BY ALEX PODLOGAR
Imagine it’s a glorious day in mid-August. It’s unseasonably cool for this time of year. Humidity is but something to worry about tomorrow, not today. For today it was 65 when you woke up and got out to the golf course.
But you don’t think about any of those things.
Imagine you’re just a kid. And any other week, you are indeed just that. A kid. But this week you’re more than just a kid.
You’re his kid.
You wear a badge with your name and your picture on it. The badge does incredible things. This week, it gets you onto the practice putting green in front of the clubhouse, where Vijay Singh is. It gets you on the practice range, where Ernie Els is. It gets you into Players Dining, where Webb Simpson and Brandt Snedeker and Sergio Garcia and Davis Love III and Zach Johnson might be.
It gets you free Powerade.
Imagine wearing this badge.
Imagine this day finally arrives. You wear that badge. You also wear a shirt similar to your dad’s. And you wear your sneakers because today there will be a lot of walking. Eighteen holes of walking.
Imagine hearing your last name announced on the first tee, as the rising sun loses the battle to warm away the goosebumps the moment creates. A moment later, after a couple of waggles and one last look down the hill with a grandstand surrounding him, Dad rifles one down the middle of the fairway.
The walk begins.
It’s more of a gait than a walk, though. You can’t slow down. You outpace Mom, whose steady calm and even demeanor casually reveal these aren’t her first 18 holes. She’ll catch you for the approach shot, then again at the green. This is how it will be. All day. All 18.
Imagine the people. There are other people here. Watching. Walking among you. Around you. In front of you. Behind you. They stand near you to get a better look beyond the ropes, just as you do. Men. Women. Teenagers. Kids like you. (But just kids. They don’t have badges.) Some appear for a while, and then move on, or maybe they hang back. Some stay with you for holes upon holes, which is another way of saying hours upon hours.
Like you, they clap when Dad makes a putt. Like you, they groan when the par putt slips by.
Imagine the heartbreak. Dad hits one out of bounds off the tee, leading to certain double bogey. Later, Dad hits a gorgeous approach shot to within 10 feet. But the putt lips out. The gallery groans. You slam your foot against the grandstand. Why couldn’t that one go in?
Imagine, though, the score doesn’t really matter.
A lull on the tee allows you to go up to Dad, to share your drink with him. A par save gets you to thinking about Dad possibly having the honor on the next tee. Dad outdrives his playing partners, and you can’t help yourself. “Cool!”
Dad makes a nifty birdie on the back 9, the gallery applauds, and you rush to him as he walks from the green to the tee. You offer your hand, and Dad slaps it.
And Dad smiles. At you.
Imagine this day, which ends not with Dad being rushed through a huge crowd of people to the scoring trailer, but later with a few putts back on the practice green.
Imagine this day, which features your dad’s name on electronic scoreboards all over the place. On the web. On Twitter.
And imagine all of the other days. There are no galleries. There are no long walks. There are no badges promising free Powerade.
Except this day. And tomorrow. And maybe another day again soon.
Can you imagine?
If you’re 12-year-old Ethan Mitchum, you can.
Pinehurst Resort’s Kelly Mitchum appeared in the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship Aug. 15-16, 2013. Mitchum, a lead golf professional at Pinehurst Resort’s Golf Academy, is a 5-time Carolinas Golf Association Player of the Year. He won the 1991 ACC Championship, the 1993 North & South Amateur, was a 4-time All-American at N.C. State and was a member of the victorious 1993 Walker Cup team. Mitchum has appeared in four PGA Championships, including in 2012.