Articles, News and Views

Building Family Bonds with Golf

By Sean Fawcett

 

Golf’s values are family values. It’s no wonder that many families have generations working in the golf business, and so many more families have taken up the game of golf since the pandemic began. Watching the children, along with their parents or even grandparents, at the recent Drive, Chip and Putt finals at Augusta National, shows you just how strong those bonds are that golf helps to create and foster throughout one’s lifetime.

A few of the core values that we all love and aspire to, including fairness, honesty, politeness, perseverance and friendship, make the game that we love so popular and such a great game for families to play together.

“ I can't say enough about my father’s (Chuck Rice) influence,” said Hamilton Trails Golf Club veteran LPGA professional Cheri Rice-Cottelli.  “It is very hard to put the lessons that he has taught me on the golf course into a couple sentences.  I would have to say that the biggest lesson that he has taught me is to not give up.  There were times in the middle of the round that I just wanted to go home because I was playing badly, but he wouldn't let me.  He would find a simple way to motivate me, such as a shot challenge to beat him for an ice cream.”

“He now encourages our 11-year old son to play and we are instilling the same values.  We know that if he learns the game now, he will have it forever.  Through the heat and bad shots, we continue to encourage our son to not give up.  We know that the hard work will pay off and he will enjoy the game for a lifetime.”  

Renowned golf course architect, Dana Fry, whose claim to fame includes golf courses like Erin Hills (site of the 2017 US Open), Calusa Pines, Naples National Golf Club and the redesign at the Union League National in Swainton, NJ, says the game of golf is a great way for families and their children to get to bond together and become close.

“Golf teaches so many things that are useful to a person as they grow up,” said Fry. “It teaches honesty, responsibility, discipline, showing up on time, integrity, maintaining focus, patience, respect, communication and that, just like in life, you never stop learning.”

Golf is, besides a terrific and rewarding career for Fry, a family affair with him and his stepson, Noah, one of America’s most prominent junior golfers traveling across the country and around the world. 

“Golf has given me so much in my life including everything I mentioned above at an early age, but it then led to my career in golf course design,”said Fry. “From there I got to work on high profile projects, meet very powerful and influential people and travel the world. All of that from the game of golf. My relationship with my stepson Noah is very close. I first met Noah, now 16, when he was eight and Cameryn, his sister, when she was six. I have three children of my own in their late 20's & 30's and I can honestly say I love all of them equally. It was obvious that Noah had serious golf skills from a young age and it has been great to watch him grow up from being a young boy into a young man. He has grown up playing great clubs around the world meeting and playing with people that have spent their lives embedded in the game of golf. This process has made him become a very mature person for his age. I have no idea how far Noah will go in the game of golf, but the life lessons he has learned in playing the game will help him the rest of his life. To me this is why golf is the greatest game.”  

Pine Barrens Golf Club’s PGA Director of Golf Bryan DeMarco remembers his father, longtime PGA professional Robert “Bobby” DeMarco, and the life lessons he learned growing up in the game, like respecting others and doing the best you can. 

“Dad instilled in me a deep respect for the game at an early age,” said DeMarco, whose father was a PGA member for nearly fifty years.  “He told me never to break, or throw a club.  He always said, golf’s bigger than you. You’re not bigger than golf.”

“I loved learning from, and even competing against, my dad. One of my favorite, and earliest memories is trying to drive a golf ball over this creek at the course that he worked at,  where he tried to hit his drive. I remember when I finally beat him for the first time. I think he was happier for me than I was. I’m a PGA professional today because of my Dad.” Bryan is quite the role model himself, having been awarded the 2021 PGA of America's Deacon Palmer Award for "outstanding integrity, character and leadership in the effort to overcome a major obstacle of their life." Bryan has successful fought cancer several times in his life, going back to the age of 21. Never missing a beat, he has been involved with several charities, including a popular annual Pro-Member fundraiser for the NJ Golf Foundation at Pine Barrens.

                             

Rick Jones is the owner and operator of two par 3 courses and driving ranges, one in New Jersey(Cape May) and another in Delaware(Dover). He grew up playing and working at the courses that his father, Walter, a Delaware State Golf Hall of Famer, built and ran from the 1960s to the 1980s. 

“I had a golf club in my hand since about the age of 2 at Dad’s driving range,” said Jones. “I grew up on the golf course working with my old man. 

“I was eight years old when Dad built Old Landing. I spent all my free time and my summers there. Golf is a great game with great values. I learned those values from my Dad. The lessons that golf and my dad taught me are the values I teach my own children and know that they will teach their own children someday. Golf is a great family business.”

Golf is a family business for past PGA President(1991-1992), and current Valleybrook Golf Club PGA Professional, Dick Smith. The first family of the PGA Philadelphia Section also includes Dick’s brother Tom, his son Dick Jr. and PGA apprentice grandson, Zak. 

“We’re three generations in the business,” boasted Smith, proudly. “We all love the game and we all love playing together. Some of my favorite times are from golfing with my brother Tom, my son, and now my grandson. Golf is a family game with great family values. It helps bring families together. I can’t think of a better game that promotes the kinds of things like camaraderie and fair play better than the game of Golf.”

As we start the new season, if you’re a golfer and have someone in your family who might want to start playing, take this season to show them the game we all love.

All rights reserved – 2022 Golfer’s Tee Times/www.njgolfnews.com


Maybe Next Year....

By Steve Gordon

How many golfers set a goal to shoot their age? I am going to guess not many. But as I get older (I'll be 74 on Thanksgiving Day) it has become a target although seemingly unattainable for a few years for this 12-13 handicapper.

The closest I had gotten was a 76 in a club championship round in 2017 at Makefield Highlands in Yardley. To be honest it was the first time it really crossed my mind as it was a career best 18 holes at that time. I admit to not giving it much thought after it happened even as it beat a previous best of  77 with a first ever level par front nine at the Running Deer Golf Club in Elmer, NJ golf club a year earlier.

Rounds in the 70's are very rare for me but as I have moved up to the gold/senior tees it has become more attainable, but still rare. I'd like to make a note here that more players, regardless of age, should take into account playing a proper set of tees for a variety of reasons. Foremost among them is potentially more enjoyment of playing the game.

Aside from moving to a forward tee box what changed? 

In March of this year while out in Mesquite, NV (just before the pandemic slammed into our lives) a playing partner handed me his driver near the end of a round. "Try this" he said as this pretty blue club exchanged hands. I hit it solid maybe 40 years past my name brand driver that I had just hit a so-so shot with. I didn't even swing hard. I hit it once more and to conclude this story, when I got home I traded in that well known name brand driver. 

As I started hitting more accurate and longer tee shots my scores got better. I wasn't breaking par or even breaking 80 but the tee shots were easier the game become more fun and the scores started to get very consistent. There is a lot to be said about playing from the fairway and hitting shorter clubs into the greens.

Still shooting my age wasn't a conscious thought but the group I played weekly rounds with as we traveled to different courses every Tuesday was seeing results. One good friend was impressed such that he occasionally asks to use my driver.

About a month ago I had a very series of rounds where the game just seemed so easy overall for me. Playing with those guys I carded a 75. A career best and at this point two shots off my age. I followed that up with a 76 the next day at the Berkleigh Golf Club in Kutztown, PA, home course of former LPGA standout Betsy King.

Since that week there have been a couple good rounds but nothing spectacular until a record points day at a local course with a different group of guys playing the Stableford format. 

My longtime golf partner and I got together again on November 7th to play Vineyards National in Egg Harbor City, NJ. We hadn't played there in a few years and lately we haven't played a lot together as he lives 3 hours and a couple states away. Traveling to meet with the COVID-19 stuff going on was limited.

Can I guess that you are thinking this story ends like when they show a highlight on a golf telecast of a golf shot in a tournament where you know the result of an incredible shot that goes in the hole? Well...not exactly.

I bogeyed the first hole then a par on the second followed by a birdie. Except for two bogeys on both front nine par 5's (a sloppy pitch on one and a ball into a penalty area on the other) the opening set of holes added up to a 2 over par 38. We set out on the back nine that started with a par. I was playing well but shooting my age wasn't a conscious thought. My partner was keeping the score card and I wasn't paying attention to score.

One bogey, two birdies and four pars later I was on the front of the 18th green in regulation with a long putt. I stroked the slightly uphill and breaking putt and it came up five feet short. I missed the par putt not making a firm stroke to take the break out and my partner screamed "You idiot." 

That three putt was closed out a 74, one shot off shooting my 73 calendar years. He was aware but it was like a no hitter in baseball, you don't talk about it. A close friend said it should count as it happened in the same month I would have turned 74. I'm not sure it works like that.

The scorecard goes into my keep sake pile as my lowest score on a full size golf course to date. The combination of that driver that fitted my swing and the proper tees for my game sure has been a benefit.

With winter weather upon us the likelihood to beat that 74 and shoot my age for the rest of this calendar year is doubtful. But as we Philadelphia sports fans are used to saying about our sports teams..."Maybe next year."


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