I have often joked that the biggest mistake my parents made was letting me watch “Blazing Saddles” at too young of an age. In truth, they probably shouldn’t have let me watch “Spaceballs,” “Airplane,” “Major League,” “Bull Durham” or “Caddyshack” either.
In modern parenting terms, this is the equivalent of letting your three-year-old watch “Family Guy”; they can’t understand the truly disturbing jokes, find the fart scene hilarious and will hear things that shouldn’t be said in front of Mom because then you’ll both be in trouble.
And to be fair, only one parent was putting on those movies. Dad, the point is that if you let your young, impressionable, only child watch smart ass movies with you, you will get a smart ass kid. But I’m pretty sure that’s what you were going for …
My entire life, Dad and I have followed each other around. Whether it was running around the concourse at Freedom Hall, the gym at the Jewish Community Center or the fairways at Valhalla, he followed everywhere I ran. Once he even followed me onto the Beast at King’s Island. Now my fear of heights has followed his, and neither one of us would go anywhere near that old, wooden deathtrap. If I wanted to watch “Major League” for the hundredth time, we would no doubt throw it on and laugh hysterically together. And yes, we now watch “Family Guy” together.
Above all, golf has provided us with endless opportunities to follow each other, through fairways and rough, good times and bad. We’ve followed each other around golf courses on two continents, three countries, dozens of states and thousands of holes — countless holes.
As a child I followed him around the course, as he played the back tees and I played the forward tees with Mom. I never admitted how it tortured me to not be able to follow him back to the big boy tees. (So now you know how it feels dad, ha!)
I undoubtedly was following his cue when uttering my first coherent sentence, “Too rainy for golf.”
Since I began playing competitive golf, whenever possible, he has been there to follow me around the course, first as my biggest fan, then as my caddy. He has followed (driven) me to every conceivable corner of Kentucky and stayed in the filthiest of disgusting motels.
We quickly became a team. Whenever possible he is on the bag, reading putts, keeping clubs clean, telling me I’m being an idiot and cheering when we get it right. We have battled through torrential downpours, gusting winds, countless double bogeys, lost and water balls and the pressure of stretch-runs and playoffs. He once carried that bag — and me — around Baton Rouge, Louisiana, when the wind chill was minus nine degrees.
Regardless of what happened, at the end of every round, we hug. This is the most important part of his job as caddy. It is this moment that makes you forget the frustrations and disappointments of the tough days, and makes the celebration of the good days that much better.
It is a hug that cannot be fully described, and only shared between a father and his son.
For years, kids watched in awe and imagined themselves as Tiger Woods. We watched Tiger dominate the best golfers and most difficult courses in the world, and when he was done, he shared that hug with his dad. I never imagined growing up and being like Tiger, except for in those moments.
This Sunday will be spent with Dad. We have no plans for anything unusual or exotic. It will be filled with golf. If the weather cooperates, we will follow each other around a golf course. Afterwards, I’ll follow him home so we can watch more on television. And unless one of us has a hole-in-one, it may be seemingly unspectacular. But we get to spend Father’s Day together, so it will be special.
It’s no wonder I ended up following him to LEO. And while I have looked forward to the opportunity to follow in his footsteps, and write to him on Father’s Day, I have also feared this moment, this article. How can you follow those enormous footsteps without falling?
I admire so much of who he is … as a man, a leader, a role model, a writer, a dreamer, a father, a dad. If it wasn’t golf, I’m sure he would have followed me anywhere. That was his dream for me: to follow my own path, my own dreams, to my corner of the sky.
Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Thanks for letting me tag along.