Son I Love to Watch You Play
December 23, 2015
Today was a pretty typical day in most respects. I dropped Eric off at the golf course to play a round with a friend of his, and then off to work I went. Picking him up later, he told me how he played as we made the 20-minute drive to meet his mom for dinner. He went through each hole, each shot, as we often do. My initial takeaway–nothing too special, just a very good round of one over par 73.
It hit me later this evening that I was wrong. Today was special, very, very special. Special in a way I feel compelled to record, to somehow capture the rarity of what Eric did today. To try to put into words my thoughts as a dad, obviously a Very Proud dad. You see, my son is still a boy, about ready to emerge into an amazing young man, but for now, still a boy. An amazing, wonderful boy who can do things with a golf club that most of us will only touch in our dreams. I love this moment and want to hold on to it. Hence, my words.
Riverwalk Golf Club is aptly named, as it sits smack in the middle of the San Diego River flood plain, and takes very little rain to accumulate tons of water coming down Mission Valley. It rained all day yesterday and was drizzling when we arrived at the course this morning. The course was soaked – large areas on most fairways were under casual water. Eric and his friend Jack played from the tips – 6,400 yards.
Eric is in 7th grade and just turned 13 last week. At 5 ft 0 inches and 77 pounds, he is not able to drive the ball as far as the larger boys he plays with and against. A typical drive is 215, maybe 220 yards, total. If he really pops one he can see 230. His carry distance on his 7 iron is 125 yards. So today was going to be even tougher as well hit balls were not going to roll on wet fairways. I expected a high score when I dropped him off.
But there’s more to the day. Eric forgot his golf shoes. So he played in his Nike skateboard shoes, which have a smooth bottom and absolutely no grip, on very wet grass. We arrived at the golf course 30 minutes before his tee time, and instead of warming up, he played catch with Jack and his football in the parking lot (as I was conversing with Jack’s dad). So his tee shot on the first hole was his first swing of the day, in shoes that would amplify any mistake in swing tempo or weight shift. And the clubs he played with are brand new. 13 new clubs, all but the putter. He picked them up two days ago, and then it rained yesterday so this was his first time hitting them to a target. For adults, new clubs take some time to get used to. For kids, the process is harder because clubs in a new set are longer and heavier until the player is big enough to play full adult sized clubs.
And then his hole-by-hole descriptions…most were “Driver – 3 wood short (didn’t reach green) – chip – one putt par.” Or, “5 wood to 10 feet on a 175-yard par 3 – two putt par.” Or, “6 iron to 3 feet – 1 putt birdie.” In all, 2 birdies, 3 bogies, the rest pars. Nothing about today was easy – he barely got to use his new irons since most approach shots were hybrid or longer. But he loved his new wedges, and his putting was solid. No 3-putts. Eric didn’t think what he did was special. Even after I told him so later this eve. What he did today is “normal” in his mind. I don’t think he has any idea how hard this game is. Any one of these challenges would be enough to excuse a less than stellar round – soaked fairways, new clubs, no warm up, long course, no golf shoes. But Eric never considered any of that, never had to. My mind is sufficiently boggled. And I absolutely love it. He is truly special – yes, special as all kids are, but there is something more there, something rare and amazing. I am so fortunate to be a part of it.