I can not imagine where I would be today without the support of my parents. Yes, there are some parents out there of junior girls who need to look deep into how they behave and treat their daughters when it comes to their golf games. It breaks my heart sometimes to hear how girls feel because a parent has pushed them to a point of being so unhappy on the golf course so that was a big reason in starting this series.
But so many of you are doing your best and having to learn as you go. I know its tough to want to see your daughter succeed and do well on the golf course but to have to watch her struggle. You have the ability to see years down the road and understand what this game and all of the experiences, opportunities, and growth it can provide for her. You want so badly to make sure she sticks with it even if it means pushing a little too hard because you are afraid she is going to regret what she will miss out on if she doesn’t have enough success or gives up on playing in college.
My dad and I are going on about 30 years since I first decided that I wanted to play golf after a few years of tagging along in the golf cart with him and my uncle. He never pushed me to play but he sure was excited when I fell in love with the game.
But I just wanted to share a few things that I can remember about my relationship with my parents, particularly my dad, that I look back on and am super grateful that they didn’t lock me in my room and throw away the key, ship me off to etiquette school (although that was a serious threat at one point) or just leave me on the side of the road on the drive home from tournaments.
We talk about body language on the golf course as a parent and being aware of things you do that upset your daughter without realizing it, well just a little insight, there are going to be some cases that it doesn’t matter what you do, it is NEVER going to be the right thing and we are going to find a reason to make it an issue. To be honest though, sometimes that’s just a golfer’s mentality as well, when you are out there putting so much blame on only yourself because it is truly just you out there, it is easy to sometimes seek ways to blame someone or something else just to give yourself a little break. As teenagers, most don’t have the maturity yet to handle their emotional reactions, so just try to find a middle ground that you will be more conscious of things you do, but that she does have to try and accept responsibility for how she reacts.
I’ll never forget seeing my dad on the cart path swinging his little stool like a golf club and my first thought was always “he’s trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong” when in reality he was minding his own business, thinking about his own golf swing and what he needs to do better. So again, sometimes no matter what you do when it comes to a teenager (and even once she goes on to play in college and maybe even on Tour) it is NEVER going to be the right thing, as I am sure many of you have learned by now.
Another area that I can certainly look back on with serious appreciation is that my parents never made me feel guilty for the money it cost for me to play golf and travel to tournaments. We weren’t poor but we were far from a typical golf family. We lived on my grandparent’s farm and were fortunate to have a small local golf course in town and a driving range a few miles down the road. I was never fitted for clubs, never had many golf lessons, played with 2 sets of golf clubs for most of my whole junior golf time, one was a used set of PING Eye Red Dots from a pro-shop at the boys state high school tournament where I played well enough for my dad to buy them for me and I had those in my bag when I got to Furman. My sister and I both played 3 sports in school, with me also playing golf tournaments on weekends and through the summer, and my parents both worked full-time jobs, so it was a lot to manage. While I was somewhat aware that it was expensive and a sacrifice for me to play, I don’t ever remember that being used as a bargaining tool to make me feel like I had to play better or was letting my parents down based on my performance on the golf course. It was, however, used once as a bargaining tool to make me practice more because I was told if I didn’t want to practice and wanted to run around with my friends all the time then I would at least have to get a job. Needless to say, I chose to practice more!
But I can tell all kinds of stories about my childhood and the ups and downs of my relationship with my parents as it pertains to my golf career. As much as I like to say “I wish I had known this” or “if we had only known how to do better”, truth is things were the way they were and happened the way they did for a reason.
As 15-16-year-old “kids” it is going to be very difficult to force a girl to love the game and see it for what it can mean in the future. There is a chance that years from now they are going to look back and wish they had, but the truth is you just can’t force it. If they do love it and love to compete and have high goals then, by all means, push them to work harder and support their goals. Just always make sure you’re on the same page for what they want out of their golf games and how that matches up to your expectations of their effort and commitment. Don’t make it about what you want out of their golf games and don’t let your support or love for them be dictated by their golf scores.
It’s not always going to be fun and games. When I think about some of the ways I reacted to my dad trying to help me and just wanting me to get better it makes me cringe, to be honest. When I see some girls behave the same way I did, I want to shake them and tell them that they have no idea how lucky they are to have parents supporting their dreams and goals. And on the flip side, when I see some parents behave certain ways I want to shake them and say you have no idea how much she is already beating herself up and doing her best! And I am sure if you ask my dad he probably cringes about some of the ways he reacted early into my golf career. But thankfully he learned early on how to handle it better and we were able to have a healthy father/daughter and caddy/player relationship. It just might have taken me a few more years to learn how to handle things better than it did my dad (sorry Dad)
But if it makes any of you feel better, 30 years after I first decided to play golf I am spending my afternoon playing golf with my dad today. No, this is actually not something I do very often, mainly bc I don’t play golf just for fun very often, but something that I am doing as often as possible is making sure that my parents know how much I appreciate them for who I am today because of all those ups and downs we went through when I first decided to play golf 30 years ago!
So just try to trust the fact that your daughter is going to be ok no matter what happens with her golf game. She has learned so many valuable things already just by playing this game. She probably doesn’t know it yet or understand it, but she will one day. And she will appreciate the fact that you were there to support and love her through it all.
And that is just my two cents!