Some 37 years to the day since he died, this much I know about the time I was closest to my dad.
I was closest to my dad for two days in the summer of 1978 when I was just 13. I played in the South East qualifying round of the Daily Express Junior Golf Championship at Liphook Golf Club in Hampshire. Dad took two days off work, borrowed a car and drove us to Havant where we stayed with my godmother, Auntie Joan, in her high-rise flat.
Cars are great places to talk about profound things. If you have a teenage son who needs to tell you something, pop him in the passenger seat and drive – he’ll open up in minutes because he can converse with you whilst you both stare straight ahead. So we travelled to Liphook via Havant, just me and dad, chatting. Auntie Joan’s full English breakfast that cool warm morning was spectacular.
When we arrived at the course the day was clear with pure sunshine. Dad wished me good luck and then vanished. I began shakily with a poor tee shot on the par three first hole but then went on to score 74 and finish third. My crisis point in the round came at the seventeenth hole where I fluffed a shot. I could have panicked and ruined things. Instead I walked away, composed myself and proceeded to hole a 30 foot putt from off the green to save my par.
When I had finished in front of the Liphook clubhouse, dad suddenly appeared again. After the prize-giving, we drove home and talked through my round. He’d watched near every shot and I’d had no idea. He’d stolen round the course amongst the undergrowth, tracking my progress. He’d shared in my greatest round of golf to date without me knowing. He was particularly praiseworthy of how I’d handled the crisis at the seventeenth. If I have the ability to remain calm, it comes from my dad.
Only when you’re a dad yourself do you understand better your own. He must have been so proud of my golfing achievements, but he never let his pride affect his wisdom. When I was offered a job at 16 as an assistant professional at a golf course in Holyhead, he stopped me accepting the chance to be paid next to nothing as a shop assistant, living alone in a caravan on the very edge of the we(tte)st coast of the country; I have a lot to thank dad for, but I genuinely cannot thank him enough for saving me from that dank fate. I only hope I can provide such wisdom for my boys, Joe and Oliver, when they need it.
Dad was beloved by all who knew him. The week after he died Piltdown Golf Club flew their club flag at half-mast. He taught me and my siblings that relationships matter above everything else, that kindness always wins out in the end and that you should treat people as you find them, without prejudice and without exception.