A Father's Love


I don't even know where to start. It's 5:09 AM on Monday June 20th and I'm supposed to be somewhere around the 7th or 8th hole of my 108+ hole journey right now. Instead I'm laying in bed wide awake trying to process everything that's happened over the last 24 hours. A short recap:

- I teed it up with my beautiful wife Sue for our first time together at Ballyneal
- 10 days after playing one of my worst rounds ever, I did a complete 180 and played well enough to go toe-to-toe straight up against the reigning club champion.
- I spent the afternoon with Ben Cox and his wonderful family. I got to play with Ben for his first two holes after his skiing accident, then the rest of the front nine with his father, Ken.
- I got to spent quality time with friends and other guests huddled up in the basement of the Ballyneal restaurant praying that a tornado didn't rip the roof off.
- I got to deal with the disappointment of hearing the words "there's no way you can do your marathon tomorrow" due to the huge hail storm that tore through the course.

Any of one of these topics could probably be a chapter in Volume 2 of One Divot at a Time (hypothetically speaking), but the one that plays out over and over in my mind is obviously the two holes with Ben and his Dad. In an ironic twist of fate, what on the surface would be a nightmare scenario for me and most golfers - getting paired up with a father and son on a Sunday afternoon on a 45 minute per hole pace, turned out to be the highlight of my golfing life.

After getting to know Ben over the last couple months, I knew he would do great. Ben is nothing if not determined, and with his engineering brain always working, I knew he'd figure out how to make the golf swing on the adaptive cart work. I knew with his patience and positive attitude, he wouldn't get frustrated over the misses and the do-overs. And I knew he would continue to be an inspiration to everyone he met the same way he's been an inspiration to me.

What really stuck out with me and what I want to focus on is Ken and the special father-son relationship between Ken and Ben. As a father of three, it was an extremely humbling experience. On Father's Day especially.

I hadn't had the chance to meet Ken prior to yesterday. We had spoken on the phone and traded a few text messages, but had yet to meet in person. Of course, the reason I hadn't met him was because he's been working full time at his day job then spending most of the night trying to renovate their house to prepare for Ben's return. That was Exhibit A.

Exhibit B was the Denver Post article from last week. Talking to numerous friends and colleagues about Benjamin Hochman's piece, many pointed out one of two things: a) the family's tremendous faith in God that He is working this accident into something bigger and better and b) the pain that the father must be going through being on the slopes with Ben as he made that life-altering jump.

That was really all I knew about Ken prior to yesterday at 1:30 PM. By 4:30 PM, he was enshrined into my personal Dad Hall of Fame.

Seeing Ben and his dad together on the golf course was a deeply moving experience. It was quickly apparent that they were truly best friends and best golf buddies. They showed up at Ballyneal with matching light-blue collared shirts and plaid, baggy Phat Farm shorts (Ken probably setting a world record for oldest man to wear the hip-hop label). On the first tee, they ribbed each other just like it was any one of hundred of rounds shared together out at F&H Golf Course in Haxtun.

When Ben's first drive found the edge of the native, Ken was reluctant to give his competitor relief (I stepped in and foot-wedged it.) When Ben's third shot on the 2nd caught the hole's patented turbo slot and ended up a yard past Ken's drive, they approached the balls not knowing whose was whose. After Ben found out he had "outdriven" his Dad, he muttered "I got ya" just like countless other golfers had said in that exact same situation before. It was just like any other round of golf between friends - rooting for the other guy but also secretly wanting to beat his brains in. Ben was Ken's Jefe. The only difference was the set-up time between shots.

It was the 3-4 minutes between shots where Ken really shined. It was truly the perfect example of a Father's love for his son. I kept thinking about the famous bible verse from 1 Corinthians (13:4): "Love is patient, Love is kind...". You usually hear that at weddings but it was even more appropriate here. When Ben couldn't quite negotiate both the steering and the accelerator lever, Ken stepped in and controlled the gas while walking alongside. For every shot, Ken helped Ben negotiate his solo rider cart into the proper position, perpendicular to target, then lifted Ben's legs as they flipped the seat around so Ben was hanging off the back of the cart. Next, Ken would place the club in Ben's makeshift golf glove, then tie down a series of Velcro and elastic straps so the club would stay in Ben's right hand. Finally, Ken would tee up the ball for his son in the spot most likely to intersect with the swing path.

On one hand, you'd think that this kind of a Father's love would be expected. I'm blessed to have an all-world Dad (thanks Big Dog!), and I know he'd do the same for me in this situation. I'd like to think I'd do the same for one of my kids if needed. But then you realize that this isn't always the case. One of the onlookers commented, "I need to text my Dad right now and tell him this is just like him and me, only the exact opposite."

Ben's initial batting average on making contact was probably below the Mendoza line, but Ken patiently worked with his son to try to get it right. They tried different Velcro combinations, different clubs, different leg positions, different left-hand positions (with virtually no balance, Ben has to use his left hand for stability). It was very much like a father teaching his 8-year old son the game for the very first time - trying not to overcomplicate things while still trying to find some simple combination of positioning and swing thoughts that could produce somewhat consistent results.

Many, many Dads could learn a lot by watching Ken reteach his son the game. I couldn't help but think about the last time I took my 9-year old son out for nine holes one night after dinner. On one occasion, I got frustrated with him after he 10-putted a green, constantly criss-crossing the hole and failing to heed my suggestions. At that moment, I was the anti-Ken.

Sitting in my bed at what is now 7:05 AM, I hope that I'm a changed man. A changed Dad. I pray at least a fraction of Ken's love and patience rubbed off on me by osmosis. All along, folks have been praising me for my role in setting up this Father's Day moment for Ben and his Dad. But what I'm finding to be consistently true of the Cox family in general, they continue to find ways to turn the gift around tenfold.

UPDATE: Brenda Brandt from the Holyoke Enterprise was kind enough to send the following pics from the special Father's Day event. See the Holyoke Enterprise article here.

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  1. Evan Fleisher said...:

    Well done Jim.

  1. Brandon Urban said...:
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  1. Brandon Urban said...:

    Thanks for the good read... and for getting my wife to ask me why my eyes were tearing up while I was on the computer. Best of luck on Wednesday!

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