All the times she drove him to junior tournaments. Always seeing her walking along outside the ropes, even when he played 36 holes in a day. The way she booked a Saturday night stay every time she bought his airline tickets because she was more confident about him making the cut than he was himself.
'I know that usually when she comes to a tournament like this, she can't see much,' Chris DiMarco said. 'But I know she's got the best seat in the house now.'
But that was before DiMarco followed an opening-round 70 with a 65 that tied Tiger Woods for Friday's best and left him three strokes off the lead and Tiger's tail at the British Open.
'I think I have a good sense about where I'm at and what I'm trying to do, and I'm not getting overly upset with bad shots,' DiMarco said. 'I'm just in a good frame of mind.'
He knows emotions carry you only so far in golf. Anger and grief can't be converted into purposeful energy, the way they might in more physical sports like football, baseball or basketball, and no game punishes a lapse of concentration more than his does.
The fact that he's handled the delicate balancing act so well should come as no surprise. Rich and Norma DiMarco each had a hand in shaping their son's competitive drive and both took pleasure in watching him play well, taking in somewhere between 12 and 15 PGA Tour events each season. What might be surprising about this run of good play, though, is that it followed on the heels of a tough stretch that saw DiMarco plagued by injury and uncharacteristically changing up his game and his equipment in a desperate bid to get back on track.
He fell while skiing in March and a cell phone in his backpack 'basically kidney-punched me and bruised my ribs, lower back and basically, I couldn't swing,' Like too many athletes, DiMarco tried to come back too soon and the bad habits he developed playing with pain threw the rest of his swing out of whack. That in turn put pressure on his putting -- DiMarco spent years mastering the unconventional 'claw' grip -- and he started tinkering with that, too.
'I just needed time to heal. ... I'm really able to fire through the ball again, and I think that's what I wasn't able to do. And obviously,' he added a moment later, 'seeing some putts go in makes my back feel a lot better.'
Two more days of that and the rest of him will be feeling lighter than air.
With only three victories in the dozen years since he began competing regularly on the PGA Tour, DiMarco is far from the best player never to win a major. But he's come closer than plenty of those ahead of him on that list, having lost both the 2004 PGA Championship and the 2005 Masters to Vijay Singh and Woods, respectively, in playoffs.
But with this season's promising start derailed by injuries, DiMarco said he'd rather pile up enough points to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team for a second time than hoist the claret jug Sunday.
'Obviously, winning a major would always solidify your career, there's no doubt about that, so that would be pretty special. But playing for your country,' he said, 'is probably the greatest thing I've ever done in golf.'
And there's still another option.
'Two more good rounds and I could take care of both of them,' DiMarco chuckled. 'That would be the right thing to do.'
In a sense, though, he's already done the right thing. DiMarco has shown his father and 10-year-old son, Cristian, that the best tribute he could offer was to carry on exactly the way Norma would have insisted, playing not just because it was an obligation but because it was an opportunity.
'It was a big part of our lives,' Rich said Friday. 'I'll probably do it on my own now.'
What his son recognized right away was that the first step was going to be the toughest.
'I made him come,' DiMarco said about his dad. 'We had the service on a Friday night and I said, 'You're going to the British.'
'He said, 'I don't know if I can.' I said, 'I already bought a ticket. It's not refundable.' I know how much he likes money,' DiMarco said, grinning, 'and he doesn't like to waste my money, either.'
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