News From Terre Haute, Indiana

On & Off the Course

June 17, 2012

ON AND OFF THE COURSE: Fathers typically a big influence on golfing sons

TERRE HAUTE — Some events fall naturally into place around holidays. The Fourth of July always falls somewhere during Wimbledon, giving all of the Yanks in attendance something to be boisterous about, to the chagrin of their hosts; The Masters often, but not always, ends on Easter Sunday, which is fitting since golfers find it such a reverent occasion.

Today, however, is Father's Day, and as usual, the final day for the U.S. Open. There have been many U.S. Opens and other tournaments dedicated to fathers, because they were a major influence to their son or daughter.

One such memorable tournament for me was at the PGA Championship in 1997 at Winged Foot Country Club. That was the year that 33-year-old Davis Love III won, his first major tournament win in 11 years and 39 tries. His brother Mark was on the bag for him, but his dad was in his heart.

Davis Love II was a teaching pro, who had been young Davis' teacher and inspiration. He was killed in a plane crash in 1988. The father had written an inspirational message for his son in a book, that he could not forget. It said, “Follow your dreams and enjoy the trip.”

Davis had started the day tied for first with Justin Leonard, but opened up a 5-shot lead halfway through. On the back nine a sudden rainstorm hit, but it let up when Davis was on the 18th hole, and a rainbow appeared through the clouds, just before Davis sank an 8-foot birdie-putt to clinch his victory.

The symbolism was evident to all, as Davis raised his visor to the sky. He said later that if his father had been there, he simply would have said it was his time to win.

Tiger Woods showed his human side in 2006 after winning the British Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club. His father, Earl Woods, had succumbed to cancer in early May of that year. In June Tiger missed the cut at the U.S. Open, his first missed cut at a major since turning pro in 1997.

Even though that tournament was very soon after the death of his father, as Alan Shipnuck wrote in an article for Sports Illustrated, he played, citing that his father would have wanted him to. He quotes Tiger, “I know that Dad would still want me to grind it and give it my best, and that's what I always do. That's what I will certainly try to do this week.”

However, the passion and the concentration that he usually had, was just not there and he missed the cut by three strokes. So when he tapped in his final putt to win the Open Championship just a month later, he buried his head in his caddie Steve William's shoulder, and sobbed for several seconds, as thoughts of his father flooded his mind.

It was reminiscent of another emotional moment, the long embrace with his father when he walked off of the 18th green at the Masters, with his first major win.

Fathers' Day is a great day for watching the U.S. Open, and even better if you were playing in it! Golf is a great sport to teach children because there is so much etiquette to be learned, along with skill. Enjoy the day with watching some of the U.S. Open, but if you can fit it in, take your son or daughter out to the course, and introduce them to golf. They'll be beating you before you know it, but you'll love playing with them!

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