PINEHURST — I will see my father only briefly on Fathers Day, dropping him off at the airport early Sunday morning before I head back to the U.S. Open. We will not get to spend much time together on the day itself, not that we typically do, but neither of us will complain. What we have done this week was far, far better.
While I have been at Pinehurst writing about the U.S. Open, my father Denny, 67, spent three days volunteering as a marshal on the sixth hole shushing galleries, tracking shots, inadvertently photo bombing Phil Mickelson and generally having a ball.
When a family scatters to the winds my parents outside Chicago, a younger brother in New York, a younger sister in Philadelphia it helps to have a little gravitational pull here and there to draw everyone back together outside of the holidays and weddings and funerals and baptisms and all of the attendant chaos of those family occasions. For the men in my family, its golf.
My father taught my brother and me how to play, etiquette first, the swing second. We caddied our way through high school and college. One year for his birthday, my siblings and I bought him a set of PGA Tour yardage books so he could follow along from his recliner. And now, as adults, its a common thread in lives that have gone so many different directions.
This is what we do. We have been to the Masters, to U.S. Opens, to PGA Championships, to a Ryder Cup. Golf brings us together, both playing it and watching it. My father and I spent these three days together as observers. In September, my father and brother and I will be back in the Sandhills to celebrate my 40th birthday with four rounds of golf in three days. Hes only a few years away from taking his oldest grandchildren out on the course.
We are far from alone. Walk among the pine needles at Pinehurst this week and youll see fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, grandfathers and grandchildren. Theres something about this tournament that draws the generations closer. Its more than just the timing of the final round on Fathers Day. Its a sense of ritual and tradition the power and beauty of golf as a game for all ages.
Whats true outside the ropes is true inside of them as well. Many players put their fathers name on their bags this week instead of their own Brendon Todds bag reads Rock Todd and a few of the older players went with their childrens names. And two of the weeks most touching stories involve a son caddying for a father and a father who, very briefly, caddied for his son.
Fran Quinns brief appearance on the leader board became one of this Opens heartwarming stories, a 49-year-old journeyman playing some of the best golf of his life. Even better, hes sharing his surprising run with his 15-year-old son Owen, whos caddying for him and even had his own media availability outside the clubhouse Friday afternoon.
Its a great experience for him, Fran Quinn said. Its probably a better experience for me.
Kevin Kisner, a new father himself for all of five days, was on his way to missing the cut Friday when he pulled his dad out of the gallery to finish out the final few holes of his first U.S. Open appearance as his caddie. They missed Fathers Day by two days, but they werent complaining.
Walking down the 18th fairway I got a little choked up, Steve Kisner said. But it means a lot. Kevin is a good person, and thats whats most important to me.
And then theres a volunteer marshal and his sportswriter son, enjoying some rare time together. So Happy Fathers Day, Dad. Safe travels home. Well see you back here in September, when theres a different golf course calling us all back together.
DeCock: firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947