First, let me say that I felt honoured to be asked to write for Golf OCD! I always love sharing my thoughts especially when it comes to golf and our experience thus far raising two junior golfers. It has been an amazing ride up to this point but it has presented its set of challenges being a typical middle class family. The costs involved in playing golf is pretty expensive as most recreational golfers already know. Those numbers increase exponentially when you have kids who play golf as well and show promise. It can get VERY frustrating knowing what you need for your kids to succeed such as a coach who is invested in your child, personal trainers, tournament fees, proper fitting equipment, travel, etc. The list goes on but I for one am thankful for my parents and my mother-in-law who see something in their granddaughters that they would help cover some of these costs. Even with their help it “seems” like we are still behind so I can imagine if they were not around to help, but I guess it will be part of the girls’ story one day. Only time will tell.
A little about our family. My parents are from Honduras, CA so trust me when I say they came from literally nothing. In fact all my parents had was a desire to make a better life for their children. My sister and I grew up in a middle class family without any major wants or needs not being met. Although, not a rich family in money we had a great childhood. We learned to work hard and appreciate our lives and loved ones. I went on to graduate top of my class in high school, undergraduate and graduate school and started a career in School Counseling. If only I had known that my daughters would take to the game of golf. I would have chosen VERY differently had I known, trust me.
Both of my girls started accompanying me to the course when they both were very young. My oldest daughter who is also a Type 1 Diabetic became very involved after her diagnosis and was my range buddy at the age of 3. The girls have a lot of “potential” but are still very raw in skills and this is where having great support and I DO MEAN GRANDPARENTS COMES INTO PLAY! Without their grandparents who see their gift and have decided to put off some of their plans they had for their retirement years the girls would be in golf oblivion! Honestly, they would be just two girls who probably never should have played golf, but did, showed talent and faded away due to finances. As a partnership with my parents and mother-in-law the girls have had a little golf success and if we can get them playing more they could really be good for the LPGA one day because that is their ultimate goal. No we do not have sponsors. No we do not have a country club membership! All we have are two little ones with a strong desire to play a game that financially is stacked against them, faith and loving grandparents to help along the way.
My parents help a lot with picking and dropping the girls off whether it is for a lesson, school, or personal training. My mother who is a seamstress and nurses assistant works almost seven days a week in order to help the girls achieve their golf goals. My father-in-law introduced us to the game so I guess I can thank him for exposing me (more on him later) which then became how the girls got interested. My mother-in-law is phenomenal and helps with as much as she can. After my father-in-law passed away she really noticed how much of impact he was to the girls and their love for the game and she helps because he loved the game and she loves that the girls love it too.
As I mentioned earlier my parents are not from this country so they were just glad to be in the country never mind put away thousands of dollars for us. We never even thought of golf! I was a natural athlete but at age 26-27 golf was a new phenomena for me. I was just happy to hit the ball never mind thinking I would have kids that would play. So I never really had the means nor the knowledge to prepare for my girls. This is where I think my father-in-law could have helped prepare me for what could come next.
My father-in-law got me hooked and I am talking HOOKED very quickly. I could think of nothing else except playing and getting better. For him it was a way for us to hang out. I have always been a competitor so I just wanted to win when I played. I really didn’t fully appreciate what he actually did for my family. He rarely kept score even though I did and usually I lost to him because golf was not natural for me. His smile would light up the course and his laughter would either uplift me or aggravate the hell out of me because I took everything so seriously and he just enjoyed being out there. I am still struggling with just being out there, especially with my girls playing competitively. I am so worried about their scores, what they are doing, and how much debt we are going to be in just for this one tournament. I get lost and forget to just enjoy the ride. That is what my father-in-law did. He just loved the game of golf!
He grew up during a time when people of color could not step on a golf course unless they were caddies. I can still hear him say, “I remember when we couldn’t play on this course.” He always said it with a calm voice, not a hint of anger or resentment, just an appreciation for finally seeing the day when he could. I on the other hand boycotted said course until my youngest qualified for the US Kids World Championship on that very course. What I wish he had done was sit me down and tell me how to get financially ready to play this game long term or maybe set the girls up better for their futures. You see he did not think of “tomorrow”. He enjoyed “today” and maybe that was the underlying message he did leave us with.
This piece is as much about grandparents as it is about how different cultures think about the choices for the children or the means to set their children up for the long haul. For instance, take my daughters who are 12 and 8 year old golfers. What’s their background? Where do they live? How close do we live to a golf course? How much access do they have to the same resources as their counterparts? All these are questions related to golf and grandparents. My girls play against girls who live in golf communities, play in 50 tournaments a year, have the best swing coaches etc. My girls are not only playing against the course on any given weekend; they are playing against generations of golf lineage.
Sometimes I sit back and laugh (in between the tears) and ask my wife, “You know your father set us up right?” We have a good laugh but in all honesty its true. In only three years of competing the girls have amassed some pretty big bills for folks who had no idea what we were getting into. Without sponsors to help, which won’t appear until they are winning all over the place we are on our own. Thank God for the grandparents that my girls do have or they would not be able to play at all. I volunteered for years at a golf course as a Marshall just so my girls could have a place to play and practice. My wife and I are in education and we all know how those jobs pay. Now tack on two junior golfers and 12k a year on unforeseen or planned golf expenses! It adds up very quickly and before you know it you are in a hole.
Trust me it is all worth it to see them out there enjoying themselves doing something they are good at but there is definitely a socio-economic component that plays a huge part in this game that I think people forgot about once Tiger hit the scene and popularized the game in our communities. Tiger has a foundation…great! There are programs like The First Tee which is nice for introduction purposes and for reinforcing have good character traits. All those do a great job of getting people interested in the game but what’s next??? What happens to the kid who get introduced and loves the game? Where are the people who will help actually “grow” the game??? Until help shows up its just us, two little golfers and GRANDPARENTS!!!
Author-Golfer-Loving Father (In Reverse Order)
“Pick up the pace or get left!”
GolfOCD Editor’s Footnote.
If your in VA and in the Golf Business there’s a couple of young potentials that could do with a sponsor.