Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE —
I was lucky and I knew it. My father, Robert Erwin Arnett, was one of the best dads any youngster could hope for.
He owned his own tank truck and delivered petroleum products such as White Rose gasoline and fuel oil to service stations, farms and grocery stores.
He brought home each evening a number of ration stamps, which I glued to specific sheets that indicated what product was sold and to whom. This was during World War II and gasoline, like most things, was rationed.
My dad enjoyed sports, with baseball being his favorite. He had played first base for several semi-pro teams when he was younger.
I can recall the many evenings we spent when he hit “flies and grounders” to me in the street in front of our house until darkness ended our practice session.
I once got a job tossing balls that were hit foul on top of the stadium roof back to the infield. The activity paid $1 per game. One unseasonably cold May Sunday, I was perched on top the roof and the ice-cold wind was blowing and I thought I was going to freeze to death when I spotted my father coming to my aid with a big wool blanket, large enough to keep both of us warm.
My father’s love of baseball carried over to softball as well. Terre Haute back in the 1930s and 1940s boasted some great facilities for day or night softball.
One night, we were making our way up the steps to our seats at Parson’s Field when a batter hit a towering foul ball that came over the screen. I ducked, but my dad reached out and caught the ball with one hand. He must have known the announcer because the next words over the PA system were, “Nice catch, Bob!” I was so proud of my dad and I wanted to someday make him proud of me, although I thought there was little chance of that happening.
About 1940, Dad suggested we play golf. We borrowed some clubs and away we went. All I remember is chasing my sliced drives across Locust Street to the railroad tracks that seemed to want to hide my golf ball every time I mishit it, which was often.
As I recall, Dad didn’t fare much better than I. We believed that we had better stick to softball. We also shot some baskets in the driveway of one of his friends.
What I would give to play one round of golf with my father. It would be magic. It is easy to envy golfers on the PGA Tour whose dads are still living and the players are giving it all to win for their fathers.
In spite of the fact that Robert Erwin Arnett died in 1945, I’ve always felt his presence or perhaps his spirit when I played competitive golf.
My average during my sophomore year at Gerstmeyer Tech was 99 — not good enough to beat hardly anyone. After I hit my wedge into the cup on the 18th hole, just a few weeks after working as hard as I could to break 100, I had a vision of my father standing at the side of the 18th green at Rea Park when I won the City Junior.
Somewhere along the line, I decided golf had to be my game. I won medalist honors playing for the Indiana State Sycamores in five of the tournaments in which I competed. Playing third man’s position as a freshman, I held the No. 1 man’s spot during my sophomore, junior and senior seasons, I was awarded the Alumni I Men’s Blanket for 1953-54 that was emblematic of ISU’s Most Outstanding Athlete. The team finished the season 14-1.
Bob Arnett would go on to win golf tourneys in six different decades. Highlights include eight club championships, four at Rea Park, three at Elks Fort Harrison C.C. and one at Hulman Links.
Other wins for which I could thank my dad for introducing me to sports include three Casey Amateur titles, two holes-in-one, the Clinton Amateur (later called the Spaghetti Open), the Terre Haute Senior title and Terre Haute Match Play along with other awards too numerous for an old golfer to remember.
This along with teaching beginning golf for students in grades four to eight and incidentally coaching boys and girls high school golf teams for a total of 43 seasons. Anything and everything I have accomplished in golf, I owe to Robert Erwin Arnett, my dad.
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The Brazil Open is slated for Saturday, June 30, and Sunday, July 1, at Forest Park. Tee times can be requested, starting at 8 a.m. and every 10 minutes thereafter. For further information and to sign up, call (812) 442-5681.
Keep your head down and your shoestrings tied. We’ll be back.
Bob Arnett can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.