With an adult Taylor Made putter in one hand and two yellow, Wilson Spongebob Squarepants golf balls in the other, Justin walked up the ramp with me to the putting green at the Balboa Public Golf Course. As we passed by an older guy carrying his pristine touring golf bag to his car, he scoffed at me and said, “You know, this is where we come to get away from our kids.” I would not be deterred by this Grumpy Geezer of Golf. It was time for Justin to put away his windmills and colorful balls of Putt-Putt and begin to learn how to play this game for real.
When we stepped onto the practice green, I instructed Justin to drop his golf balls near the pin. He placed them down one by one. I then said, “Ok, Justin. Putt the ball into the hole.” I said nothing else. I gave him no other instructions. Sure enough, he walked over to the ball, smacked it with my putter……….and it dropped into the cup – from 8 feet away!! For any scouts reading this, allow me to clarify: my left-handed, 5 1/2 year old son putted from the right while holding a right-handed club that was facing backwards and he still managed to hit the pin from 8 feet away!!! I looked over to see a couple of golfers who paused to watch my son. One of them gave Justin a “thumbs up.” Another just stood there shaking his head in disbelief.
For the next 30 minutes, I continued to drop golf balls around the putting green while encouraging Justin to get them into the different holes. Sometimes he really connected with the ball and sometimes he did not. Regardless, we were laughing and having fun. He had a big smile on his face in between holes. But when he was getting ready to putt, his smile dropped and he had the steely gaze of Clint Eastwood moments before a shoot-out.
He knew that this was special. There were no other children around. This was “Man Time” and I think that he genuinely had a good time just hanging out with the guys. When he was done, he asked to go over to the water fountain by the first tee. As we walked over, he observed a foursome teeing off. He asked me “How do they hit the ball so high?”, “When can we ride in the white carts?”, and “Why is everyone wearing silly looking pants?”
Afterwards, I took him into the club house for breakfast. Together, we sat and ordered eggs, bacon, and French toast. He kept asking me if I saw his putt that went around the edge of the hole and if I saw his putt that went into the hole and if I saw his putt that hit the pin and if I saw his putt that hit another ball, etc.
The three, early 40’s guys at the table next to us got a kick out of overhearing our conversation. They turned around and asked Justin what his handicap was. He just smiled, showed them his golf balls, and informed them that he had gotten a “hole in one.” We all talked golf while waiting for our food. By the end of our conversation, they had invited Justin to join their foursome the following week. He responded, “What about my daddy?” They all laughed and said, “We’ve seen him play. He can be your caddy!”