Yesterday my mom, sister, nephew and I drove from Rapid City, SD to Gordon, NE. Gordon is a small town (population around 1,600) but is the town my mom is from and where my grandma lived. Each summer I looked forward to our family vacation to Gordon and on one of the summers my dad took me to the country club and I played golf on a real course for the first time.
I was always fascinated by golf as a child. If I wasn't watching a race I was watching the PGA Tour but I watched for all the wrong reasons as, while some people watch racing for the crashes, I watched golf to watch people hit the ball into the water. Oh, those were good times! Anyway, my dad always took me to the driving range and I'd hit a bucket of balls with my dad saying, "When you can hit 100 yards we'll go play." Well, in 91 or 92 I had hit 100 and my uncle and cousin were going to play at the Gordon Country Club so my dad went and I got to play too!
We played alternate shot where my uncle and nephew we are on a team and my dad and I were and we would alternate shots so first shot would be my dad, then me, then him and so on and so forth. For one reason or another my dad hit the first two shots and then my first shot ever on a golf course was a shot about 15 yards off the green. I chipped the ball, it rolled on the green with what seemed like a laser guided precision and it hit the pin and went in. My uncle exclaimed, "Beginner's luck!" and I don't think anyone has ever told me something that had more truth.
Then, in 1998, my mom and I spent a couple weeks in Gordon visiting my grandma and while out there I got a super special, "student discount" and played many times. It was the first big course I played by myself and even to this day I can recall the sense in pride as I walked the course feeling one with myself, the course, and the environment. That trip was the final time I was in Gordon while my grandma was alive and I've only been through the town three times since then.
For 15 years I have wanted to play golf there. Each time I play golf I think about where I began and it's more than just the course, but the memories tied to it. It was my uncle's sheer shock of me draining the chip, it was walking to the course from my grandma's, the time my mom ran over my foot with a golf cart on hole 9, and it was the feeling of all those family vacations that are in my memories of those summer vacations. The course may not be TPC Sawgrass, or Pebble Beach, or even Wolf Creek but in all the courses in the world there was no other place I would want to play more and yesterday I got my chance.
The picture here is from the 1st tee box and as I stepped up to tee off I was, well, it was emotional. It's not very often in life we can go back to a place that is seemingly untouched by time, but standing there, 15 years later from the last time I was there, it felt like 1991, or 1998. It was hard to think of the passage of time and that I am now 30. It was hard to think of the fact that I had not walked from my grandma's on North Cornell St. To think that quite literally I was twice the age as I was there the previous time I was there made life and time seem like a blink yet at the same time it made each moment more precious.
As I played time flew. It's only a 9 hole course so playing 18 means playing each hole twice and when I had finished 18 I wanted more, so I paid for another 18. I thought that, since 15 years had passed and I'm twice the age I was the previous time what if that's the norm. That would mean I'd be 60 the next time so I wanted to savor each hole, I wanted to be there as long as possible so by the end of the day I had played each hole four times.
I'm sure I will play at more prestigious courses over my life and I'm sure I will play at courses that have more hills, water, sand, and well, people. However, each place can't live up the place that I learned how to play. This is the course my grandma drove me to one time, this is the place that my mom once waited to pick me up as the sun was setting and it was dark but I was going to finish the final hole, this was the course I first played golf with my dad, and this is the place that I fell in love with the sport for the right reasons (not watching pros goof up and hit the ball into the water.) I can only hope that it isn't 15 years until the next time I get to tee up on hole 1, enjoy the shortness of hole 2, get frustrated by the 5th hole which is an impossible par 4, or the joy of driving the green in one on 7. Until that next time I have a new round of memories to go with all the ones previously, but I can assure you there will be a next time and when that time comes all the memories of rounds, and vacations past, will come rushing back.