Even though it’s still ridiculously cold up here in Connecticut, I decided to check out the local course near my office to see what type of fees/discounts they would be offering this coming spring. I had been told by the starter that they even had done some work to the driving range so I decided to check that out. To my surprise when I got there I noticed what I thought was a nice little bonding session between a father and a young boy. Initially I admired their passion to tough it out. Yet the more time I spent checking out the new work done to the range, the more I had become concerned about this father’s relationship with his son. My internal thoughts about the work done to range were interrupted by the sound level of this father belittling his son’s effort.
The boy couldn’t have been more than 7 years old, but he swung the club like had been doing this for ages. I’ll admit, he had a solid swing, but personally I felt that this swing came with a price. Now like most 7-year olds the boy had become uninterested with working on his swing, and more interested in being a pirate, childishly swing his club as if it were sword. The father who was filming the child had become irritated with the child’s behavior. He snapped at the boy to quit it and to keep on practicing. The boy did as he was told, and with his next swing, he shanked it way left. The father walked away in disgust, and began to once again berate the child again about his lack of effort.
And I walked away with disgust towards the father. In all honestly, I would have loved to just straight up 1-2 jab/cross combo that father in the face. He deserved it. Actually he deserved a lot more than that. Unfortunately this wasn’t the first time I had experienced that sort of situation before.
I was a senior in high school when the MGA had one of their amateur opens at the club I worked at in Connecticut. I was assigned to caddy for a 14-year old phenom, who I’ll simply call Moosh, cause that was the other younger golfers had been calling him that day. When I met Moosh, you could tell he had the swagger. He was only a few inches shorter than me, but could rocket the ball like he was Jason Day. It was my first time caddying for a child “phenom”. I had caddied for children before, some were decent golfers but complete assholes, some were terrible but were as nice as could be, complete opposites of their parents (at least they tried to be.) Moosh was a cool kid. He knew he was good, but you knew it he was more about having fun.
The first few holes were good. We started to figure out each other, how to approach one another; when I should help him, when I should leave him be. I call it your typical golfer/caddy warm up. By the time we got to the fourth hole, it was like we were best friends. He was playing well, we were cracking jokes and he was asking me all sorts of questions like “What’s it like to drive a car?” and “Ever drank a beer?” Just normal guy talk. Hell, I was enjoying some of the spotlight; he was more interested in what is was like to be 18 than it was being -3 under after three holes.
At the fourth hole Moosh hit a safe 3-wood shot that would line up just before the water. From there he was roughly a 120 yards from the pin, which was slightly off to the back right corner of the green. As we were walking down towards his ball, I hear,
“[MOOSH], what was that?”
I look over to find a man with his arm raised as if he was waiting for a response from Moosh. I look back at Moosh and the glow he had on his face suddenly disappeared. He whispers to me “F—, it’s my Dad.” Now folks, there’s so many ways I can describe Moosh’s father, but the best comparison I could use would be Cosmo Spacely, George Jetson’s boss from the the cartoon the Jetsons:
He was a short and stocky man, with a voice that could knock a tree down. He was dressed up like he was actually here to play in the tournament, even wearing spikes. ( I need to digress for a moment. If you show up to a any tournament,( junior, amateur, PGA) as a spectator, and you’re wearing an outfit like your ready to take on Tiger Woods, WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?! We get it, you love golf, but c’mon buddy you’re not impressing anyone. And if you bring your own LASER Rangefinder to the event, you’ve got some issues.) He had a popped up shirt collars and Mike Ditka aviators. I dont like to use this word too often, but within the first two minutes of seeing this guy, I hated him.
He proceeded to berate Moosh front of the other players, caddies and other spectators.
“YOU AREN’T HERE TO PLAY IT SAFE…YOU’RE HERE TO DOMINATE!” he said.
At this point I had to turn away from this man. I was completely embarrassed for Moosh. If we weren’t at the golf course, I would have tossed him like a dog does to a chewtoy. This poor kid was out here having fun AND playing well. Why mess with his rhythm. Moosh ended up paring the hole, and from there it was all downhill.
The fifth hole was similar to the fourth, a small creek runs through the middle of the fairway. Now I don’t care if you’re the strongest person on earth and could hit the ball a mile, there’s no reason for anyone to try to hit it over the water on this hole. It’s a long par 4. That’s it. You could still make it on in two from behind the water. The other two golfers hit before him and played that exact approach. Moosh teed it up and started to take some practice swings. He was swinging hard and you could tell it was easily out of frustration. And folks, what happens if you try to swing too hard? You’re more than likely bound to mis-hit. And that’s exactly what Moosh did, he came through so hard on his downswing that he lost his balance through his follow through. In the worlds of John Sterling, “It is high, it is far and it is GONE” deep into the woods; OB. His father immediately begins scoff and complain. As Moosh handed me his club he looked at me for some sort of way out. I whispered to him, let him walk with us through the turn, and then I’ll figure something out. Moosh was able to keep himself under control even though his father continued to keep piling it on. After each shot there was some sort of reaction from his father, whether it be another criticism or some sort of swing motion, it was just enough.
When we reached the turn, Moosh and his father met up as we waited for the group ahead of us to tee off. I shouldn’t have let the two of them alone, but I had to think of way to get this guy to either shut up or leave. The 10th (par 4) tee and 11th (par 3) green are just within 20 yards of each other. I noticed that there had been a forecaddy/official placed just behind the 11th green just in case the golfers hit it over the green. It happened to be a member of the club who I hadn’t seen in awhile, (he also happened to be a family friend). So as we walked off the 10th tee, I kept myself in a position in which the member had to notice me. And when he saw me, he walked over and quickly said hello. We exchanged a few words and then he went back to monitoring the 11th green. It was done in a way in which Moosh’s father couldn’t tell what was going on and couldn’t hear anything that was said. When we finished the 10th hole, Mooshs father came walking towards us as we walked off the green. Before he could get in a word, I blurted,
“Mr. [Moosh], wait one second..”
He froze. I then pointed over to official.
“We’ve been giving a warning by that official. You’re interactions with us can be considered illegal under rule 16B. No outside help, even if you are a parent. You need to stay with the rest of the parents and remain quiet. He can face a two stroke penalty if you don’t stop.”
Moosh’s father had a very puzzled look on his face. I couldn’t tell or not if we was buying anything I was saying. I knew that this was the man that was going to be the one who will pay me, but honestly at this point, money wasn’t an issue for me. It was all about helping Moosh. His father then looked backed at the official, then back at us, motioned with his hands that he understood and went back with the rest of the spectators. When we made our way to the 11th tee, I looked at Moosh as to say, okay we’re good. With his father kept at bay, we started fresh and began to have fun again. We kept in moderation so his father wouldn’t have a heart attack, but to a point where him and I were just another golfer/caddy having a good day on the course.
Moosh had placed 7th, -9 under. Without question, if his father had not show up, he probably could have won it all. When we finished the round, we shook hands and I wished him well. Looking back on that day, I really should have done something about his Dad. I’ve told this story to other caddy mates who agreed that what I did was the best course of action – other than knocking this guy out. It’s not my place to tell how a parent raises their child, but as long as they were on my golf course; he would have to follow my rules or at least made up rule 16B.
A recurring theme brought up by many is how parents interact with their children when it comes to sports. We live in an age where we find more and more parents trying to follow the Marv Marinovich program. It seems to me like parents today view their children as either liabilities or assets, instead of being their son or daughter. I recently watched, “The Short Game”, a documentary follow the 7 youth golfers chasing their dreams…or maybe it’s their parent’s dream.
I won’t go in spoiler mode about the movie, but you do see the various relationships these young children have with their parents. Some were good, while some in my opinion are just wrong. There was a father-daughter team in this documentary that was also featured in Peter Berg’s sports documentary, “State of Play: Trophy Kids”. And the scenes that involved this duo, immediately reminded me of the relationship Moosh had with his own father. Pretty much spot on. I felt myself wanted to jump through the TV to strangle this father, pretty much how I felt the second Moosh’s father began to talk.
I’ve been very fortunate that both my mother and father, NEVER got involved with any of the sports I played. The only time they would ever get mad at me was if I had been doing poorly in school; especially math, that subject kicked my ass six ways to Sunday. I grew up where family came first. Then school, then clubs, friends and finally sports. I remember on one occasion in particular, I was in eighth grade and my lacrosse team was set to play our rival in a mid-week matchup. That same week, I found out I won a county award for a painting I had done in art class. Both were on the same day. So where do you think my parents sent me? To the award ceremony of course. I do remember getting some heat from a couple of my teammates for not showing up to the game (in reality, I wasn’t the next Casey Powell, so my presence couldn’t have been missed that much), but surprisingly it was my lacrosse coach who made sure I showed up the award ceremony even though I had told him I would have no problem missing it to play in the game.
No matter what I was involved in, my parents always supported my efforts. Sure, sometimes they would make comments, but I soon realized it was just them figuring out how involved I wanted to be in a particular sport/club/etc. And if I didn’t want to be part of it, they let me go. They didn’t care as long as their son was happy. And as long as I was happy, they were happy. And someday, I hope carry that mindset towards my own children.
When I hit the range on my lunch breaks, every once in awhile I’ll see a son/daughter there with their mother or father. Every now and then, I encounter a parent who loses their mind over their child’s lack of effort. And each time I flashback to my round with Moosh. And each time I wish there was a way I could go over to that parent and set them straight just like I did with Moosh’s father. Let’s face it, I was really lucky that day I got away with what I did.
I just hope that some of these parents realize that their behavior is not only an embarrassment to the child, it’s an embarrassment to themselves.