Graham: Taking a swing through my favorite golf memories
Tiger Woods gave golf fans everywhere a thrill Sunday with his win in an incredible final round at the Masters. I will be honest, my emotions got the best of me when I watched him hug his children afterward and thought about the journey he took to reach that pinnacle again.
The thing about golf is the kinship all players feel despite the differences in our skill levels or successes. It is one reason why the sport has held a special place in my heart even when work and other life experiences have kept me off the course for long stretches.
I have had the privilege of covering a few major golf tournaments as a journalist, and the thrill of attending others as a ticket-bearing fan. My favorite memories include meeting Jack Nicklaus at the PGA Championship in 1982, and the second round of the 2007 PGA at Southern Hills when I stood at the top of a grandstand with my oldest daughter and brother as we watched Woods lip out a birdie putt on the 18th hole, as he just missed shooting a major-tournament record 62.
But the golf moments that mean the most to me came on a much more personal scale.
• Hitting a tee shot to within 3 feet on the par-3 16th hole on my way to winning the junior club championship at Okmulgee Country Club. It was easily the highlight of my competitive golf career.
• Bus trips to high school golf events. The squad reveled in insulting each other in a way only young people who are competing as teammates would ever understand. (We won’t go into the overnight trip during my sophomore year that included a bathtub full of beer, a dinner of chicken-fried steak and an unfortunate incident with a pair of golf shoes. You can imagine the ending.)
• The last tournament of my Okmulgee Bulldog career in the spring of 1981 when I realized how close I was to the end of my high school days and how unprepared I felt for what awaited me.
But the memories closest to my heart are the rounds I played while growing up with my two brothers.
We lived just a few blocks from the country club course, and since my family had a membership we could play for free. Many summer mornings the three of us would eat breakfast and then pick up our golf bags and walk to the course. I remember the feeling that something amazing could happen at any moment, with any swing of the club.
The grass often was still covered in dew and the clubhouse not open yet when we would start. The early tee offs meant we missed the worst of the Oklahoma heat, although we often played in harsh conditions (including at least one round in the winter when a few inches of snow covered the ground.)
None of us was a great player, but we had fun for the most part. I was the oldest and the longest hitting among us. My left-handed middle brother was always tweaking his swing, coming up with new techniques he was sure would lead to success, although usually they would work for a short period and then fade. My youngest brother was always striving to catch up with us, and he often supplied the comedy relief when his temper would flare.
One of his rants came during a round when he was really struggling. He was playing with a set of hand-me-down clubs that had been cut down to his size. He often blamed his problems on his equipment, and on this day he started mumbling about the clubs being nothing but scrap iron and wood. In an effort to lighten the mood, we reminded him that the clubs also had grips, causing him to add to his description. Decades later, if you want to bring back the feeling of brotherly unity we felt during those mornings, all you have to say is “scrap iron and wood and tire rubber.”
It has been many years since the three of us got together for a round of golf, and we live in three different states, separated by hundreds of miles. I am sure one day we will play together again, though. Maybe the ground will be covered in dew when we stand on the first tee, waiting to take our first swings.
And I am sure the conversation will turn to those childhood rounds of golf, when the possibility of the amazing hung in the air and we created bonds that remain today.
Doug Graham is the community editor for The Daily Courier. He can be reached at email@example.com.