I’m not sure how to feel about this day. It’s technically my first Father’s Day (pending), and also my first Father’s Day without my father. And, as usual, it’s the final day of the U.S. Open.
While the Masters has Augusta National, and the Open Championship has that storied rotation including Carnoustie and the Old Course, there’s something I’ve always loved about the U.S. Open, thanks in no small part to my father.
He loved all sorts of history, including golf history. It was from him that I first learned about Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Harvey Penick and countless others. Jones, Hogan and Penick also put together instruction books or videos that I still have today. He had old golf mementos scattered around the house, wooden shafted clubs and countless training aids.
My first true memory of watching golf comes from 1999. Just like this year, it takes place at Pinehurst #2, with the classic storyline of Phil Mickelson debating if he could finish the U.S. Open before his wife had their first child. As fans of the game know, Phil lost by a stroke to Payne Stewart in a classic finish, and his wife gave birth to their daughter the next day.
My favorite part was after Payne made his putt, and his immortal celebration pose, when he hugged Phil and gave him the simple message of “you’re going to be a great father”. Tragically Payne died that October when his private plane lost cabin pressure and eventually crashed in South Dakota.
Dad wasn’t a flashy golfer. He was never a long hitter, and while he did spend some time working on his woods, I’ll always remember his countless hours spent on the short game. I’m fairly certain that one of the reasons that his office downstairs didn’t have the shag carpet that the rest of the downstairs shared was so that he could have a smooth putting surface. Although the shag certainly helped out when practicing chipping. He was always taking lessons, often after work at an indoor teaching facility, coming home with VHS tapes of the lesson so that he could review them later on. He taught me the 7-iron bump-and-run, and there’s never been a time I’ve hit that shot where I haven’t thought of him. He thought he was lifting his head during putts, so he began keeping his head down
There are so many questions I never got to ask my father, because I was too scared to admit that there wasn’t going to be more time. While he grew up as Hogan and Nelson were winding down, Palmer was going strong and Nicklaus was just emerging, I don’t know who his all-time favorite golfer is. We played throughout Scotland, including Carnoustie, Crail, Jubilee and the Old Course, but I don’t know what his favorite course was. He took my brother and me to the Greater Hartford Open, but I don’t know his favorite tournament or favorite major. He wore his heart on his sleeve for UConn, but I still have lingering doubts about whether he pulled from the Patriots or the Giants, and I’m unsure about Yankees or Red Sox. I know that beer was his preferred drink, he would usually drink one from a German beer mug on Saturday with our pizza, but I don’t know his brand. And while we had talked about children, he passed away before we found out that Lauren was pregnant, so I’ll never get a chance to hear his advice.
And while I’m not sure if he had a favorite scotch, for the remainder of the U.S. Open I’m declaring it Glenmorangie