birdieXris's grandpa Joseph
My Personal Golfing Story
By birdieXris on 5/23/11
Chris "birdieXris" Embardino originally posted this in the Forums simply as a new topic. But, we thought it deserved to be featured as a guest column to everyone could read it. Enjoy.

For everyone, there was a starting point. There was that moment or person that we can pin down as the start of our obsession with the game of golf. Whether it was 1986 and Jack's famous Master's win or 1997 when Tiger trounced the field at the same event. Maybe it was a friend who was into the game, or that day when you hit your first crisp 7 iron and found the green. Whatever it is that moment will ring in your ears as long as you live and even when you think you've forgotten it, something will come up to remind you of that time.

For me, it was a person. My grandfather, Joseph Castronuova. He loved the game and played often. I never knew much about his life before I was born, just chunks here and there. I know he served as a U.S. Marine Corporal in wartime. I know he was a fireman. I know he was an artist and a talented mechanic and all around genius. It's taken a couple years to find out this information, but from the time I first was able to walk through my grandparent's front door, I knew he was a golfer. There were trophies in the basement, golf balls and putting cups strewn about the room where sat to “watch the golf” as my Grandmother would say. The gun rack above the TV had golf clubs in it, and his tiny “sunday bag” always sat propped in the corner – 3 wood, 5 iron, 8 iron, wedge, and putter in a small gray bag. I can remember sitting on the floor next to his chair and watching the likes of Jim Colbert, Bob Tway, Greg Norman, Nick Price and Jack Nicklaus. Pop-Pop would explain everything that was going on and teach me the rules as the tournaments went on. When we were done, I followed him outside and watched him hit his 8 iron from one side of his yard to the other. A 135 yard strip of land barely 10 yards wide – woods to the left, cars, the house, and his barn to the right. 20 balls from 135 out and you could fold a twin size bed sheet in half and lay it over them. I know I asked him on more than one occasions why he “didn't play with the guys on TV” and he would chuckle. I didn't know then what I know now obviously, but even looking back at the amount of control he had over the ball i'm still baffled. He was lefty, which would make learning easy later. I would compare his swing as a mix of Arnold Palmer and Steve Marino. Short and abbreviated, but always moving. Look, down, address, club in front then in back of the ball, look, short 3/4 swing. The same for every club produced the same slight fade right where he was aiming. I had to learn.

When I was 5, he took me outside, threw 3 balls on the ground and said “wait here”. He went into the patio and came back with a persimmon 5 wood. It was a man's club as you couldn't just go to a golf store and buy a "junior" set as easily as you can today. The back of the pear shaped head had been sawed off and the shaft was cut down with a new grip put on. Pop had custom made a club specifically for me so that I could do it right and get better, not just swing a club. He spent a while going over the swing in great detail and I did everything I could to mimic exactly what he was doing by mirror image. When it was time to hit the ball, I did. Boy did I hit it too. It never got more than 4 feet off the ground and was a push fade – right through the patio window 40 yards away. Pop didn't even care. He fixed what needed to be fixed and the second shot went right where it was supposed to. From that day on, we hit balls together up and down the yard every visit. As I got older, I found out that my mother had played for a brief period and Pop gave me her set when I had grown into them. In the coming years through the early 90s, he would take myself and my cousins out to the local 9 hole – a course I still play today. Sometimes it would be just he and I, playing 9 holes of golf without the others. Whenever he spoke, I listened. I wanted to be good. I wanted to be a pro. I wanted to be that guy on the TV and I wanted Pop to be there to watch.

Sadly, none of that ever happened. My grandfather passed away in 1996 due to cancer. The man who helped teach me about life in general as well as the man I looked up to and taught me to love, cherish, and make better the game had never gotten to see Tiger Woods' amazing feat at the Master's or his domination of the game after. He only got to see a handful of competitions I played, but wasn't around to see me place in the LVJT and MVP 4 years in High School. After that, my fire for the game all but died out. I still played, but Pop wasn't there to coax me into college golf. He wasn't there to teach me anymore, and I soon found better things to do than play golf every waking moment. Mom was supportive and I would always do my best for her, but there was no replacement for the sandpaper-like instruction that Pop gave. I slid down hill and out of the game until after college. I played occasionally, on weekends. I taught my dad how to play and he picked it up pretty well and became my new golfing buddy but most of the time I still went out alone. Every once in a while I'll pair up with an old left-handed guy out on the course and it makes me think about Pop-pop again. While they make small talk and never try to give me instruction, I always remember what he said to me and I seem to play better.

That, though, is the reason the fire is being rekindled in me. I've been grinding, learning, teaching, and practicing because I know that I can be better and I know that I can do what I originally set out to do. I needed a spark. My mother found a photo recently. The photo that inspired me to write this as i sat and restored it today. My grandfather had won the 9th flight at a VFW tournament in Indiana in 1985. A weird coincidence, because when my grandfather passed away 15 years ago, I took a trophy of his so I could always remember him. Over the years it had been put away or stored during my lapse, but it turned out that this is the tournament where he won it. Coincidence? Maybe. Coincidence that he used oversize grips too, like I just found out that i needed. Coincidence that this all happens as i'm grinding and working so hard to meet the 2014 deadline for the US Open qualifier? I just feel like too much is falling into place for this to be random. I feel like I had to share his story because every time I'm on the course, I feel like he's there and for those of you who know me and know how seriously I take this gentleman's game it's a story that may complete the picture. It would be a disservice to him if I kept what I know to myself, and didn't ever show the respect and admiration that I still hold for this man to anyone other than family. I still have my first club. It sits in my apartment, next to his bag as a reminder should I ever nearly forget again.

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

[ comments ]
bkuehn1952 says:
Even better the second time through.
Richatvillage says:
Well played. It would have been a pleasure to share 9 with you & Pop-pop. Be well
SD Charlie says:
Great read! I'm a fan, and I'll be pulling for you to get that bid. Cheers!
id3st says:
good read. great story! thanks for sharing... :)
Kurt the Knife says:
nice tribute.
young_money says:
Thank you for your story. This is the understanding of the game that I wish more golfers had. You can never learn enough about the game and never give enough advice. Take that advice and turn it into a positive and improve the game that we all love to play. Good Luck on the bid for the U.S. Open!!
GolfSmith7 says:
Thank you for sharing.
GolfinHawg says:
Great Story with an amazing emotional touch. Thanks for sharing and Good luck in the US Open qualifiers!
birdieXris says:
I wanted to be a 4 at the end of last year. I was a 5.7 so i missed that mark. I think i can catch up this year. I have 3 years to knock off 6 strokes and come up with the $2500 entry for the qualifier. Plans are to get an electronic device to hit golf balls with over the winter. I"m looking at the Optishot because it's the cheapest. we'll see how that goes though.
windowsurfer says:
Thanks for a great story. Good luck on your quest.
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