Thursday, February 23, 2017

Late to the Golf Passion Party

I grew up on the first fairway of a beautiful private golf course in upper Westchester. It was a dream home for my parents who loved both golf and antiques. When we moved I was 7 and my brother was 5. My father, an avid golfer and 6 handicap, teed it up with friends every weekend after working hard at his executive job at Nestle all week. My mother started playing golf with the women, too. She was never a long ball hitter, but we used to call her “Straight Down the Middle, Betty.” She enjoyed playing with my father and later with my step-dad. Mostly she enjoyed antiques and our quirky 1870 antique home. Legend had it that our home had once been the servants’ quarters for the estate in front of us – that estate was now the country club.

After dinner my brother Dave and I used to go out with Mom and Dad and play the first and ninth holes, and then trot back across the first fairway to our back deck where the ‘rents would sit with their after dinner drinks and watch the sun go down. We took advantage of the club’s Day Camp and Lakefront in the summer time, which was one of the best parts of my childhood. My younger, tall and lean brother – with the perfect golf physique, was a quick golf study and became runner up junior club champion one year. He still has that easy swing that will let him shoot in the 80’s even if he plays once a year.

I remember waking up weekend summer mornings to the sounds of the caddy barn through the open windows; young boys chattering and laughing, waiting for the various members to come around so they could pick up a loop. In those days, my brother and I would sit near the fairway with a pitcher of lemonade, doling it out for a quarter a cup. My Dad’s and his buddies would walk up ask when we would be dishing up Bloody Marys, laughing as golfers do. On warm summer nights, Brother Dave and I would also sneak over and hide in the bushes in our pajamas and watch our parents dancing and reminiscing to the bands on the patio at country club dances.

I wasn’t much interested in golf when I was young, but enjoyed our family golf outings together. That was more important than the golf – doing something with my mom and dad. I often daydream now about what trajectory my life might have taken had I found my passion for golf back then. The LPGA? One of the Waccabuc girls, Julie Larsen (now Piers), actually did make it to the tour for a while. As a teenager, I was too busy cheerleading and watching football players to give up four hours for golf. There were few women golfers to emulate back then. Had I only known then what I know now: that I would develop a consuming passion for the game (play it, watch it, talk about it, read about it, and write about it) and that playing golf would become a prerequisite for anyone I dated.

My dad passed away when I was 25, so unfortunately, those summer evenings on the first and ninth were the only times I got to play with my Dad. We never got to play golf real golf together. He wasn’t playing as much just prior to his death due a heart condition. I always talk to him when I’m on the course, though, and I know he is there with me. I did get to play a lot of golf with my mom while she was still alive, especially after she moved to Florida with my step-father, and we had more fun and more laughs than I can remember. My favorite memory is of her standing on the putting green as I was about to hit a very long putt. I overshot it. She stood behind the hole with her feet in a “vee” and ricocheted my ball into the hole. We couldn’t stop giggling. I took the stroke as if. 

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