With a little bag slung over my shoulder and my chest puffed out, I confidently walked the 400-yard, par-4 fifth fairway of Olalla Valley Golf Club in Toledo, Oregon.
About 12 years of age, my ball that evening had soared past the drive of my dad for the first time … in two shots for me, that is.
My dad then could play good golf. He was once a golf club assistant pro. He left that job when I was born to spend more time with the family. He didn’t golf for a decade. He then dusted off his clubs to win a couple of course championships at the local club. He placed high in a few statewide amateur tournaments and a few years later shot a “65” for 18 holes at Springhill Country Club in Albany—two shots shy of the course record.
My dad had taught me well. He let me naturally grasp the club with my few fingers and a thumb. Over time, he nudged me to make a few minor adjustments. More importantly, he modeled the mechanics of a good golf swing. I, too, liked watching golf on television with my dad, and that allowed me to acquire the basics.
This spring evening at Olalla Valley, I reveled in youthful exuberance over my lofty feat. Two times in a row I’d smacked a golf ball. Watch out “Jack” (Nicklaus), here I come.
It may have been thoughts like that which my dad wanted to put to rest. I think that he didn’t want me to get hurt.
“Hey dad, I hit two really good shots there, didn’t I,” I beamed.
“You did, son. Way to go,” he affirmed.
“Hey dad, do you think I’ll one day hit the golf ball as far as you.”
Things turned eerily silent aside from the birds that chirped in the woods. My dad said nothing. We finished the hole and walked to the next tee. We dropped our clubs and he called me to take a seat on the bench.
“I love you son, and I wish I could say that you would hit a golf ball out past me. But given your hands and small frame, I don’t think it will happen.”
Ouch. His words hurt. I remember little of the rest of that round, my energy zapped by his perspective of reality.
Years passed, and I kept working on my game. My short game—chipping and putting—grew stellar. There were few shots around the green that I couldn’t hit with a deft touch. I lettered in golf three of my four years. My senior year of high school I shot a 74 and 75 on back-to-back days to win tournaments. One round, I chipped and then one-putted 14 of the 18 holes to save par. But I still couldn’t drive the ball out of my shadow, rarely reaching greens in regulation (e.g., in two shots on a par 4). I had no length.
Then I matured. I lifted weights. I watched big guys hit the ball hard and even emulated some of their bad habits. I picked up some new technology—better clubs.
I always enjoyed evenings of golf with my dad. At about age 23, I once more strode down a fairway—my chest a bit puffed out. That night I set my carry bag down to watch and wait for my dad to hit his approach shot to the 4th green of Springhill Country Club.
“Dad, did you hit that tee shot well?” I asked.
“I did, son. I hit a good one there. Is that you up there?” he asked, pointing to my ball a good 10- 15 yards ahead of his—something that had become more commonplace.
“That’s me, dad. I hit a pretty good one myself.”
I hoped he’d bring it up. He didn’t. But I wasn’t about to let it slide.
“Say, dad. Do you remember your words a decade or so ago?”
Nothing more needed be said. “You mean that night I said ‘never’ son? Yeah, I do. And I’m so proud of you. I never thought you’d do it—drive your ball out past me.”
I golfed with my dad another 25 years. Two years ago, at age 78, he felt he needed to give it up. For the record, he still kicked my tail on the scorecard most of the time. I grew to hit it further alright. But “army golf” (left-right, left-right) can lead to some high scores. I always have my share of pars, but I, too, can post an “8” or a “9” on a hole at any given time.
I learned much from my dad. In this case, I learned to never say “never”. These days, my faith reminds me that ” … with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
Is there a circumstance or situation that seems too difficult or challenging for you? What is it that you would like to accomplish that fear, faith, or some dedicated effort has perhaps kept you from achieving?
Never say “never.”