I have never played golf. But I love to watch it.
Freddy Couples and Nick Faldo were my first crushes.
My father, playing the long game that is parenting, subjected us to many televised golf tournaments as children, most notably The Masters. This was at a not-so-distant time in history I’ll have to explain to my children, when there was only one screen in the house, and whatever was on it was what you watched.
In this not-so-distant time in history, whose outdated mores I’m trying to force upon my own children, parents did the choosing and kids quietly acquiesced or went outside to play.
So, there we were, watching The Masters with Daddy. He grew up in Augusta, near Augusta National but far from the rarefied air of Amen Corner. Still, in his parents’ home, the pimento cheese tasted just as good, and you could hear the roar of the Masters crowds over the pines from his back yard.
It was in that house my dad watched some of the earliest popular televised golf with his father—match play between The Big Three in the mid-’60s. When my grandmother died, we laid her to rest next to my granddad, in a cemetery next door to the course. My dad pointed out the famous club from the car.
After the manic emotional journey of basketball in March, a weekend watching The Masters with my family felt like settling into spring and letting it wash over you. The azaleas, the sunshine, the leisurely pace.
My dad would sometimes mow the lawn during early rounds, and the smell of fresh-cut grass would follow him back into the house. My mom kept the fridge stocked with sweet tea. The pitcher was a beige atrocity stained by decades of brewing and steeping, marked with the yellow design flourishes that were the hallmark of housewares on a 1971 wedding registry, which is where we got it.
My brothers and I heard tales of the legends of the game, Bobby Jones and Arnold Palmer. We learned about men with nicknames noticeably more fierce than the game they were playing—The Shark and the Golden Bear. We watched Bubba Watson’s improbable rise, Tiger’s dominance, Payne Stewart’s swag, Phil Mickelson’s first thrilling win, and a handful of devastating Sunday meltdowns. I joked with my dad about who would want a weird green blazer.
I never played golf because it was too expensive when I had time to play and too time-consuming when I had the money. My parents played for a brief shining time when they lived near a public course and had some money and time. That was before they had us kids, who promptly relieved them of both.
I heard tales of the game’s addictive nature, and could imagine myself spending hours in the beautiful outdoors, hitting fat shot after shank chasing that one sweet drive. My mom got three stitches behind her ear after one of her early informal lessons ended with her buddy’s errant swing thwacking her in the back of the head. Despite this tragedy of situational awareness, she was back on the greens within days, chasing the madras dragon.
It was a road I wasn’t sure I wanted to go down, and still haven’t.
Today, my kids will complain their shows aren’t on the TV, but in the long game that is parenting, someday their first crushes will be Sergio Garcia and Jordan Spieth. One day they’ll love it like I do.
Every year, we’ll turn The Masters on. I’ll open the windows, whip up a jar of pimento cheese, make a sandwich, pour myself a glass of sweet tea, and let spring wash over me.