June is here, marking the arrival of the warm, long days of summer. The end of school and time for trips with the family to the lake and the beach, camping, hiking and, hopefully, to the golf course. This month we celebrate Father’s Day and one of the great traditions on Father’s Day is the final round of the U.S. Open Championship. What an ideal way for fathers, daughters and sons to spend time together, nurturing their relationships with this great game.
Speaking of relationships, I joined the USGA in 1992 while a student at Virginia Tech. I remember receiving a welcome letter from Arnold Palmer and the first thing I did was call my grandfather to tell him I received a letter from the King. I truly hope that letter is in a box of my belongings in Mom’s attic. I will be forever remiss if I failed to preserve it.
For more than 100 years, the USGA has watched over the game like an elder patriarch. And to some degree, a single parent. With “Mom” out of the picture, “Dad” has been there through good times and bad and always served as the stern disciplinarian. Dad established the rules and made sure we all abided, even when common sense made us think some of those rules were archaic.
So, for 29-plus years, my relationship has included everything from handicap cards, decisions, course ratings, Uncle Snoopy and even a Mid-Amateur event. The extended family has been awesome. Getting to meet folks like the late Stan Zontek and Keith Happ, and working closely with the recently retired legend Patrick O’Brien. Through the years, I have admired and respected you. But like any father-son relationship we have had our moments of disagreement.
Remember that time in Orlando when I stormed out of the room? We were together at the 2005 Golf Industry Show and you told me and a room full of my peers we were making greens too fast and we needed to instead be focused on making them smooth. Then there was the debacle over long putters. You and your older brother dragged your feet for decades before eventually settling on an anchoring ban. Considering some players still anchor the putter to their forearm, seems you failed to get this one quite right.
Despite those differences, I continued to be supportive. But recently something has happened and you have changed. First, it was your new partner. I know, you thought they were a fox. And before the breakup you softened.
I am sure the idea of relaxing hard rules seemed like a good idea. A modernization of their language and interpretation to help make the game more fun and enjoyable sounds good on paper. But has it really been worth it to abolish hazards and create aquatic penalty areas? And dropping from knee height is still awkward.
In all honesty, you are trying way too hard to be the “cool dad.” And some of these new friends of yours, these influencers? Really, Dad? You see, we all go through life with many friends who come and go but only one dad. OK, maybe two. And without your stern guidance, we are left to wander and possibly stray off course.
The other day there was a suggestion in the northeast for raising the height of cut on rough to 4 inches instead of the normal 2½ or 3 to reduce clippings in the early spring. Do you really think folks want to spend time searching for golf balls in 4-inch rough?
Never in my life have I thought you were this much out of touch with reality. What I am saying Dad is, I miss you. I miss the father that was always there to make sure I played every day by the rules. You held me accountable for my actions, on and off the course, and I believe that made me a better person.
So please, get off the barstool and back to work. Stop coddling a group of players coddled by everyone else. Do not worry about how much you are liked and make hazards great again. Besides, Uncle Ray will always be cooler than you simply because he lives at the Home of Golf.
But Dad, you have some cool things about you, too. Just please stop trying to be somebody else and be yourself.