By Donald Hoke
Like every golfer, I can’t wait for the start of the golf season. But I have a special reason: my new playing partner, my 8-year-old daughter, known affectionately as “the Terrorist.”
When she was only 2, her mother and I bought the little rascal a child-sized seven iron. It was way too big for her, but she dragged it around the house. About the time she was 5, she started accompanying her daddy to the driving range and putting green.
She and I chipped around in the back yard until she started to hit the ball with some authority. One day, she put a Titleist through the bathroom window, which resulted in a torrent of tears After that, we confine golfing to the driving range.
Then last spring, I said to the Terrorist, “What do you say we play ‘real’ golf on a ‘real’ golf course?
“Yeah! Daddy!” came the enthusiastic response.
So the following Saturday morning, we drove to a nine-hole, par three course. It is a family-friendly course with slow greens, a driving range and a putting green on which to warm up. One rarely has to wait at the first tee.
After a torrential rain, water collects along the left side of the first fairway. And a ditch lies along the second fairway. Otherwise, it is hard to get into trouble on a course with virtually no rough. Just the place for an 8-year-old, and her daddy.
And so Daddy and the Terrorist played their first round of golf together. Golf is, a wonderful game to teach life’s little messages to little girls.
“First of all, you have to count all the strokes, even if you accidentally bump the ball, and it rolls an inch,” I instructed.
The Terrorist caught on fast and insisted on keeping score. “So you got a 5 on that hole?” I asked. “No, Daddy, I accidentally hit the ball on the hill, and it moved, so I got a 6.” And she dutifully recorded the 6. I could be wrong but I think we have the making of an honest child here.
“Daddy, the ball is behind a bush, can I move it?”
“No, sweetheart, you have to play the ball where it lies, no fair moving it.” Another of life’s little messages.
On each tee, I dutifully filled my divot sand, then filled at least one more. “Always leave the golf course in better shape than you found it.” I advised.
Since then, she has methodically attempted to rebuild every tee by filling every divot.
There is something about sand and kids. When the Terrorist knocked her ball into a sand trap, she would have spent the next hour making sure it was absolutely smooth. “No,” I admonished, “there are people waiting on the tee, and we can’t hold them up.” That led to a simple lesson on slow play and about others around you and how your actions have an impact on them.
Once, when we were two holes ahead of the some behind us, we stopped to fix some extra marks on a green and to practice chipping. For 10 minutes, she chipped the ball at the hole, and I putted it back to her, another of life’s little lessons: Practice makes perfect.
For now, golf simply is fun. Hit the ball hard, go find it, and who cares what the score is. We spend little time on the driving range with very elementary instruction, but nothing serious. In another two years, if she still enjoys the game, we will see about some lessons. But for now, it is just a game.
On a short, 60-yard hole, the Terrorist drove the green and landed her ball considerably inside her dad’s shot. That was a momentous accomplishment, which later was recounted in great detail to her mother.
Two hours after we teed off, the Terrorist and I returned to the clubhouse to drink lemonade, eat candy bars and (at her insistence) add up the score.
She leaned back in her chair, pushed back her golf visor, looked at me with her child’s eyes and, and said, “Daddy, that was a lot of fun! Let’s do this again!”
And we did, all summer long.