As my young son has yet another birthday fast approaching, my mind recently wandered to what his future holds in life and in golf. He has shown a budding interest in the game, or as much as a soon-to-be 4 year old can show, and it makes me think of what lies ahead on the road of life for him, as golf parallels many issues we face each day. So I decided to write him a letter.
You are growing up so fast it’s scary. I can’t believe that you already have your own set of clubs and you seem to really love to be around the game of golf. Hitting balls in the yard, driving the picker (with dad’s help of course), and playing a few holes of mini golf are just some of the things you love about golf right now. You’re pretty good at re-organizing the putters in the pro shop at Night Hawk too, now that I think about it. But maybe one day you will want to do more than hang around the game of golf; maybe you will really develop a love for the game. When and if that time comes, I need you to know some things.
First off, golf is hard. It will be a lot like life at times; you think you have it figured out and the game seems so easy and free flowing at times. But the next day, golf (like life) will show you that you never own it for good, you only borrow it. All that seemed easy will fade away into a constant struggle against nobody else but yourself. You need to understand that this, just like the good times, is only temporary. But you will need to get up off the ground and keep fighting, keep working, keep your head up. Life is going to do this to you too, and in much harder ways at times. I hope that I am wrong but that is how we grow and learn and get tougher. So be prepared for golf to knock you down. But remember you are my son and I will be there to help pick you up as long as I can, then you will need to do it on your own one day. I know you will be just fine.
Maybe down the line, you will be good enough at the game to play in some kind of event at some level, where every stroke must be counted and verified. These can be nerve racking times, but mostly fun times. Competition, at whatever level you play at, is a good thing to help you grow. No one is going to give you anything in life either, so yet again, golf imitates life. I want you to understand that in these times, the type of person you really are comes out. You see, golf is about sportsmanship and honor, and you keep your score and account for your own mistakes. One day you might find your ball in a bad spot on the golf course, in a spot that is in real trouble and jeopardizing a great round you have going. All of a sudden you will look around and it’s just you and your ball, your playing competitors nowhere to be found. In this moment I hope that all of the life lessons that your mother and I have tried to instill in you come through; that in this moment the thought of doing something dishonorable is only fleeting. Whatever decision you make, correct or not, may never be known by anyone other than you. I hope you make the right one so that you can look at yourself in the mirror and know you did the right thing.
More than anything, I want you to see the joy in the game. It doesn’t matter to us whether you play for a living, teach for a living like dad, or just play casually. What does matter is that when you do play, you love every minute of it and that you maybe pass that along to someone else. Son, golf is a GREAT game; it’s great for so many reasons but not the least of which is that you can play it until you are old and gray. Most of the other sports will fade away, but golf is there for a lifetime if you want it to be there. It’s about sunny days and green grass, beautiful views and pure shots off the clubface, laughter and life lessons. I promised myself that I would never push you into the game, but would only expose you to it and give you access to it if you wanted to play. There are just too many people who push their children too hard into the game, only to burn them out and make them resent the game later in life. I don’t want that for you. Sure, there are some tough lessons that golf can teach us that also may help in life, but the biggest lesson is that golf, like life, is a gift. Don’t waste one second – go out there and enjoy it!
I hope that we will be able to play together one day soon, to enjoy the links together as father and son. Laughing, telling jokes, maybe have a couple of beers together when you get old enough (don’t tell mom). Who knows, maybe you will even beat me one day. On that day I will fake being upset and beam inside with pride, knowing you love the game as much as I do. That’s the best gift I can ever give you.
Happy Birthday, son.