A 7-year-old discovers golf — and a link to a grandpa he’s never known

When I was in kindergarten, my dad brought home a set of golf clubs no longer than this open newspaper to indoctrinate me into his beloved sport.

The clubs were, in a sense, a graduation. I was already spending my weekends tagging along at the golf course, fetching wayward balls, chasing ducks off the green, illegally driving the golf cart from one hole to the next.

But I was an observer, only watching while my father set up, readjusted, set up, readjusted, set up, readjusted, with no apparent difference from one stance to the next, until the moment his arms swung back and launched that ball in a graceful arc across the course.

With that first set of clubs, cut left-handed just for me, my dad was saying, “No more watching. You’re ready to join me on the tee.”

And I felt the excitement of this new challenge coupled with the responsibility of making my golf-obsessed father proud.

Which, in the end, turned out to be too much for a 5-year-old. I couldn’t understand why the ball didn’t lift into the air when I hit it or why my putts always veered from the hole. My dad tried to instruct but younger-me had no patience for a skill at which I was not instantly good. After only a few weeks, the clubs went into my closet, never to be used again.

As I grew older, hanging out with my dad took a back seat to going to the mall or movies with friends. My dad went golfing alone.

As he aged, he joked about trying out for the senior golf circuit. But he never got the chance, dying too early, far from his own terms. He gave his golf clubs to my husband. They gathered dust in the garage until one day I gave them away.

I hadn’t thought about my father’s passion for golf in a long time. But when my 7-year-boy expressed interest in the sport, it rekindled those memories.

That first day, I watched as my son swung that driver hopelessly at the ball, again and again, never connecting. But to my surprise, my usually impatient boy kept at it. Setting up. Readjusting. Setting up. Readjusting.

And then, his arms reached back, the club swung forward and the ball lifted high into the air, sailing farther and farther away. My boy looked at me, eyes wide, grin spreading across his face.

He was hooked. The next day, he begged my husband to take him to the driving range. He practiced putting in the back yard. He went to golf camp.

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Your grandpa would be so proud of you, I tell him.

We look through old photos and I say: There’s your grandpa, holding a trophy he won at a golf tournament. There he is, practicing on the green. And in some small way, my son finds a connection to a man he never knew, a grandfather who would have gladly cut new clubs just my son’s height and taken him for long days on the course.

I watch my boy golf and feel that connection, too, every time the club connects and the ball lifts, soaring improbably higher and higher into the sky, almost as if it’s being guided by something — or someone — watching from above, glad to have another golfer in the family.

Renee Moilanen is a freelance writer based in Redondo Beach.

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