For many golfers, the answer to this question is their father. Likely your father was a semi-serious golfer who enjoyed the game and taught you to enjoy it as well. Of course there are many of you who like me had another family member do the introduction. For some, maybe it was a friend even a friend’s dad. Maybe you found the game on your own. Whoever it was, the day you finally beat that person is something that sticks in your memory bank forever.
My father didn’t play golf. My mother sold his clubs a few months after I was born and she told me she did it because he never used them. He came home one day from work and they were gone. To many of you this is an unforgivable sin, but my dad shrugged it off and later said she was right, he never used them. Much later on in my golfing career he joined me a few times for scramble events. He liked to play in scrambles because there was no pressure and he could enjoy himself. He did not swing much past his waist and did not hit it very far. Looking back, though, he was in his sixties and not doing much stretching at the time. He claimed he was a good putter, but I never actually saw that.
I can remember a par three which had a ravine in front of the green. It was 200+ yards and he hit his shot and found it just short of the ravine. He was excited to see it lying in the fairway with an easy pitch to the green. He walked down there all set to hit it, and I said to him “what are you doing? My ball is on the green.” He told that story all the time.
I was introduced to the game by my aunt’s boyfriend at the time, Fred. I can’t remember too much about Fred because he was not in my life for a very long time, but he left me with golf. We went out to a par-three course and it was a long wait on the first tee. So I was standing off to the side of the tee practicing my swing. I thought I would work on some chipping. I started off with some small swings and gradually the swings got longer and longer and one I really hit well, right over the fence and “bam” right into a car door. Luckily no one saw it and I acted like it never happened. So my first golf memory is hitting a car.
I have no idea what my score was from the round, but it didn’t matter. I had found a sport that I didn’t need to have others with me to improve at. Baseball, football, basketball, soccer, tennis, all required someone else to work on your game. Golf was something I could do on my own, and I have been forever hooked. Now past my competitive prime for those other sports I am very glad that I found golf.
I am sure that everyone has a first golf story, hopefully there was no damage as in my case, but the memory certainly sticks out to me and has throughout the years. There is little that I can remember from that time but my first golfing experience is one I will likely never forget.
I started to think about all of this because I was listening to a Phil Mickelson interview about his induction into the Golf Hall of Fame, where he discussed how he was introduced to the game. He said that he learned to mirror his fathers swing and thus picked up the game left handed. Of course Phil was a bit luckier than most of us because he got a chipping green in his backyard where he could hone his short game to become the great golfer he is today. Thing was, Phil likely has millions of golf milestones, likely he has forgotten more of them than I have, but his introduction to the game will always stick with him.
I know that to many of you this article is a bit nostalgic and sappy, but I’ll bet that as you read it your first thoughts are to your introduction to the game and how happy you were while you were playing the game. Likely if you have been playing for any amount of time you have gone through some great period and some struggles but the core of the game, what made you fall in love with it is still there. Even if you have quit once or twice something brought you back, for you it is almost as though you have a re-introduction story to tell as well.
Photo credits: © Will Dickey.