his/her own children.  Just think about the number of times we utter sentences beginning with "My dad said . . ." or "My dad told me. . ." or "My dad said that when he was young . . ."

After teaching for 37 years, I knew that the students who did not have an active and loving father in their lives knew that they were missing something special.  Their "free writings" (that means write about anything that strikes a chord with you!) echoed their desire to have a "whole family."  Many of those students chose male staff members as their paternal influence. They wanted and needed the guidance that a father provides: try your best; don't quit; you are better than you think you are; sometimes Life disappoints, but that is no reason to stop trying; Failure is also a good teacher, but only if you pay attention to why you failed.

So, what do fathers and Father's Day have to do with the U.S.Open? Golf and life are very similar, and competing on the world stage adds stressors that mere mortals who are not golf professionals cannot even vaguely understand. Players must adhere to all of Dad's lessons and teachings in order to compete and rise above the rest.  After a bad shot or missed putt, they need to hear Dad saying, "One shot- put it behind you and keep trying."   When a bad break occurs, and there will be many more at Chambers Bay, players must carry Dad in their collective ear saying, "Life disappoints, and so does Golf, but keep going and give it your best."  Many of the PGA Tour players were taught to play golf by their fathers, which makes the winner's hug from dad at the conclusion of the tournament all the more poignant.
I really love it that Father's Day and the final round of the Open are on the same day. Somehow, this sharing of this special day is just right.

My dad is gone now, having left us in 2002.  He played golf in his early years, and he was delighted when I began playing, and then coaching golf for 33 years.  In the 42 years I have played, I have heard my father's voice in my ear hundreds of times, encouraging me and applauding me.  I wish I could have another conversation with him, perhaps to talk about golf, but more importantly to tell him how much I appreciate all of the life lessons he imparted.

Happy Father's Day to all dads!  Thanks for sharing your wisdom, both on and off the golf course!

ADDENDUM:  PGA golfer Jason Day personifies the message of this blog.  On Friday of the championship on the 9th hole, his final hole to play, Jason fell to the ground, a victim of vertigo.  He got up carefully and finished the round and went to the hospital for testing.  On Saturday at the Open, Jason shot an impressive 68, and finished in a four-way tie with three other golfers for the lead.  Jason admitted he did not have his usual energy, but he plowed forward, with his trusty caddie, Colin Swatton by his side. Colin is not the usual bag-carrying and yardage-wielding caddie; he is also Jason's swing coach mentor, and as Jason says, his "Father figure." Colin came into Jason's life as a golf teacher when Jason was just 13, a year after Jason's father died from stomach cancer.  The two have been best friends for years. If Jason Day wins today- Father's Day and Sunday at the U.S.Open at Chambers Bay-the story will be about much more than a golf score.  It will be about giving one's best under difficult circumstances, putting the bad shots behind, and being guided by the encouragement of  a friend, coach, mentor and father figure.  Win or lose, this is a great Father's Day story, which will become a part of the annals of U.S.Open history. 

Great article on Jason and Colin: 

As always, I welcome your comments or suggestions. 

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