A boomer remembers golfing with Dad

If we’re lucky enough to have memories of our fathers, we’re lucky if they’re all good ones. Free-lance writer Bill Levine of Belmont, Massachusetts, has good and bad. But with Fathers Day coming up, he’s looking at the bright side.

As a grade schooler in the late 1950s, I really missed my dad on Saturdays. Dad would close down his dental practice at noon, come home and then jump into a car with Grandpa and a few racing pals and head to the local horse track.

From Mom’s grumblings, I got the idea that the so-called Sport of Kings was sleazy, so why would Dad play horses instead of playing catch at home. I later understood why when he said he bought our newspaper, the Boston Record American, because of its racing charts.

The 1960s though ushered in a new dad. We joined a nearby country club and Dad became fascinated with the backswing, instead of the back stretch. I was happier now on Saturdays because I could occasionally join him at the pool or the 19th hole grill. Unlike the mysterious touts in the world of racing, I got to know Dad’s golfing partners.

The Levine family decades ago. Young Bill on the left.

Dad and I even started to play a few holes together. This was a great father-and-son bonding activity once I learned how to replace divots. We both got a mini-workout exercise by trekking the hilly layout of the club. Undoubtedly, Dad thought this was better than watching horses exercise.

One round when I was 15 was transcendent for both of us. It was the Father/Son club tournament. This one day, Dad’s advice stuck. I didn’t pick my head up when I drove the ball and my shots went airborne. It was a “best ball” format, and we used my crushed drive off the 7th hole. We shot a 46, good enough to win. It was a highlight reel for us then, and forever, as it was our lone joint trophy.

The game of golf is still in Bill’s blood.

Dad accumulated numerous trophies over next four decades though, along with a raft of golfing buddies. Eventually he left the country club but then moved to a new home, a couple of stiff three woods from The Brookline Municipal course. This became his second home.

In his 70s Dad forged a new career as a state health consultant. Whacking a Pinnacle golf ball was not a job requirement, but it helped when venders invited him to fancy courses. On one such luxe links event, Dad was gifted a set of Calloways. That was his last and best set of clubs.

About ten years after Dad acquired the Calloways, he offered me the clubs. I was saddened by the offer because Dad was now giving up golf, his sweet spot of conviviality, his athleticism gone. But bottom line, I was honored to inherit the clubs.

If Dad had stayed with the dubious Sport of Kings and fashioned a life at the track, I’m sure that his parting memento to me would have been a box full of losing pari-mutuel tickets or other heartbreaks. The clubs were much better. And meant much more.

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