It doesn’t seem like that long ago when Frank was honing his golf swing in the living room. Golf Channel on the TV, Frank wearing nothing but a diaper and trying to figure out how to swing a right handed Play-skool club as a left-hander, stroking golf balls over my chair and into the kitchen.
When he hit the microwave on the fly I switched him to foam golf balls. Yeah sure I could have started him out with those but that just wouldn’t be our style.
As time went on I thought we would be playing a lot of golf together and we have considering he’s still only six years old. But I quickly realized how easy it is to become one of those obsessive type parents. Seeing this kid swing a golf club when he was two stunned me. He’s two in that picture on the left.
If you don’t realize it, that’s the perfect set up for a right handed golfer, except for his left hand being lower on the club than his right. Never really caught that until we went to get him some real clubs. Turns out he’s left handed. As good as his swing was from the right side with a cross handed grip, and he was crushing it from that side, it is even better from his natural side, the left.
All that to say, the kid has a lot of natural born talent. From where, God only knows, but he has it. So I caught myself in helicopter/overbearing/live through my kid obnoxious dad mode. He was even featured on Tiger Wood’s Facebook Page. Don’t think I didn’t crow about that for a long time. He just turned four in that picture.
Well the obnoxious part is here to stay. We play the cards we’re dealt. But I’ve really backed off on the golf. I realized getting to Augusta to caddy for him at The Masters is not nearly as important as cultivating a long term golf partner. To that end we have pushed him towards other sports so as not to burn him out. And of course to show him how other sports just completely fail in comparison to golf.
He liked T-Ball and soccer ok. But what he really liked was a game we invented called Driving Range. You may have read about it here once or twice, click the link if you haven’t. Aunt Carol and Uncle Bob sent us one of those motorized John Deer tractors for kids. Frank would drive that around the back yard while I hit plastic golf balls. One day he dares me to hit one into the bed of his tractor as he’s driving by. My first shot hit him in the back of the head, but a game was born and the rest, as they say, is history.
Sadly time marches on and his love of the tractor has waned. Consequently Driving Range has been relegated to the dust bin of history. Hitting golf balls at your mobile kid, how is this game not a national sensation? Anyway, we had not played golf together in a while. I thought his desire had waned with his tractor. Thankfully, I was wrong and my heart has been made full again.
I caught him all alone in the backyard practicing by himself.
Then he asked me if we could hit balls in the backyard. I nursed that like a fire-starter nurses the glint of a smoldering ember. Blow too hard, put too much kindling on it, and it’s gone. Nurture it, gently blow across it and that ember you’ve made out of almost nothing when you were about to freeze to death can become a roaring fire, keeping you warm for as long as you feed it. Yeah. OK, a bit over dramatic but still. This is golf we’re talking about man!
So we’re hitting balls in the yard together and I’m playing it cool, trying not to be excited. But of course I’m ecstatic. Right until a ball whizzed past my face, that is. I went for a stern look as I turned toward my six year old who almost gave me a nose-ectomy, but it was hard to maintain. He had a huge grin and his follow through form was perfect. Hard not to admire that.
So I did what any responsible parent would do. I hit a ball back at him. He laughed as he ran and viola, a new backyard game glows like an ember. There are no rules or a commissioner yet. I imagine the next time we play Frank will demand we need those things like he does for all the games we invent. The Water Catch game commissioner is a real jerk-weed. So for now it’s wild west time in the back yard. I figured I’d get some action pictures but the damn kid’s aim was getting better by the second.
At left is one of the few good shots I managed to take. Note the white thing on the left edge, halfway up. It looks elongated because it’s in flight, hauling the mail, and heading right for me. I can’t believe how well this picture came out because I was ducking and running to the right while trying to hit the button on the phone to take the picture.
No way to convey this but that ball had some pace on it. He was like an assassin. Of course I managed to sting him a few times too. But the amazing this about all of that is the form and smooth swing the kid makes when he’s not thinking about it. He’s just running from ball to ball trying to bean his old man and making perfect swings every time.
Not to get too technical, (Hupp loves the technical golf jargon but I know y’all aren’t as enamored), Frank has learned the perfect swing for hitting a knock down shot. It’s a shot you need to hit when the wind is strong and blowing at you instead of from behind. He’s learned that shot trying to keep his ball low enough to plunk me. It is something I’ll take credit for when they interview me after his first Masters victory. Until then we’ll keep inventing games that involve one, if not both, of us getting injured with a well struck golf ball.
Life is good.