Working for a golf company I’ve received quite a few generous gifts through working here. To all those people (you know who you are!) I say thank you, thank you, thank you!
As we inch closer to Christmas, I thought it would be fun to recount a few of the more special golf gifts that I’ve received throughout my life and how they’ve shaped me into a life-long fan of the game.
The Early Years
My infatuation with the game began when I was four or five years old. Some of my earliest memories of the game of golf are from watching the pros on TV followed by me going into our back yard trying to emulate Greg Norman’s swing or Chi Chi Rodriguez’s swordfight celebrations.
Around that age, I begged my parents for golf clubs for my birthday and Christmas. When I received a cutdown 7-iron I was the happiest kid in the world.
My dad installed 3 PVC pipe “holes” and I would spend countless hours in our back and side yards making up and playing different hole configurations. I designed doglegs right and left, “long” shots from our adjacent neighbor’s yard, tee shots over the sand box or corner of the deck and starting shots buried in hazardous lies.
I was destined to be a long hitter from the start, there hasn’t ever been a time when I didn’t want to hit the ball as hard as I could. Because of that reason, the rules were that I had to use plastic golf balls when playing in the yard.
That was a good rule, although, I wasn’t the best at following the rules and our neighbors definitely took exception when I’d launch a real golf ball down the row of back yards. My goal was always to get a ball to the furthest possible yard down the row. I was fortunate to never break a window or hit anyone, but landed more than a few golf balls with a loud crack on many of our neighbor’s roofs (sorry about that).
Golf: A Hobby
I played on organized youth teams in basically every all-American sport except football. I played so many sports growing up that golf tended to sit on the backburner while I competitively played soccer, hockey, and tennis; in addition to playing on many other teams in organized sports, as well.
Though, as I grew older, I received a junior membership to a local course one Christmas. During the summers, when I wasn’t at the pool or playing in a soccer tournament, I’d spend my days playing a round or two and putting around on the practice green. I would get dropped off early in the morning and wouldn’t get picked up until sundown. I loved the ceremony of golf and learned more than a lesson or two about frustration and expectations on the course.
And, while I loved to play golf as a kid, it wasn’t until after college when my passion for the game intensified into an obsession and I began focusing on improving my game in earnest.
I received a few clubs and other golf related items as gifts while growing up, and I loved every single one of them. However, it wasn’t until more recently that I received some gifts I’ll truly cherish forever. Both gifts revolve around Pinehurst.
Is That What I Think It Is!?
The first gift was a complete surprise. About 6 or 7 years ago, my mom went to visit a family friend she has known all her life, Jack, who happens to live in Pinehurst. While she was walking through the grounds with his now-late wife, they stopped into the pro shop and did some browsing.
The following story was relayed to me: while they were in the shop (I should preface this part by saying, my mom is not a golfer and has never really been around the sport or exposed to the stars of the game) Jack’s then-wife said to my mom, “You should go ask that man for his autograph.” That man being Arnold Palmer.
So, my mom walks right up to Arnold Palmer and says, “Hey, I hear I’m supposed to ask you for your autograph!” With a big grin Arnie turns to my mom and like the consummate gentleman he always was with fans, gladly signed a ball and made her feel welcome in a place she was not accustomed to being.
When she gifted this to me as a Christmas present it was wrapped up in a small water cup and bag from the pro shop. As I pulled out the golf ball I was floored, to any golfer, the King’s signature is instantly recognizable.
Which leads me to the best golf gift I’ve ever received. A few years later, Jack came out to Seattle for a cruise and before they embarked on their journey my mom asked if I could take him out to play a round. We played a nicer public course in the area and even at 92 years old he was still moving the ball!
As we talked and bonded over the game of golf, he told he had something to send to me when he got home. A month or two went by and I had basically forgotten he said he was going to send something to me, until one day a package from North Carolina showed up.
Inside I found a treasure trove of Pinehurst gear, including a pullover from a U.S. Open held at Pinehurst No. 2. But, the true star of the box was a deteriorating women’s hat from the 1973 World Open that had belonged to his first wife. The bill may be falling apart, but on the top brim are three signatures: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Sam Snead.
This was more than anything I could have expected. To have a hat signed by three absolute American legends of the game is something incredibly special. These men combined for a total of 217 PGA Tour Victories and many other wins worldwide.
A Lifetime Commitment
I know I’ll treasure both the signed ball and the hat for many reasons. These gifts are important to me because of their stories as much as they are prized for the names of the players who signed each item.
I’ve never been a big autograph seeker or someone who becomes star struck in the presence of professional athletes. I understand the hard work and dedication professional athletes put into their craft and the lucky breaks they’ve experienced to get where they are today, but at the end of the day they are still just people. That said, certain names and items of memorabilia undeniably still move the needle!
What is special to me is that Arnie took the time to engage my mom the same way he would with someone who had idolized him his entire life. It is also special that her family friend passed down a unique and rare piece of memorabilia from his life. These interactions and attributes are what make gifts valuable.
The gifts and generosity of people within the game of golf and from people who simply know that I’m a diehard fan have helped to solidify my lifetime love for golf. I only hope to pay it forward and someday be able to positively influence someone’s love for the game the way all the people who have supported and encouraged me to follow my dreams have done in my life.
How about all you Pinseekers? What are some of your favorite or most cherished golf-related gifts you’ve received?