How will my son find golf? Does it matter?
An open letter to my son, and a thank-you to my dad
I think back to how I found the game, sometimes.
Usually it happens when I’m depressed and I’m thinking about golf because it makes me happy.
I remember my dad going off to play with his friends, and then seeing on television what he said they were off doing when they were gallivanting, and I remember that it looked like fun. So I’d bug him, asking when I could come. I was probably not much older than my son is now. Maybe five or six.
I’m not sure whether it was the game itself or the thought of being off gallivanting with Dad that drew me to the game more, but I hounded him often enough that he ordered me a starter set of junior clubs from the Sears catalogue at some point (2-wood, 5, 7, and 9-irons and a putter), and I think he picked up a bag at some garage sale, or something (my dad, to this day, is extremely frugal). I still remember that Northwestern brand 2-wood. I used it for a long time. I got my first almost-hole-in-one with it.
But I digress.
We started on the courses surrounding the small towns in our little corner of Saskatchewan. They were little more than unused fields with patches of dark sand that were called “greens” with a cup/flag in the middle of each one. You had to flatten a line with the back of the rake (there may have been a roller on some of them) before you putted your ball, and someone had to retrace all the nice, concentric circles from the middle to the edge after you were done each hole (I think it was the last person to hole out). I don’t remember tee boxes—just being told by my dad and his friends, “This is where we tee off, and that flag over there is where we’re going.”
I remember there being a box with a little slot in it and a padlock on the side, sitting atop a fence post, where you were meant to put your payment for the round.
It looked like a birdhouse, kind of. From a distance it did, anyway.
I remember asking my dad what kept people from just playing without putting in any money, or just putting in a little bit, if there was nobody around to catch them.
I can still smell the pasture. I can feel the wind across the plain that sometimes made us hold onto our hats and carried that smell to our noses. I can hear the crunch of my dad’s metal spikes on the hard-packed earth, and the not-so-smooth rolling of the hard plastic tires on his pull cart.
I don’t, however, remember his answer. Not word for word, anyway, as I should be able to, considering how vividly the rest of the scene remains.
But the wording wasn’t the important part. The important part was that it was the first time I openly questioned the ethics of life, and the answer was, “Nothing’s stopping anyone from doing that, but we don’t do that, because it’s not right,” or something along those lines. The important part is that the idea behind what he said stuck with me.
So, I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t know how my son will find golf, or if he will at all.
But I know that he’ll learn that lesson from me in one way or another. I kind of hope it’s on a golf course, because that’s how it happened to me, and it stayed with me and determines how I do things to this day, but that’s not the important part.
The important part is teaching him that being a good person isn’t about what you do. It’s about what you do when you don’t have to. What you do when nobody’s looking and nobody’s going to find out.
It’s about doing the right thing, rather than the easy thing, or the selfish thing.
Remember that, Sven.
And thanks, Dad.