Father’s Day, 1995. It was a day, like today, filled with soccer and U.S. Open golf. That day, it was the U.S. Cup match between Mexico and the United States, a historic 4-0 win for the USA over Jorge Campos and the Mexican team. Corey Pavin came back to win the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills that day. I got to see the latter; missed most of the former.
We didn’t have cell phones then, no texting. I had to call my dad that day from a house about five miles out of the little town of Blackwater, Missouri, just past noon on a beautiful, hot, sunny day. I was on the way home from college for dinner. I was, as it turned out, going to be late.
The radiator had blown, spilling hot anti-freeze into the floor of the car and burning my feet. White steam filled the car within a second, and I couldn’t see anything as I went into the grassy median on I-70, fortunate that the location was fairly level. A family returning home from church had been kind enough to allow me to pile in the back of the station wagon that day. I was supposed to be home just in time for Father’s Day dinner at about 1:30. Instead, I shot baskets with kids in a gravel driveway while my dad drove for an hour and fifteen minutes to get me.
Eventually, after the time with the tow truck and the drive back to our house, we got home in late afternoon. If there is a day that stands out as to what being a father is about, it’s hard to beat having to spend four hours of your day getting your 21-year old son out of trouble on Father’s Day.
It’s been exactly six months since my dad passed away unexpectedly. No days are easy, but some are worse than others. Memorial Day, that was a tough one, knowing that I was going to go back to the graveside. The frequent nights where my six year old tells me that she misses her Papa, those are tough too, bringing up emotions at the end of a day crammed with activity to keep the mind occupied. Today is another of those days.
The U.S. Open and Father’s Day are inextricably tied together, ands strong memories for me are tied to golf. I lost both of my golfing buddies in the last year. One was not unexpected, as my grandfather was 92 years old. When your grandfather lives that long, you kind of envision that your dad will be around forever, too.
That’s particularly true when your dad seems like he could physically go on forever. Eleven months ago, he was roofing my uncle’s house in the heat of July, and we were playing football and baseball in the backyard. He had as much energy as me, probably more. You picture him doing all those same things for your son that you got, those early mornings in the summer as a teenager, meeting up on the first tee while the dew is still on the grass, and the sun is just breaking over the fairway bunker that you always find on the right side. The cokes and candy bars at the turn, and the lunch afterward as you finished before the midday heat. Always having an extra tee for you, and the divot repair tool handy.
Golf is more than a good walk spoiled. It’s the time on the tee box waiting for the group to clear. It’s the funny moments like when you hit a bad shot and it comes bouncing back off a tree. It’s the anticipation of that good shot, made sweeter by the bad. It’s sometimes getting up to the green after a blind shot up hill, and finding the ball in the hole. It’s sometimes getting up to the green, checking the hole for a miracle, then finding it in the bunker.
I wish I could say it got easier. It doesn’t. I wish I could say that it makes sense. It doesn’t. We just have to play it as it lies, even if it didn’t turn out the way we hoped. In golf, as in life, it rarely turns out as you envision.