You just never know

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Years ago, my dad and I would go to Pinehurst to play in the Carolinas Father/Son Golf Tournament. We did it every year from the time I was 14 until I was in my mid- to late-20s.It was our time together and one of my favorite couple of days each year.

We had a routine. We would go the night before the tournament. We would eat a good steak dinner in this one particular restaurant we liked. Stay in the same hotel each year. Get a biscuit the next morning and then head to the course. Once we were at the course, we would get a bucket of balls and warm up. Without fail, my dad would say he only needed to hit three balls to get ready. He would grab his sand wedge, take a couple of practice swings, hit two balls and then shank his third one into the trees. He would then announce he was ready to play and sit in the cart while I finished hitting the bucket of balls. He did this like clockwork every year. Looking back, I think he was messing with me. I would spend the whole round worrying a shank was coming on his next shot. It never did.

One year when I was around 20 years old, we played with a father and his 15-year-old son. On the first green, the father stood over a 3-foot par putt and was visibly shook up. He literally had the shakes. He could barely pull the trigger. This carried on for a couple more holes. Something was obviously wrong.

About the seventh hole, he and my dad were looking for his ball in the woods and they seemed to be gone a little longer than they should have. My dad got back to our cart and quietly told me he knew what was wrong with him. It seems the man and his wife were going through a divorce and this particular son was the only one of his children that would still talk to him. His other two children had turned on him. This golf trip was the first time he had seen his son in months and he was so emotional he could not get himself together. It was sad.

I will never forget what my dad said in the middle of seventh fairway while we were sitting in the cart: “You never know what people are going through. Make sure you always remember that.” 

Golden advice even if I did not truly understand it at the time.

Thirty years later, I get it now. Life is tough at times. Things do not always go as planned. People handle hard times differently and it shows up in unfortunate ways at times. I don’t know how many times we have had a parent lose their minds over an ages 7-8 athletic event for no good reason and I think about what my father said all those years ago. To be honest, that advice has probably saved some folks an embarrassing ejection or suspension over the years.

I think about that father and son every now and then at the strangest times. My parents went through a divorce when I was a senior in high school and I am sure I was not a picture of emotional stability for a while, so I kind of understand what was going on with them. I sure hope they came out the other side in a good place and that golf trip became an annual event for them. Eighteen holes with your father will cure a lot of ills.

Like my dad said, “You never know ...”  We should all remember that.