Fatherly Things at Fathers Day

By George WhiteJune 16, 2005, 4:00 pm
Sunday of the U.S. Open has traditionally fallen on the Sunday that is Fathers Day. Most of the competitors are fathers. All have a father. Therefore, Sunday is an emotional day - emotional for a couple of reasons.
 
For some, the emotions are not happy ones. I think of Briny Baird and his father Butch ' separated for three or four years by an argument over something seemingly trivial that it no longer comes immediately to mind. I think of young Sean OHair and his separation from a father who seemed entirely unreasonable, both in his demands of young Sean and his dictatorial attitude towards the young man.
 
Tiger Woods and Earl Woods
Tiger Woods shares a light moment with his father Earl.
But for every situation such as this, there are untold thousands who have the type of relationship Tiger Woods and his father have. Or Padraig Harrington and his dad. Theirs is a loving relationship, made even more dear because their fathers are living though serious health problems.
 
Tigers father suffers from several maladies, but the most critical one is his problem heart. Father Earl saw Tiger though several professional victories, but recently he has been too ill to travel.
 
It's one of those things where he hasn't been to any of my U.S. Open victories, said Tiger. He's just been at home and watched them.
 
It's always special to compete on Father's Day and then to have an opportunity to be lucky enough to win one of these and to be able to share it with him. I've gone home with the trophy and we shed a tear together, and it's a very special time.
 
Pop exposed Tiger to the game as an infant still in the crib. Pop would practice swings in the garage, and Tiger picked up a plastic club and began emulating him.
 
My dad was the reason why I was introduced to the game of golf, said Tiger, and to share Father's Day with him and I'd call up in the morning and say, Hey, pop, I'm going out there.
 
He says, Just go out there and take care of business like you always do. What's your game plan? And I tell him what I'm going to do on every hole and we run through it together, just like we always do. That's special, man.
 
Harringtons father is back home in Ireland battling throat cancer. Harrington answers questions about his father politely but shortly. My dad is comfortable, and I have so many special memories that there would be too many to go through, he said when the conversation drifted to family matters Wednesday.
 
However, John Hopkins of the London Times got Padraig to open up a little on Tuesday. Padraig drifted into a make-believe scenario for a few moments, a scenario in which he saw himself winning the Open.
 
Obviously it would mean a lot to me to win on Fathers Day and he would be very happy if I won, said Harrington.
 
But I am not under pressure at all because of him. I am not playing for him. He never tried to live his life through me. He would be happy if I won but outside of golf, I spend a lot of time thinking.
 
Does Harrington compulsively call home, perhaps once a day?
 
You have a different idea of what compulsive is, Padraig replied. Its two or three times a day.
 
At the Players Championship this year, Harrington spoke about his father when the cancer was first discovered.
 
I never had a golf lesson until I was 15 years of age, but what I had when I was growing up was my dad was a very competitive, very intelligent player, said Padraig. And he just taught me the idea of getting the ball in the hole, the art of scoring. He would never have once given me this is how you swing the golf club, but he would have encouraged me to score well. And at the end of the day, that's really where my talents lie.
 
Harrington is in the U.S. while his mind remains in Dublin. He spoke about the difficulties of being a continent away as he attempted to compete at the Players.
 
I'm trying to not use it as a detrimental factor, or motivational factor. I'm trying to be neutral around the course and do my job. I've traveled a long way to do it. As I said before, I'd rather not be here. But the fact that I'm here means that I'm going to go out there and try to do my job as professionally as I can.
 
Fathers Day has a profoundly different meaning to just about everyone. But sometimes, a father is a little extra precious when you begin to see their mortality. It certainly is to the men at Pinehurst.
 
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