Fathers Golf and Generations


We say Fathers Day, but what we really mean is Fathers Season.
That third Sunday in June, now always the day of the final regulation round of the U.S. Open, opens for many a stretch of warm afternoons and warmer memories. They often involve golf. (Moms, dont worry. If theres any justice, all year is Mothers Season.)
As our numerous contacts with Golf Channel viewers for our first-ever Fathers Day promotion showed, thousands of golfers of all ages recall learning and playing the game with their fathers ' men who likely enjoyed the same gift from their own dads. That special triangular bond between a father, his children and the game has been much discussed in barrooms, by firesides, on airplanes, and naturally, in books. James Dodsons Final Rounds, about the authors trip around Scotland with his terminally ill father, was a notable one.
But just as fatherhood is eternal, so does this subject seem inexhaustible. The latest invigorating read on fathers and golf is Golf Dads, by Curt Sampson, author of The Lost Masters, Royal and Ancient, and a number of other golf books.
Sampson, a former touring pro, recently lost his own golf dad, Bob. After examining his relationship with his father, he set out on the trail of other father-son golf stories. Some are famous (Lee Trevino, Peter Jacobsen), while others are not (one mans father, an expert in butterflies, took his family to Mexico every summer, where the son learned the game on a course tucked way back in the jungle).
Why golf and fathers? Because dads so often introduce their children to this sport that is as much a culture as a game, Sampson said recently from his home in Ennis, Texas. Because almost every big golf pro Ive ever met was anxious to talk about his father. And because the game makes visible the dramas of childhood and parenthood.
Those dramas, whose significance might not be realized as theyre being played out, are the scripts many children rerun later in life, contemplating the changes fathers and children must go through.
Ive long been fascinated by the giant Xs our lives make, such as the moment when a fathers declining physical strength is momentarily equaled by his son, then, seemingly a moment later, surpassed. Sampson said. But strength is only the most obvious and easily tracked intersection. Skill, wit, success, experience, and wisdom advance and decay in the son and the father at different rates, and sometimes the metaphor of lines on a graph isnt adequate to explain whats going on.
Weighty stuff. But Golf Dads is not a heavy read. Golf ' and golf courses ' appear again and again as opportunities for parental gift-giving.
Fathers care about passing something of themselves to their kids ' attitude, philosophy, religion, a game. Sampson said. Golf is the best stage ever for the attitude part, in my opinion. Plus you get that shared challenge deal from your five mile stroll together.
And the more innocuous parts of those strolls, the ones that now or later will bring involuntary smiles to the faces of the children involved, figure large in the tales Sampson relates. Theres poignancy, yes, but never syrup. Returning long after his late father has netted his last butterfly, Gilbert the lepidopterists son hears the old Mexican man who carried his bag intone his name ' Heel-bare ' and the sound alone brings back memories of the father and all those summers, decades ago. Peter Jacobsen recalls rounds with his father and brothers and sisters, some light-hearted times that belied Erling Jacobsens stoic exterior (a war hero, he never discussed the war; not an overly demonstrative man, his children nonetheless were sure of his love).
Those who have golf, or a dad, or both ' or perhaps will soon become a dad ' will enjoy this book.