Next up was learning to hit balls from a net in the driveway that my dad built using a PVC-pipe frame. We couldn’t afford golf lessons, so he taught me out of Ben Hogan’s classic book, “Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf.” Using a Sharpie to mark my hand and remind me how to grip the club, I happily spent countless hours out there in the driveway with him.
Southern California Junior Golf tournaments cost about $20 at the time. When we didn’t have it, I later learned that an anonymous donor had paid my entry fees. Those entry fees changed a lot for me, and to this day I think about that anonymous donor. I want him/her to know that I am still committed to paying their kindness and generosity forward in full.
One year, I played in the Junior World Championship at Singing Hills Golf Resort in San Diego. The most reliable car we had at the time was my sister’s 1971 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. On the drive down to San Diego, the transmission belt snapped on the freeway. We walked to the nearest department store, bought a cheap pair of panty hose, and my dad showed me how to use them as a replacement for the belt. It worked well enough to get us to the golf course. Without enough money for a hotel room, we slept on the lounge chairs by the pool, and I got dressed in one of the bathrooms on the course. My dad also got up in the middle of the night and gathered stray balls off the range so I would have a basket of balls to practice with the next morning. At the time, it was what we had to do.
The Junior World Championship provided an all-expense-paid trip to Japan for the top-three finishers. The first time I finished in the top three, my dad took me to Japan, believing it would be the only time in my life I’d get to experience that country. More than any of the golf I played there, I remember bags of bread. My dad noticed that organizers were giving away bags filled with artisan breads, and he asked if we could have any that were left over. During our bus rides to the course each day, he had noticed many people sleeping on the streets near the train station. He woke me up at midnight the next day and told me to grab the bags. We walked around the streets that night and quietly placed bread next to the people as they slept so they’d have food when they woke up. He didn’t say much and just held my hand on the way back.