My Dad introduced me to the game of golf in 1955, when I was about ten years old. He and I, my Mom and two sisters made up a five-some at a nearby golf course. Little did I realize at the time, the significance that day would have on my life. Maybe I can share a few of the highlights.
First off, I was blessed with having a terrific Mom & Dad who absolutely wanted the best in life for their three kids. I was always encouraged to try my best whether it was shoveling snow from our Minnesota driveway, delivering newspapers for my first job, playing the cornet in the band, studying for a test in high school or by just being "a good kid". At family get togethers, my Dad and I would always bring our golf clubs, whether we were in Owatonna, MN, Arizona in the Spring, maybe Hawaii at Christmas, a round of golf was always on the agenda.
My Dad was a high school Band Director by profession and was blessed with many talents and skills. If my Mom wanted my Dad to build a bookcase....presto....he would design and build it in his workshop and it would be installed in the den. If the house needed to be repainted, my Dad would scrape the old paint off and a new coat was promptly applied. He had a musical golf swing, his tempo was flawless. He was able to play, and demonstrate, almost any instrument to his high school band, from drums to cornet, clarinet to the tuba. If an instrument needed a repair, my Dad took care of it. Does the piano need tuning? My Dad got it in a performance mode.
I don't want to be accused of favoring one parent over the other, so a paragraph on my Mom is certainly appropriate. Who amongst us wouldn't argue that our Mom was the best cook who ever lived? My Mom excelled at entertaining and lived for the days when she had her neighborhood lady friends in for coffee and a freshly baked pie, maybe a simple dessert or tasty lunch. Who can ever forget the holiday meals that were always delicious, with the right amount of variety, taste and served with a touch of class. My Mom was truly a person who lived to enjoy treating others with the best she had...she might have been Betty Crocker.
Now, let's get to that golf event at Pebble Beach. As my love of golf was evolving, I got interested in playing the top 100 golf courses in the United States. It got to be another game with me, as it was both fun, and a good challenge, to prospect amongst my golf network and find people who could get me on certain golf courses. Sometimes it was through a connection, other times it was through a reciprocal agreement from one club to another.
What a thrill it was to play at Oakmont, just outside of Pittsburgh with my Father-In-Law on his 70th birthday. We polished off the day with their scrumptious fresh fruit plate on the veranda over-looking the course. The Olympic Club in San Francisco was the sight of a beautiful round of golf, punctuated with dinner in the clubhouse with my sister Connie and her husband Rand. My cousin Nancy's wedding in Los Angeles was a good excuse to play Riviera in Pacific Palisades. One of my best clients and friends arranged golf for us at the opulent Shadow Creek golf complex in Las Vegas. I could go on and on, suffice it to say, my golf memories are never ending.
My Dad was a man who grew up during the Depression, and never lost sight of the value of a dollar. He was a frugal man who took great pride in being an excellent money manager. He would never spend the money, for example, even though he had it in the bank, on an extravagance like Pebble Beach. One year, during a family Christmas visit in San Jose, CA., I made arrangements to play Spanish Bay on the Monterrey Peninsula. It was a Top 100 golf course, need I say more?
Anyway, as I was checking in at the Pro Shop, I noticed a brochure on the counter advertising a "Five Day-Four Night Father-Son Pebble Beach Golf Tournament" that would be held annually starting the day after Christmas. The wheels in my head immediately started spinning, thinking this would be the ideal partial "payback" from me to my Dad for all that he had helped me with over my lifetime. This would be something he would never do for himself.
Let's fast forward six months to June, where we all gathered in Owatonna to celebrate our parents' 50th wedding anniversary. The day after the party, we were sitting around the dining room table trying to come up with a plan to celebrate the upcoming Christmas Season; after a few failed attempts, I turned to my Dad and asked:
"Dad, will you be my guest at the Pebble Beach Father - Son golf tournament?"
" Oh Paul ", he replied, " I'd never want you to spend that much money on me."
" Dad....how much time do you have left ?"
At that, my Dad excused himself to think things over in the library. The rest of us adjourned to the living room, with my Mom chastising me saying: "Paul....how can you talk like that?"
At the time, my Dad was 71 years of age and was a recovering quintuple heart bypass survivor. I thought it was a legitimate question, all golfers should play Pebble Beach at some point in their lifetime in order to complete their golf resume. I encouraged everyone to stay quiet and to let me handle the situation. After fifteen minutes, out popped my Dad, I again repeated my invite....there was dead silence in the room, all eyes were on my Dad.....after a slight pause....he looked me straight in the eyes and said:
We shared a GREAT handshake and the excitement started to build. Over the next few months, my Dad would be overheard telling his golf buddies:
"Paul & I are going to play in the Pebble Beach Father - Son golf tournament at Christmas!"
Finally, the big day arrived and my Dad and I checked into the Lodge at Pebble Beach. We were assigned a beautiful room, over looking the 18th and that magnificent California coast line. Our room was perfect, including a nifty fireplace and balcony.
After we got settled, we decided it would be a good idea to have breakfast the next day, served in our room. Promptly at 8:00 AM, our doorbell rang and in walked our waiter with the New York Strips, hash browns, eggs-over-easy, coffee, orange juice, and croissants....the works. The waiter took our picture in front of the sliding glass door that included the bright, blue Pacific and a stunning, cloudless sky. It was PERFECT....father & son, golf, great ambiance, Pebble Beach....it can't get any better than that!
After a couple bites of our steaks, I asked my Dad for his critique:
"You know Paul, when your Mother and I travel to Phoenix for the Winter, we always stop at a Denny's restaurant, just off the freeway in New Mexico, I had a better steak there for $3.99 than this one."
Well, that was my Dad, a true gem, modest, not a mean bone in his body, brutally honest, hard working, absolute pride in his family, frugal to a fault. We went on from there and had the time of our lives, playing Spanish Bay, Spyglass and Pebble Beach, enjoying the cocktail parties, the awards banquet, and our fellow competitors from every state in the country. One of our tee gifts was a monogrammed, zippered, leather travel bag. I don't ever recall my Dad travelling again without his new treasure.
My Mom would eventually succumb to the effects of Ahlzeimer's Disease, when my Dad and I had to admit her to the hospital a nurse asked my Dad when he first noticed her symptoms. He answered by explaining:
"Well, Paul and I were playing golf at Pebble Beach when my two daughters mentioned she was having some memory lapses."
My Mom lived in a Nursing Home for five years before passing away. My Dad would seldom miss a day without visiting her, his goal was to outlive her by a day. My Dad lived to the age of 80, I believe he died a happy man....how could he not?....he had played Pebble Beach....I miss him to this day.