Michigan Golf Hall of Fame InducteeThis Sunday, May 18, my Dad will be inducted into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame. He's been involved with the game for more than 65 years, as a caddy, high school golf team member and captain, Evans Scholar at Michigan State, golf pro in France and author, with 3 books about golf under his belt.
He's a green coat...has not played in the Masters, but is a member of the Western Golf Association, and received the coat as a perk of membership. He's played at too many courses to count, yet he has a bag tag from every single one of them...all displayed on the basement ceiling of my childhood home. As a kid our vacations seemed to always coincide with some big golf tournament or another...an overnight trip to Frankenmuth the weekend of the Buick Open. Heading to Kings Island? Maybe this weekend, since some other tournament is going on. I've met several pros, though they never really impressed me, not at that age. I was never into that scene, perhaps because it was the thing that my Dad loved the most. No, not more than us, but sometimes it felt that way. Every Saturday and Sunday over the summer he'd be at the club, playing golf. When he got home, he'd fall asleep in his chair, golf on the TV.
His love of the game moved in another direction starting in the late 60's, when he began organizing tournaments for charity. Included were the Walter Hagen Invitational to benefit the American Cancer Society, the Babe Zaharias Invitational, March of Dimes Tournament, St. Jude Invitational tournaments and B'nai Brith Championship. He also founded the Detroit Lions Alumni Golf Outing to benefit the NFL Alumni Dire Need Fund--the format has spread to 28 cities since then.
My fondest golf memory is from 1992. My Dad was playing in the Van Patrick Memorial tournament in Dearborn, MI and I was home from college that summer, sleeping in and not doing much else. At 10 the phone rang--it was the golf pro at the club saying my Dad had requested that I meet him there. The last thing I wanted to do was watch him play golf all day long...yawn. But he didn't make the call, and I couldn't find any excuses not to go, so I did. When I arrived the pro escorted me out to the hole where my Dad was currently playing and a very good looking man stepped forward to introduce himself to me--Mitch Gaylord. The night before the tournament (before my Dad knew who would be on his team), we were discussing the different celebrities who would be there...always a mix pro golfers, athletes and (B) movie stars. I had mentioned to him how handsome I thought Mitch Gaylord was and my Dad had summoned me to the course to make a dream come true for his 20 year old daughter. I spent the whole day out there with them...watched them hit countless balls on 16 holes, drove in the cart with Mitch and was a little bit sad that I didn't get a marriage proposal at the end of the day, but it was still amazing!! As we were leaving the pro shop, Scott Hamilton approached my Dad and asked him how his game was--I didn't even know they were friends!
Later than evening, on the way home, Dad had to stop at the Ritz Carlton to meet with someone named Gene Sarazen. The name meant nothing to me, but my Dad spoke of him in the hushed tones reserved for those of utmost importance. After the meeting, he told me this gentleman had won 39 PGA Tournaments and was one of only 5 golfers to have won all the major championships during his career. My Dad was able to get a meeting with him so Mr. Sarazen could sign a couple of his golf books for his collection. As it turned out, my Dad had caddied for him at some tournament he played in in Michigan, back in the 1940's. The two of them sat there for nearly 30 minutes talking about each hole, which club was used, how far under (or over) par he had been...for each hole! Now golf still didn't interest me in the least bit, but damned if I wasn't impressed that these 2 men had that kind of recall for a game that had been played nearly 50 years prior!
So that's my Dad! I couldn't be more proud of him. Being inducted into the MI Golf Hall of Fame is a dream come true for him and I can't wait to witness it with my own two eyes. I love you Papa!!