Golf was always my dad’s and my thing. Neither of us were all that good, but it became this kind of unspoken bonding tradition between father and son.
I never know what to get my dad. Birthdays, Christmases, Father’s Days — he leaves me stumped every time.
My mom always suggests that I write a letter telling him how much he means to me, but my testosterone tends to talk me out of that. Plus, considering some of the gifts he’s gotten me over the years, that always seemed like a cop-out.
For instance, four Aprils ago, he said he’d take me on a golf trip in Monterey as a birthday present. Pebble Beach one day, Spyglass Hill the next — basically a 36-hole dream for anyone who’s ever teed one up.
Only problem was that I had just started interviewing for this job and had no idea where I’d be in the next few months. So I put it off. A few months later, I got this job and moved more than 1,000 miles away from my parents. So I put it off again — and for far too long.
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Golf, you see, was always my dad’s and my thing. Neither of us was all that good, but it became this kind of unspoken bonding tradition between father and son.
“Unspoken” may actually be the operative word here, because I can’t remember the specifics of any conversation I’ve had with my not-so-loquacious dad on the links. But I do remember the moments.
One time in San Diego, we spent roughly five minutes searching for the ball he smacked 150 yards uphill on a par 4. I eventually found it … in the hole. Another time in L.A., I took out a 9-iron on 18 knowing a decent approach and two putts would best my dad’s all-time low score. We didn’t find that ball — I pulled it 50 yards out of bounds.
I admit I didn’t handle those types of moments very well as a teenager. I’d sulk, I’d stew, I’d seethe — and Pops never hid his disapproval.
It can get annoying when someone is micromanaging your etiquette on every other fairway or green. And it can be infuriating when the frustration of a four-putt is compounded by a mini lecture on composure.
But what I didn’t recognize then is that he was raising me out there. From manners to honor to self-control, no sport reveals one’s character quite like golf. If you can stay poised throughout a miserable round, you can stay poised anywhere.
Anyway, toward the end of last year, I realized my days-without-golfing-with-dad streak had stretched to a preposterous length. And for once, I knew what to get him for Christmas — a gift certificate for dinner at Roy’s in Pebble Beach.
“Let’s do this soon, Pop,” I wrote on the card. Four and a half months later, there we were.
Save for Augusta and St. Andrews, I’m not sure there’s a more revered golf course than Pebble. The ocean views, Tom Watson’s chip, Tiger Woods’ 2000 masterpiece — it’s the ultimate amalgam of scenery and history. It was surreal standing on the first tee with my dad, where we met our caddie, shook hands with our playing partners … then proceeded to hack that course to death.
It had been four years since either of us played, and we generally shot in the 90s anyway. Put us on a championship track with 35 mph winds, and the course record for combined strokes is in serious jeopardy.
We stopped keeping score after the fourth hole. I gave at least 10 balls new underwater homes. My dad seemed particularly fascinated by the $50 million mansions lining the fairways, as he sliced every tee shot to within 10 feet of their front yards.
In other words — best round ever.
As per usual, I don’t remember anything my father and I talked about over those 18 holes, but I’ll remember that day forever. Same goes for the next afternoon at Spyglass, where we managed to rediscover a semblance of skill.
How we played was irrelevant. That we played was what mattered. It’s scary how easy it is to forget stuff like that sometimes.
So here we are on another Father’s Day, and I suppose it’s time I finally listen to my mother. I suppose it’s time I let Jim Calkins know that I’ve cherished every moment I’ve spent with him and can’t wait to cherish more.
He has taught me compassion, he has taught me resilience, he has taught me persistence and patience and every other quality a decent human should hope to attain. A lot of people think they have the world’s greatest dad, but I know for a fact I do.
So Happy Father’s Day, Pops. Hope you enjoyed this. It was overdue. It was from the heart.
And it was a lot cheaper than a $525 greens fee.