By Alex Burge, University of Illinois (Click here to read Laura Lonardi's winning essay)
The saying “it’s more than a game” may be cliché, but to me golf truly is more than a game. I have been playing golf for 15 years, and it has taught me many life skills and offered many incredible experiences. But when I tried to zero in on one way it has changed my life it dawned on me, my relationship with my father, my hero, was developed through this game.
Until a few years ago, my father was deaf. Without a doubt, this was a difficult thing to overcome as a young boy; the impatient eight year old I used to be did not want to spend an extra five minutes to have a simple exchange. After injuries ended my father’s tennis career, he picked up the game of golf. I tagged along when I could after school, and we would play a few holes most evenings. The slow pace of the game created an atmosphere where communication at his pace seemed normal, my anxious eight-year-old self began to listen to his great stories and advice. My father and myself were becoming best friends through the game of golf.
As my game grew and I began to take it more seriously, we started travelling to tournaments together. At this point the communication barrier had mostly been broken, I had become patient enough to easily communicate with him. For years and years we spent weekends in hotels together, breakfasts at the local pancake house, and countless hours of car rides to talk about whatever we could think of. Reflecting back on these moments, I cannot imagine growing up without golf. It’s not that I cannot imagine playing the game, it’s that I can’t imagine what it would have been like if golf hadn’t given me the opportunity to build an everlasting relationship with my father. Listening to my father’s stories, watching how he conducted himself and treated people while we were travelling, and realizing how blessed I was to have him as my dad are moments and lessons I have learned that will never be forgotten or underutilized.
As a young boy, I always wanted to move from activity to activity. One moment it may have been BMX biking, the next I wanted to play basketball with my friends, the next moment I wanted to swim; but none of these activities provided an outlet and built-in time to spend with my father. Golf did. Golf had an inherent slow-pace that relaxed me and had me stationary enough to build this relationship. Golf has been the easiest way for my father and I to spend quality time together and just be boys playing a game.
My father is my hero; he served in the United States Army, played junior tennis events against Arthur Ashe, built a company from the ground up, had a scholarship offer to play quarterback for the University of Miami, and countless other accolades. But the thing that comes to mind first for me about Wilson Burge is none of those, I think of him as the greatest father I could ever dream of. Without the game of golf, I’m not sure if the impatient eight year old I used to be would have taken the time to truly get to know this amazing man. Golf changed my life, and continues to change my life, because it introduced me to my father the way a young boy should be introduced, with patience and a willingness to listen and learn. Golf introduced me to my hero.