Full Circle: This time, it’s my daughter who takes me to a pro golf tournament

Full Circle: This time, it’s my daughter who takes me to a pro golf tournament

A round of golf is exactly that, a circle. Inevitably, you wind up right back where you started. Physically at least. But emotionally? Mentally? Spiritually? Those are different matters entirely.

Of course, golf is just a game. What about real life? The way I see it, the same rules apply.

After all, on a molecular level, our physical beings circle back to where they started. Our bodies get recycled, whether we’re willing to acknowledge that end game or not. To quote my priest at last week’s Ash Wednesday service as he kicked off the rip-roaring season of Lent: “Remember you are dust. And to dust you shall return.” But emotionally? Mentally? Spiritually? The journey through life—as around a golf course—triggers the same questions, as well as the search for the same elusive answers.

So perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised to find myself on a grandstand behind the 10th green at Riviera Country Club last Saturday, watching tour professionals flounder on a tricked-up 311-yard par 4 in the third round of the Northern Trust Open—and here’s the kicker—seated next to my 24-year-old daughter.

But that’s not all. In the row just in front of us was a young father doing his best to coral the unbridled enthusiasm of his preschool-age son and daughter. I couldn’t help but notice. Claire noticed, too. And without a word, we gave each other a nod. Knowingly.

After all, golf/life is a circle. That’s how this thing works. Right?

In 1992, the U.S. Open was played at Pebble Beach. Back then, I was the young father with—as Warren Zevon might put it—two excitable girls. Yet I boldly (or was that foolishly?) purchased weeklong passes to our national championship. How could I not, given that it was being contested a mere five-hour drive north from our home in Los Angeles on one of the most stunningly beautiful stretches of coastline on the planet?

On the Monday, I ventured out to this so-called links with my oldest daughter in tow while their mother (and my then-wife) hung back at our holiday home with our younger daughter. Nearly 23 years later, it still ranks as one of the best days of my life. And I have a hunch Grace feels the same way about it, too. Though just four years old, she claims to remember the details of our time together vividly. The gloom of the marine layer that wrapped the sky in a misty blanket. The bleat of the sea lions lounging on the rocks as we waited for the parking shuttle bus to pick us up. The metallic chill of those ubiquitous grandstands.

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Tangible evidence resides to this day in the cherry wood-framed glass display case that holds the logo golf balls I’ve collected during my travels around the world. There, in the bottom left corner, is a Titleist 384 Tour 100. Black No. 2. No logo. Balata cover so pliable you swear you can feel it give as you squeeze it between your thumb and forefinger. This ancient artifact, the state of the art in golf ball technology before the dawning of the Pro V1 era, came into our possession as my daughter and I slowly progressed down the right side of Pebble’s iconic 18th hole, moving away from the clubhouse and toward the tee hard against the Pacific. That’s where Steve Pate, heading the other direction, spotted Grace and handed her the ball. It was a simple gesture, but one we’ll never forget. And, from what I’ve been told, one that Tiger Woods is unlikely to emulate. But I digress.

The next day, I was convinced all four of us could walk the course, soak in the scenery and catch glimpses of the players as they honed their games for battle. It had all the makings of a magical family bonding moment. But I was an even bigger dreamer then than I am today. A four-year old, of the right temperament, can hang at a golf tournament—at least on a practice day. But a two-year old? As my New York friend might say, “Fuggedaboutit!” Our little experiment lasted an hour, maybe two, before we had to retreat, redeploying our forces at the kid-friendly Monterey Aquarium along Cannery Row.

Fast forward to 2015. My little bundle of entropy has now blossomed into a full fledged young woman gainfully employed in her chosen profession with excellent long-term prospects and a few immediate perks, including two passes to the Northern Trust Open. Much to my delight, she invited me to share in this largess and spend a leisurely day at a professional golf tournament, picking up where we’d left off more than two decades ago.

Then I spotted that brave young father with his two young children. And like the surf that still churns Carmel Bay, it all came rushing back.

It’s the circle of life, I tell you. And golf. In my mind, there is no distinction.

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