Those of you who know me, either personally of through this space, know my two favorite sports are golf and baseball. Don’t get me wrong I am a sports fan. I have a favorite NFL team (the San Francisco 49ers), I cheer for my alma mater (Nevada) and other college basketball teams. I watch their games (sometimes to the dismay of my wife). I have over the last couple of years even found myself tuning in to an NBA game or two. But I will seek out a Web.com Tour event, I will record an LPGA Tour tournament, I’ll watch early coverage of a weekend round on the PGA TOUR even though the leaders haven’t even made their way to the practice tee.
Part of the reason is because I made a living in television golf for more than a quarter century and still have friends in the industry. I enjoy watching their work. But I believe the main reason I am a prime example of, as they say in the business, golf’s “core customer” is because I LOVE the game. I feel that way because my parents felt that way and I can never thank them enough for passing that on. Some of my fondest memories growing up were the times spent on golf courses all over America with my Mom, Dad and brothers. It was family time, it was fun. Most of those rounds were played at the venerable Washoe County Golf Course (‘The Shoe”) in my hometown of Reno, Nevada. The pro, Pete Marich, and his staff knew us well and were happy to let us play as a fivesome (as long as we didn’t hold anybody up!) so we did (and we didn’t).
We played together for years. My brothers and I got better, my parents got worse but the enjoyment for the game and the coming together as a family was always the same. No matter the skill level I always looked forward to my rounds of golf with Ginger and Lee Hirshland; even, and maybe especially, into their retirement years on Maui. I read and hear people write or say things like, “I would give anything for one more round of golf with my Dad.” I don’t have to say that because in some way he and my Mom are there with me in every shot I hit. I like to think the love of, and respect for, the game they instilled in me led to an incredibly fulfilling career. I hate to think that same career led to one of my most lamentable regrets; the fact that I was never able to pass down the love of the sport of golf to my own children.
My kids don’t play golf, never did, and that’s too bad. Oh I bought them clubs, took them to the practice range, encouraged them as best I could but none of that was good enough because I couldn’t do what my Mom and Dad did with and for me. Make almost every summer weekend a family golf weekend. When you work in golf television you work on those weekends and a lot of holidays too. During my two youngest children’s “formative” years I was “on the road” for an average of 30 of 52 weekends, most of those in the Spring, Summer and early Fall. That’s not a blueprint for getting out to the golf course with your children. So they did other things, played other sports (lacrosse, soccer, gymnastics, figure skating, basketball). Activities they could participate in without their dear old dad. I could have pushed it when I was home but I didn’t. That was a mistake. Because of that they’ll never have the memories that I have playing golf with my parents. I will never have the memories my Mom and Dad had playing golf with me and my brothers. That makes me sad. Now my most enjoyable rounds of golf are the ones I play with my wife. That makes me happy but I can’t help but wonder how much more enjoyable those rounds would be if our kids were out there with us.
I applaud initiatives like The First Tee and Drive, Chip and Putt but when push comes to shove there is nothing more meaningful than heritage. The custom of passing down a family activity from one generation to another. I am not, however, without hope. Our children are still young (early 30’s and early 20’s) but I am realistic enough to realize that bit of hope is tiny. These remarkable kids lead incredibly busy lives, they are accomplished, we are extremely proud of them all. Golf is going to have to come to them on their terms. If and when it does I can only hope that I am still around to do what my parents did with us, enjoy this greatest game of all together.