A Dad, A Son, And A Dream
Continued (page 4 of 4)
"Q school for you in the fall?" I asked.
"You got it, sir," he said.
"Good for you," I said.
"What about Jack?" he asked.
Even as I was explaining that Jack was not a dreamer like his old man and that he was ready to go back to the real world, I was doing the math in my head. He had finished his last round on the tour at three over par, hitting 16 greens in regulation to match the 16 he had hit the day before. He had hit every fairway except one again. This was a triumph to me for a kid who had not played any competitive golf in almost three years before Texas. But Jack wouldn't see it that way. In today's round he had seven tap-in pars, which to him meant seven more missed birdies to add to the seven he had missed the day before.
But what I'm always going to remember from our last round of golf together was Jack spending a few minutes with Barry O'Neill, a splendid Irish lad on the tour who had taken Jack under his wing. Jack gave Barry a couple hats from Inverness Club. And Barry very sweetly tried to persuade Jack that he had a future in golf. "You play fearlessly, Jack. You were only behind me by a few strokes these last couple of events, and I've played in a hundred tournaments. Think of the progress you've made. I'm just saying, think about it. Look ahead five years and think what you could accomplish in this game."
And there was Jack thanking Barry and telling him how he saw things. "I never played up to my potential here, Barry. There were three or four rounds when I embarrassed myself. I have to be honest about this. You're either the real deal in this game, or you're just a pretender, lying to yourself. I don't want to do that, man. I came here, and yes, I made some progress, but I never played up to my potential. I wish I had. But I didn't."
I watched them shake hands. In that moment I understood something about my son. He saw the grace in an ordinary life lived honestly. Something that big dreamers like myself almost never see. I will always remember Jack rolling in his last putt for a par with a golf ball that had his girl's initials on it. And how he cheered on his playing partners through the round, even though they were his opponents. And then the moment today when I looked up through the mist and rain and saw Jack walking toward me, wearing the black jacket that I had bought him when he was 17, where this journey of ours began. Six years ago, I thought; like anyone I wanted to get those years back.
And in a way I got them back in Texas.
I will remember all of it for as long as I can. The handshake on the last green. The quick embrace. And the walk to the parking lot when Jack said, "That's that, man. It was real, wasn't it?"
I was a step behind him.
"Yeah, Jackie," I said. "It was real."
By noon we were on Highway 59 heading north out of Texas into winter, just another father and son in this world who would soon say goodbye without any clear idea when we would ever see each other again.
In May, Doubleday published a book I wrote about this journey. In the acknowledgements to the book I wrote: "In the curious geometry of life, it turns out that some of the best philosophers and psychologists in the world carry golf clubs for a living in Scotland. They are as tough and determined as sled dogs, and they are also generous teachers and spiritual advisors, raconteurs and even meteorologists when they are called to be." I thanked each of them by name and then ended with these words: "Of all the fine philosophers I worked with in Scotland, Stevie Morrow, who walked me through some early-season jitters, delivered the best caddie line I ever heard. 'Don,' he said one sunlit morning as we made our way to the first tee of the Castle Course, 'when I get stuck out there with a real wanker, I give him the bronze treatment instead of the gold, which means the same lousy reads but without the smile.' "
I have a deal with Stevie. When I'm old and facing the end, I'm going to ask my wife, Colleen, to take me back to St. Andrews for one last walk on the Old Course with some of the old caddies who were still young when I knew them. I will wear my black rain jacket with the Links Trust emblem over my heart and the word CADDIE on my left sleeve. Stevie will help me out to the 11th green, and then we'll turn and slowly make our way back toward the timeless embrace of the old grey town, and I will remember.
I saw Jack only once during the year I'd spent finishing Walking With Jack, but we speak all the time now. He finished his management-training program with Sherwin-Williams and runs his own paint store in Cleveland, where he and his girl are busy planning their wedding. I thought that our journey in golf was over, but just before Father's Day, I told him about a book I'd read by a PGA teaching pro named Judy Alvarez who is working with wounded veterans, getting them back out on the golf course. "You know, Daddy, you and I should take some of these wounded soldiers over to Scotland to play the Old Course," Jack said. "Wouldn't that be cool?"
"We'll do it," I said.
Another promise. Another dream.