The game of golf surely has changed since I was a kid growing up in the 60’s – and the key word here is ‘GAME’. What we see now in tournament golf on TV is more of a business, not a game. But I suppose the same could be said of any professional sport.
It is no surprise that with the emergence of Tiger Woods in the 90’s, Lexie Thompson last year, and now, the weaning of countless other young golf stars from amateur sensations to professional contenders, many parents see the game of golf as a way for their kids to succeed in a career which can be fun as well as lucrative.
It can also be brutal.
Are the professionals having fun? Is this what our kids should emulate?
Over the years I have mentored many young people as well as the parents who created them. Here’s what I see: too many young golfers are over-scheduled, over-indulged, over-coddled, and over-coached. They come off of the 9th hole literally in tears at the turn because they shot a 41. They smack brand new Titleist Pro-V1’s into the water because they’re angry. They snap at parents who ask what they want for lunch. They complain about having to walk all 18 holes. Worse yet when they grow up a little, they are tossing their clubs into a neglected garage corner after their last college tournament because they never want to see those ‘things’ again. Take a look at declining golfer numbers and the trend is clear: we are creating a generation of potentates who are really not interested in tradition.
OK parents, do you really want to create a great player – but maybe one you can’t live with? Here’s what to do:
Do everything for the kid
Manage their schedule, arrange and supervise their practice, pick out their equipment, buy them the best golf balls, designer clothes, chauffer them anytime anywhere day or night no matter what other plans you had.
Caddie for the kid
This is vital so that you receive optimal abuse. Let your kid blame you for poor shots, improper club selection, incorrect green reads. Most of all, stand impassive while your kid tells you ‘You don’t know ANYTHING!’ But always have your money ready when cash is required for a paid-out.
Be a practice valet machine
Get on your hands and knees and tee up balls for the practice Driver session so the kid doesn’t have to bend down. Then, move to the putting green and do the same thing as an automatic ball feeder so the kid can practice 15-footers. Your back will be gone, but hey, you don’t need your back as much as junior does. (Think I am being silly? Think again: I actually witnessed this with a young phenom).
Sympathize with the kid about being overworked
When the kid complains about being tired after walking 9 holes in practice, run and get a cart so the kid won’t have to endure the back 9 on foot. After all, kids can’t be expected to walk all 18 holes.
Allow the kid to have their own room on golf team trips
Kids need their space and privacy. 4 to a room hotel sharing and dorm living is unacceptable. And, won’t they be spending enough time with their coach and teammates during practice and play?
Make sure the kid knows that he or she is THE most important person out there
Self-centeredness is necessary to be a great player. Kids should know that the world revolves around their wishes and needs. If Winifred is playing slowly and groups are piling up behind, her attitude should be, ‘Hey, tee times are the luck of the draw. They’ll have to wait their turn behind me.’ Then Wini can proceed with her deliberate pace of play.
Understand that tournament officials, coordinators, and volunteers are there to serve
Kids have a right to be upset with rules officials who penalize an infraction or with spotters who can’t find their wayward shot.
Encourage complaints about course conditions and set-ups that favor the ‘other’ teams
Course superintendents have all the time in the world to study the list of players and see who they’d like to harass…..this week. And of course, they are in cahoots with opposing teams’ coaches.
Encourage emotional outbursts
Whacking that $400 club to the ground, tossing clubs at your caddie (for them to pick up), crying after a bad hole are all indicative of a very upsetting experience for the kid. It is OK to show optimal outrage for a REALLY bad shot by gouging a hole in the ground or green. That will show everyone how much the horrible shot differed from your normal one. Don’t forget the $5 Pro-V1 toss into the water. It was an unlucky ball anyway.
When there is a dispute in the group, step in immediately and defend your kid
You have to assume the others are wrong. Keep a watchful eye on everyone in the foursome to ensure the others aren’t forgetting a stroke here or there.
Sacrifice everything: your money, your time, and your emotions
Junior truly expects every aspect of your life to be subordinate to his or hers. You may not have money to pay the bills or save for a rainy day, but by goodness you can procure that $400 range finder that’s needed; you can forego that once-in-a-lifetime fishing trip in order to see your precious progeny throw tantrums on the course.
Parents, if you follow these guidelines, your kid will be forever grateful and take marvelous care of you in your old age……not.