Golf: The Family Game
By Kickntrue on 8/24/10
We asked for readers to send in blog posts- and Greg Owens didn't disappoint. It's a little longer than a normal oob post- but Greg poured time into it- so here it is! Thanks Greg!

My family doesn't golf. Well... perhaps I should clarify. My father doesn't golf, and never has. See, his father did golf, but my dad was left-handed and thus couldn't easily inherit the game. So now that my dad is running a local golf tournament with some friends – the Exeter Veteran's Memorial Committee Golf Scramble and Dinner – we can’t just grab the four best family members and mosey down to the little nine-hole and kick it around. I have to look a little further and wider for family participants. So I try to get a hold of my mother’s cousins - and they’re in the next state!

See golf is primarily a family game passed down like beaky nose or weak chin from father to son or grandfather to grandson; a fraternal almost cultish pastime. There are no secret handshakes, no howling at the moon. You don’t have to get a tattoo or hide out in a wilderness blind. Though, you may have to get up very early in the morning or be required to quaff a victual on the first and 10th tees. All that the golf fraternity requires is on the odd weekend – perhaps father’s day, perhaps Grampa Toadie’s birthday, you simply announce to your family that you’re going to the local track and you’re free from all other responsibilities on that day. And that is why the game is so easily acquired (nay, flocked to feverishly) I think by us men. We are so adept at crafting elaborate reasons to run off from the wife and kids to catch some fish, or shoot some poor animal, or merely to beat at the ground with those funny sticks.

So in this case the Exeter Veteran’s Memorial Committee is trying to raise $60,000 in as many years as it will take, to erect a pointy obelisk to commemorate their town’s veterans from several wars. An architect has drawn neat plans which have been framed and now are prominently displayed at spaghetti dinners, junk auctions, and at this little but high-quality tournament around the rural backwaters of small town Rhode Island.

So, my mom’s cousins golf. Their fathers golfed . Their fathers and my grandfather, all Greatest Generation men, dodged torpedoes in the pacific, incoming V2s in England, and returned home to buy homes, raise families, and establish careers that, because of the era, had little regulation and thus could profit and pollute at will. They weren’t brothers, but all married one of the three Bresett Girls – Claire, Shirley, and Janet – brave men indeed!
Janet and Bob had a daughter who has two daughters. Lee and Claire had two sons who have no children. Shirley and Wralf had a son and two daughters (one, my mother). Of all this, only Lee’s son, and Bob’s son in law picked up the game, and the golf lineage on that side of the family may run out – there were no more sons produced! Wralf had one son who because of his hippy leanings, sought refuge in the communes of Berkeley and would rather starve himself to death than take part in the environmental and social evils of golf (and his son is surely a man of letters).

On my dad’s side, only his father played and not at all in my life time. My father was a good athlete specializing in swimming and tennis – though as I mentioned above barred by his left-handedness from acquiring the game. I therefore had to pick up the game all on my own – suffering the lethal bite at a strange little pitch and putt on the grounds of Kenilworth Castle in England at age 13. The “castle” - a mere ruin from several conquests and also torn down by its fleeing inhabitants had grounds that were mostly grass. A pimply teen would give you a club and a ball for 30p and point you out to a hilly field where there were flags stuck in the ground in no discernable pattern. My host family and I moved the flags to create interesting shots. But what hooked me was the feeling of that occasional good contact – the satisfying thwack and watching the ball leap forth with inexplicable velocity and purpose… and the illusion that one might control that beautiful arcing, aching flight. You have the feeling of power and control like that of Zeus - like you could erect mighty stone monuments by merely striking the ground with your magical wizard staffs. And maybe you can if you sell enough raffle tickets.

And once bitten by the bug, my grandfathers and uncles eagerly gave me their old cracked and unraveling woods, their rusty leather gripped (hard as obsidian) irons, their crazed and yellowing balls, and a few little one inch tees. I remember playing up and down our street as a teen – glad when I didn’t hit car or a house! And so with a 40yr old canvas bag with a broken zipper, and an odd assortment of clubs I set out upon green pastures with my high school team. But I always loved to hit the ball. There was no other reason I played. I was never obligated nor encouraged by my family, never coerced or cajoled by friends. I had discovered it all on my own like some unidentifiable treasure in a cave of our dreams. For years I was sustained by found balls and hand-me-down or thrift store clubs. My only equipment purchase was the occasional bag of those ancient 2” tees. Fast forward 20 years (I now own forged irons, various golf apparel, and a single-digit handicap).

So here we were at the little nine-hole scramble – a field of 66 players – putting $5 on the par three 5th for a 50/50 cash prize drawing. My mom’s two cousins and I are joined by my brother - an adventure-racing, iron-man type and engineer who just happened to be in town from California (and who doesn’t really golf). We’re trying to win this thing – I think -7 won it last year. We start off well and then scuffle a bit – all missing 8 ft putts for birdie two holes in a row. The next hole we screw up by choosing the closer bunker shot, but can’t get up and down. We’re back to even after 4. Then we turn it on: birdie, par, birdie, par, birdie to finish at -3. On the closest to the pin hole we’re not even on the green, but I win the longest drive hole with a 295 yd 3-wood – I still love to hit the ball.

Back in the clubhouse, the four of us now joined by my father are having a beer together – something that never happened in our tea-totaling branch of the family. Just this past year all of the older generation has died off. My dad’s dad died in ’91, my mom’s dad in 2003. Lee died 3 years ago, and Bob this last year. Now at 91, the last of the Bresett sisters, Janet (still driving and just had her first accident ever) is about to celebrate another birthday, her first without her husband Bob. And recently she’s taken to talking about all the things she would’ve done without having to defer to her husband’s wishes. She loves to travel – nobody knew. She’s also now talking more about family tragedies of the past, revealing secrets and family history – nobody knew. She probably would’ve liked to play golf all these years – nobody knew!

And so we talk for some time. Just men in a clubhouse sharing a round of beers (and then diet cokes), for the higher purpose of erecting this pointy obelisk in a small RI town to honor men who had to leave their homes and families for a higher calling, each the last of the line in our family of golf. The women are at home with the kids, or at the beach, baking bread, doing laundry, and vacuuming the rugs. And I think of my son now 4, and my nephew now 12. Will they play golf. We men of our various generations – Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers, and we have socially and environmentally friendly careers. We own Priuses, we cook from scratch, we watch our carbon footprints. Are we running away to our greener pastures? It’s just golf after all. We’re not spending all our incomes on $100,000 fishing boats and high-tech gear to succeed slaying mythical beasts, while we fail in our marriages and parental duties. Are we running away?

I recall a British journalist interviewing a Hindu man who claimed to have “given up everything” for this higher calling – making a spiritual pilgrimage on foot high into the Himalayas to find the source of the Ganges. He claimed to have sacrificed all earthly comforts and pleasure to make the journey. The interviewer asked what may have been an inappropriate yet obvious question. “Do you miss your family?” The man faltered and was unable to answer for a moment, for he was awash in his journey and the millions who take it. Wasn’t it obvious the sacrifices he’d endured on this highest of Hindu callings? But the man cried, and hadn’t expected to. And so he may have also been unmasked… as a selfish man, one of billions, who run away from their problems to other men, to drink, to vice, to temptation, to wars, to jobs, to fishing, to hunting, to golf. In search of what? Friendships, camaraderie, love, pleasure, that satisfying thwack? Or to serve who? Their government, their shareholders? What higher calling is there than our own family?

A man does not need to leave the house one morning to come back home with a $100,000 fishing boat – which will absorb every bit of his earnings, every sunny weekend, every moment fixing each snap, or circuit, or faulty fish finder. He could come back with a $10 piece of fish from the fish from the market (and a 50-cent lemon), an easy and sure success, and lovingly season it with herbs and spices. It can be steamed on a raft of shallots and lemongrass, in a shallow pool of White Table wine, served with a medley of garden grown squash, perhaps a fresh tomato salad. And the family can sit together or with friends or with guests and just enjoy each other’s company, and the civility of a shared meal. It’s not something that is easily produced or enjoyed by much of the world’s population. And there is definite proof that the civility of the planet’s peoples are most affected by the cumulative effect of the civility of the relationships that we have with everyone we meet on a daily basis, alongside copiers, in hallways, on sidewalks, and in traffic, and especially in the home… and NOT by Presidential diplomacy, uncivil wars and conflicts.

Golf is not always running away, but it can be. For it is a family game passed down through the generations by men mostly, like those narrow eyes or these flat feet. So leave those old clubs in the garage. You never know when a grandson, a nephew, or even your spouse will get bitten by that bug.

This was written by Greg Ownes, a reader/follower/fellow oober and the opinions are 100% his and do not reflect those of oobgolf in anyway. Enjoy! I'm sure he's ready for your feedback.

photo source

[ comments ]
Banker85 says:
I never had the game passed donw to me either, was about 13, went to the driving range on vacation and loved it. I now have a son and cant wait to see if he loves the game like i do.
sepfeiff says:
Fantastic article Greg, very much strikes home with me. I keep my grandfathers hickory shafted golf clubs (circa 1930's) in my office leaning against the bookshelf. Although they are rusty, beaten, and falling apart, even then it is truly wonderful to see my children make mock swings with them. I hope one day that I can share my memories I have with my father and grandfather with them.
Dixon Golf says:
Golf probably means more to those of us to whom it was passed down. But when people pick it up, they have a new found zeal and obsession with the game. Either way, it's a great game.
SteveMM says:
This hits close to home with me as well. My Dad was a golfer and so was his dad. My father died in 2001 but I didn't take up the game until last year. I'd give anything to play a round with him. I'd like to think he's up there smiling now that I have the bug. If you still have your dad, play a round with him soon.
bkuehn1952 says:
My father came to golf late, never really playing much until after 60. Still, he became competent and we played together whenever I was in town. Our lasting achievement was winning the club member/guest together (with me as the guest). He finally had to put the clubs away around 80 when the accumulation of aches and pains made the game too tough. I wish we could play once more together.
Dixon Golf says:
@steveMM - great story, thanks for sharing. It would be special to have been able to play at least one round with your father.
Dixon Golf says:
@steveMM - great story, thanks for sharing. It would be special to have been able to play at least one round with your father.
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