My son, Chet, sold my golf clubs the other day. Sadness has crept into my golf-playing soul. I have fondness for almost every sport, but golf stands out.
Those clubs belonged to my dad. When Neal Brown died in 1971, I inherited them. They went with me everywhere. College and work. Vacations and business trips. A constant companion. I was a fully loaded amateur golfer. Emphasis on amateur.
I spent a summer in Libby, Mont., helping to build a dam on the Kootenai River. My dad and I’s clubs played this little nine-hole executive course over a dozen times.
Didn’t take them on my honeymoon to Hawaii — I felt I’d get crushed if I did — but I spent plenty of time wondering about them when I spotted some of those beautiful Hawaiian layouts.
Those clubs went with me to Soboba Springs, Calimesa, Waterman, El Rivino, Moreno Valley Ranch and El Rancho Verde — all courses that have long since been shut down — while I was able to tee off at Victoria and Redlands, Sierra Lakes and Arrowhead Country Club.
I told Chet, “sell my clubs.” Couldn’t bring myself to pull it off.
A kid from his college baseball team bought ’em. $40. Bag and all.
A set of all steel-shafted MacGregor clubs, all four woods (remember, this was before metal wood drivers were introduced).
Plus the irons, 2-through-wedge.
It was dad’s 7-iron that helped me ace the 13th at Arrowhead Country Club in San Bernardino — my only hole-in-one.
I’d shoot anywhere from 69 to 92 with those babies.
I avoided buying modern clubs, the computerized ones that’d fit my swing. Felt disloyal to my dad if I did. Plus, there’s probably some inscrutable regulation in the all-encompassing golf rules book that would penalize me two strokes a round for getting new clubs
Mario Cesario, the Hall of Fame golf club maker from Redlands who specialized in wood-crafted drivers, once made me a metal wood driver — my name inscribed and all. I adored that golf club. I kind of linked Mario to my dad; they were a couple old-school guys from the old days.
Those clubs had to go, though.
We’re downsizing at our house. When my wife, Laurie, retires from teaching high school English in the few months, we’re out of here.
Golf hasn’t been in the picture. Hasn’t been for 20 years. I ride a bicycle from six to 20 miles a day, activity that replaced those clubs. It’s a bike that Laurie and our daughter, Kelli, bought me.
For years, I’d play golf every day. Our kids were in school. Laurie was teaching. I worked nights. There were lots of golf courses that comped media members and a guest.
Coachella Valley has over 200 courses. Seems like we were out there full time.
What else was I supposed to do? You can only mow your lawn once a week. Painting? Changing light bulbs? None of that suffered. When I’d show up at work, my performance would likely reflect my round that day.
When Palm Springs Life Magazine, for whom I worked for a while, asked me to do the Coachella Valley’s best nine golf holes (not the best golf courses, the best nine holes), I was set.
I’d already been to plenty of those courses, with my dad’s clubs, to play at those layouts. Truth is, the nine holes I picked (my assigning editors obviously weren’t golfers, especially since they only wanted nine holes. A full round is 18 holes) were none of those I’d ever played.
Set up all the photo shoots.
Interviewed golf pros and superintendents.
Kind of special, right?
When that piece was published, I got scores of complaints from golfers — there are thousands that play those courses — ripping me for my selections.
It’s ok. My dad’s clubs were my protectors.
Played a round with longtime Terrier football coach Jim Walker at Calimesa.
Steve Thornburgh, a basketball coach who spent plenty of time coaching softball at the University of Redlands, played me at El Rivino in Bloomington.
Lots of coaches play golf.
You could’ve spotted me at some lower-level Pro-Am events, playing at Moreno Valley Ranch or at Los Serranos.
If there was someone in sports — another media contributor, a coach, anyone — with a need to get acquainted, I’d make a quick call for a tee time.
Way, way, waaay back, I connected with Walt Duda. He ran the Highland driving range — legendary place, long since shut down — close to where the Lowe’s shopping center on Green Spot Road is currently located.
Spent loads of time at that range. Toted dad’s clubs there every time.
I never thought about buying a new set.