Brittany Lincicome: Brittany’s father, Tom, was a scratch golfer. But when he saw how good Brittany was, he stopped playing when she was around 15 or 16 years old: There just wasn’t enough money for him to play and also support her in junior tournaments. The goal was a college scholarship. But after Tom observed that some junior golf standouts had trouble adjusting to college life, they decided that Brittany should turn pro after high school—and she made it onto the LPGA Tour right away via the Q-School.
Kristy McPherson: Kristy grew up in golf tourist mecca Myrtle Beach, but instead of one of the Grand Strand courses she spent her formative years playing an unassuming layout a 50-minute drive away that better fit the family’s pocketbook. They were part of a regular group of about 40 that got together for a match-of-scorecards competition, often playing 54 holes in a day. Kristy wasn’t fond of hitting range balls, but still learned how to hit different types of shots by applying what she learned in discussions during those long drives in the car with her father David, a former college golfer at Western Kentucky.
Phil Mickelson: When Phil was three years old, he begged his father, Phil Sr., to bring him to the course so he could play (he already had cut-down clubs for swinging in the backyard and playing a par-three course). Phil Sr. kept saying no, figuring there was no way a course would let a three-year-old on, but finally had to relent after his son made an abortive attempt at running away to play golf. He convinced the Balboa Park management to let Phil play, and the youngster loved it. The only problem came when he said he didn’t want to play the 18th hole, not because he was tired but because since it was the last hole that would mean they were finished.
Jack Nicklaus: Jack started playing golf when he was 10 to keep his father, Charlie, company. Charlie had a bad ankle and had to rest between holes, which meant he couldn’t play with his friends at Scioto Country Club that summer. Instead, he brought Jack along, and the youngster would practice putting while his dad rested. The next summer Jack really got into the game. He would attend junior clinics every Friday, and also go through buckets of balls before and after. When those charges would show up on the bill from the club, Charlie would say, half-frowning, half-pleased, “From what I gather, Jack, most of the kids in the class hit out one or two buckets of balls. You, ten buckets, a dozen buckets. How does anyone hit out that many balls?”
Arnold Palmer: Arnold’s father, Deacon, was a working-class kid who got a job on the grounds crew at Latrobe Country Club, worked his way up to superintendent, and also played well enough to start giving a few lessons. When the Depression hit, the club decided it couldn’t afford both a pro and superintendent, so it told Deacon he could have both jobs. While Deacon was Arnold’s teacher, he was very hands off. At his first lesson, Deacon taught the proper grip, and then simply told his son to hit the ball hard. Even after that, aside from some fundamentals, Deacon encouraged Arnold to use the trial-and-error approach rather than giving him specific instruction—except he still told him to hit the ball hard. At one point well into Arnold’s career, he said of his father, “I have never hit it hard enough to suit him.”
Kevin Streelman: In the final round of the 2008 U.S. Open, Kevin told his mom to be sure his father, Dennis, was near the walkway close to the teebox when Kevin got to the 18th hole. Kevin surprised his dad by asking him to caddie for him on the hole. “Are you sure I can?” Dennis asked. Assured it was OK, dad told Kevin he had to be sure he made a birdie. At the par-five finishing hole, Kevin went over the green in two but chunked his chip shot and faced a 20-footer for birdie. “I actually hit it too hard, but somehow it hit the back of the cup and went in,” Kevin remembers. “The place went crazy and dad ran across the green and gave me a big hug. To share that with him, that was a cool Father’s Day moment.”
Tom Watson: Tom’s father, Ray, was a very good player who once reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur. He was also quite a competitor, as Tom found out when he was 14 and faced his dad in the final of the club championship at Walloon Lake Country Club in Michigan (where the family spent summer vacations). Tom was two up with three holes to play, but Ray squared it and sent it to extra holes. On the first extra hole, Ray faced a 25-foot putt for a par and Tom had a 15-footer for birdie. Ray made, Tom didn’t. On the second extra hole, Tom had a three-foot putt for par to stay alive. His father didn’t concede the putt, Tom missed, and lost the match. “I think his message was that nobody’s going to give you anything—you have to earn it,” Tom says. The next year, Tom beat his dad in the final.