One of the most wonderful things about playing golf – in fact playing any sport – is the sense that you are following in the footsteps of the players who have gone before you. Whatever your standard, you will have players who have inspired you over the years. They will have influenced how you play, your style, your attitude and your whole approach to the game.
And of course, in the world of golf, there are so many great players out there to learn from. If I could play a single putt half as good as that one I remember Tiger Woods sinking on his way to winning the 2000 PGA Championship, or get anywhere near the standard of some of Jack Nicklaus‘ tee shots over the years, I’d hang my golf clubs up tomorrow, a happy man. It’s probably never going to happen, but it is in part the inspirational performances of these great players over the years that has driven me on and encouraged me to think about how I can improve my own game.
My greatest teacher
But whenever I’m asked which of these great golfers of the past has had the most impact on my game, I can honestly say that none of them can compare to one person whose influence stands head and shoulders above the rest: my father. For me, there really is no one else who has made a bigger impact on my golf game – after all, he was the one who got me into golf originally and who has taught me how to continue to improve my game over the years. He has taught me how to play the game the right way, he’s given me the grounding in the etiquette of golf that every player should build their game on, he took me out for those long hours of practice, and he has always encouraged and motivated me in everything I do.
Grit and determination
Wherever and whenever I play I can still his classic phrase of ‘keep trying, never give up’ ringing in my ears to this day. He must have said it at least five times every time we played when I was a young, inexperienced golfer, and it is a mantra that has since got me through many difficult situations on (and sometimes even off) the golf course. From an early age my father did a fantastic job of instilling in me an attitude of positivity and determination that has been invaluable to me over the years. Golf can be a tough game, but my father’s example showed me that there is always a creative solution that can be found to solve even the trickiest problem.
Now that we’re living on different continents we obviously don’t get to play as much as we once did – but I do try to get to Florida once a year, where he lives for six months of the year, to visit him and have a round or two of golf. It’s a great time to catch up – not just on the usual family news, but also on our respective games – he’s always very keen to hear how I’m golfing and how I’m improving (or not). In particular, he always wants to know whether my temper is still as bad as his was on the golf course – when I was younger we used to have some fiery and competitive rounds together. Thankfully I’ve calmed down a lot over the years and try to just have fun now as opposed to taking it too seriously. I think that this kind of level headedness is something that certainly comes with age and experience and that my game is all the better for it. That said, there is still no one who can bring out my competitive streak quite like my father.
A common bond
Sport plays such a huge role in many people’s lives, all around the world – and having a shared passion like golf is a kind of glue that can bind families and friends ever closer together. Golf connects my father and I across thousands of miles – and along with baseball, it is one of the sports that we’ve probably spent the most time watching, playing and talking about together over the years.
So, I cherish those times I get to spend with him, as they don’t come around too often anymore – and I think of him, and the great advice and companionship he’s given me over the years, every time I pick up a club and head out onto the course.