There are many types of dads around the golf course, not one is the same.
Many who’ve played golf at any level may have a fond memory, a moment or a life lesson they’ve shared with their father along the way, on or off the course.
Canadian professionals Lorie Kane and Adam Hadwin both have careers that were jump started by dads who were teaching professionals, while others like Justin O’Leary, associate teaching professional at the National Golf Club of Canada, had a father that simply wanted his kids to enjoy golf.
“Dad told me that I was blessed with God’s gift to play golf,” said Kane of her father Jack. “He read [Ben] Hogan’s book Five Lessons and that’s what he taught [my sister and I].
“Even to this day, he still goes back to those if he sees something that I should be doing or not doing, just to remind me.”
Hadwin, who finished in a tie for fourth at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open, also had the fortune of having a dad well versed in the game. His father, Gerry, taught him the foundation of his swing from an early age.
“When he was trying to help me out he obviously had all the right stuff, he had all the right things to say,” said Hadwin. “Just as a teenager you didn’t want to listen to your parents, so we butted heads a lot.”
Hadwin’s story isn’t unlike many others, sometimes as a teenager listening isn’t easy. However, with age comes the realization that dad was probably right and that generally fathers are in their child’s court.
“He’s always believed in me, he’s always been behind me,” said Hadwin. “He’s like quiet and proud.”
Kane, like Hadwin, also had a few moments that weren’t easy with a father so involved in a game. She still seeks advice from him but what’s different now is that she initiates the conversation and it’s from dad not ‘golf dad’.
“I actually fired him a long time ago because it was easier for me, I wanted to have my dad instead of my coach,” said the four-time LPGA winner. “Trust me it was a difficult thing to do but at the same time it probably saved a father-daughter relationship, I don’t have a bigger fan than my mom and dad, they’re there if I need them.”
Luckily, for Kane, her father understood and the tough decision turned into a positive situation. She’s still thankful today for his involvement throughout her career.
“I obviously wouldn’t be in golf if it wasn’t for dad,” she said.
The more common dad may be the one that just enjoys the game and knows little about the golf swing. They’re the kind that drives their children to the course when the sun is rising and picks them up when the sun is setting.
Justin O’Leary’s father, Kevin, was one of those. He gave a selfless gift to his family for the love of the game.
“My older brother joined, then I joined [Westfield Golf and Country Club in NB], then my younger brother did and finally my sister,” he said. “We weren’t a rich family, my dad backed out because we couldn’t afford it. He let us play. He was always our no. 1 fan.”
O’Leary’s story is a touching one, as his father passed away April 7, 2009. It makes one wonder if the ‘Golf Gods’ really do exist.
In that year, O’Leary was named Ontario PGA Associate Pro of the Year alongside his friend Sean Casey, director of instruction at Glen Abbey, who was named Canadian PGA Teacher of the year.
Both grew up playing golf together in New Brunswick, and their hometown newspaper wanted to do a story on their recent success in the game. The story was set to print the eve of Tiger’s incident at Isleworth and never saw the papers, something that frustrated O’Leary who was looking forward to it.
Almost six months later, on April 7, 2010, a day he was dreading as it was the one-year anniversary of his father’s death, the story of their teaching success that had been set to print months earlier appeared on the main page of the newspaper. He had no idea it was even being printed.
“It was just too surreal, on the anniversary, it’s the front-page story, it was crazy ironic,” he said. “All the time I pushed that article aside, it was the best thing ever when mom opened that paper that morning.”
Without that membership at the club next door, O’Leary may have never found the opportunity to break into an industry that has become a successful career for him. He and his family have never forgotten what their father did for them.
Morgan Bell has played golf since the age of 5 and credits her father John for starting her in the game after taking her for many late-evening nine-hole rounds at Stanhope Golf and Country Club on PEI in their three-wheel golf cart.
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