Golf Is A Family Game

By Joe Stansberry





All of us golfers have some collection of memorabilia whether it be old scorecards, crystal bowls, club champion trophies, your hole-in-one ball, maybe a ball marker, or even a tee or divot from the sacred grasses of the infamous St. Andrews! Me? I have my three hole-in-one balls, my trophies, some cool crystal, I even have a few of my caddie’s bibs (they took them for me LOL,) or maybe, like me, a very large check from one of your wins!

The question may arise at some point, “What do you do with your ‘collection?’” This past weekend the opportunity to pass on one of our family’s dearest memorabilia was created when my great nephew and I were talking. He had taken up the “greatest game” at age 12, and I could tell he was truly “bitten,” and wanted my help. He asked me for lessons. I said in ONE second, “Sure!!!” I loved it! To not only give back to the greatest game, but to give back to someone in the family. But I had an even better idea.

My father, also Joe, well not really his name was Gordon – but that’s another funny story. Dad was an avid golfer, past president and long-time member of the Hiawatha Men’s Club and later, along with my mother Dione (not her real name either long story LOL) a 30+ year member of the great golf architect Seth Raynor classic, Minnesota Valley Country Club on the hillside bluffs of the Minnesota River in Bloomington, introduced me to the game of golf.

Like most young golfers I got my start caddying/playing with my parents. My earliest memory was around age 6, my cousins and I would caddie at Hiawatha in the dew swept mornings pulling a cart and watching my uncles and grandfather play this game that became my passion.

On the fourth hole, all of the cousins/caddies were allowed to hit ONE drive! I was the youngest and tried hard to keep up. My older cousins were pretty good. After a few years and a few drives that were better than some of our uncles, they decided to let us play in front of them. Under one condition!!! That, if we took too long, they would yell, “Pick it up!” At which time we were to immediately walk/run to the next tee.

One of my favorite stories was one day uncle Bob threw a club into a tree on the seventh hole of Hiawatha. He told his oldest son Bobby who was caddying for him to stay there and work on collecting his club while he played eight and nine. Sure enough by the time we made the turn Bobby had somehow either climbed the tree or had thrown enough clubs up without getting another one stuck and retrieved my uncle Bob’s club. His reward – an extra hotdog at the turn!

We learned early to play fast! Bobby, Tommy, Billy and I all enjoyed and respected the game, replace the divot, fix you ball mark and rake the sand trap were aspects of the game that we embraced. We all were “bitten” by the game.

My rounds with my family and father are still cherished memories. My dad was not a great golfer. I think at best he was a 10 handicap. But mostly hung around that 13-16 range. Many evenings he would get off work and hustle home so we could get 18-27 and sometimes 36 holes (always walking) getting in just at sunset to enjoy a “black cow” – that’s a root beer float to those who don’t know.

Around 1985 Dad saved up his winning golf certificates and cashed them in for a set of new Ping Eye 2s! At the time they were the most forgiving clubs and I believe are the highest selling irons of all time… someone can fact check me. These irons where forged and had a unique “square groove,” which was actually U shaped, that helped with the spin. It was deemed later that those clubs were illegal by fractions of inches by both the USGA and Royal and Ancient Golf Association, the governing bodies of golf at the time. Ping and Karsten Solheim sued them for $100 million! The greatest selling club of all time, Ping, reached an out of court settlement that allowed those clubs that where ruled illegal, legal by grandfathering these early models. I had a similar model that I played with for years all though my amateur and professional career. Still my favorite!  Dad never bought another set! Oh, he also had them “fit.” Something unique in its day. 2° flat with a senior flex. He was a “Gamer” whenever you needed him, he was always there! Golf, life!

Sadly, my father passed away a few years back. His clubs still sat in the den gathering dust. The lightbulb went on when I was talking to my great nephew. He said he was looking for a better set of clubs. So, after consulting my brothers and mother, we decided what better a cherished memory of our father and husband would be than to give that memorabilia to him. The smile on his face was priceless once he knew what he was getting! Priceless! I’m sure that my father “Big Joe” is looking down with proud admiration! What better place for those clubs to land? Now if I could just figure out what to do with this extra-large check. I wonder if somebody would cash it?