by Jeff Skinner
Since the USGA began its tradition of finishing the US Open on Father’s Day you can always count on a few stories on the networks about the father/son relationship in golf. Many golfers were introduced to the game by their fathers and the father/son bond in golf is legendary. There is no doubt that fathers and sons that play golf together are certain to develop a special bond with each other. However, the special relationship formed on the course during our early years in the game are not limited to fathers only.
My dad never played golf, so we never had a chance to have that “golf bond.” We were very close and shared many interests but golf was not one of his hobbies. He was a child of the depression years and never really exposed to golf. My dad was an anomaly: a Scotsman that did not play golf. I was left to find the joys of the course on my own and my ancestral urges drew me to the game in my mid-twenties. Although my dad did not play, I was not without a golfing role model in my family. In my rather large family of aunts, uncles and cousins, if you wanted to start to play golf you called my Aunt Vi. You see, Vi played golf for years and was fairly good in her day. She learned the game from her husband and was always willing to play or talk golf and to share all her experience with any one that cared to ask. So, I asked my Aunt Vi if we could play golf some time and before I knew it we were playing together each week.
Aunt Vi is a truly special person. She is my Mom’s sister and she spent plenty of time with me and my brother and two sisters. She has had her share of challenges, but her attitude never changed from anything other than positive. Vi was widowed while her two children were still young and she was left to raise them on her own. She was one of the hardest working people I know. One of my first memories of Vi was watching her pump gas at the service station she and her husband ran. As a kid we would go to her house for parties and celebrations and my brother and I always wound up in her basement. Down there we would shoot darts or play the bowling game that was there, but we always were amazed by the dozens of golf bags filled with clubs that stood against a wall in the basement. There were buckets and buckets of balls and boxes of golf trophies mostly her late husband’s, but I suspect there were a few of her own in there.
Vi worked hard for years and took great effort in raising her two children. All this took place during the sixties, when most women were not in the work force. Vi was out working her entire life and raising her family as a single mom at the same time. This wasn’t easy and it was long before the time when a woman in the work place was common. She was hard working and dedicated and a role model for all of us.
When Vi and I started playing golf together it was the highlight of my week. You could always count on Vi to be funny, upbeat and interesting. There wasn’t a time we played together that we didn’t laugh, mostly at ourselves, or share a great joke or story. She was teaching me the game and the etiquette of golf, but she was really teaching me much more. Vi was a model of independence and self reliance. She was an independent women decades before it was in vogue. No matter what problems or issues she had to deal with, and there were many, she always chose the high road and acted with class and dignity. It didn’t matter if it was being a widow, or cancer, or a slice into a bunker, she took everything in stride and always had a smile on her face and a joke to share. She has showed all of us in our family what real independence and true integrity is. It was not just golf we learned from Vi, it was life.
I liked to bust her chops about her age, she’s a little north of eighty and a little south of ninety, but she takes it and gives it right back. She’s a tough old broad that loves the game. Awhile ago she was getting ready for her weekly Wednesday foursome when she dropped something on her foot. She knew from the pain that something was not right and she was faced with a choice: go check out the foot now and not play golf, or play her round and care for her foot later. She played her round and then found out she had a broken toe. She didn’t care, she got her golf in. Like I said she’s a tough old broad.
Vi has had a special influence on me and many members of our family. I’ve learned much more than golf from VI. I learned independence, integrity and the inter-locking grip. She has helped all of us to see that no matter what life throws at you, you can always live your life with class and dignity and a good laugh or two. Thanks Vi, Happy Fathers Day.