CLINE: PGA tourney brings back memories of my father

The PGA Championship returns to the Atlanta Athletic Club this week, bringing the world’s best players and the focus of the golf world to our neck of the woods. For most folks the chance to see Phil and Tiger in action at a major tournament is the draw, but for me the neatness of the tournament is more personal.

So this week I’ll be thinking about the volunteers on and around the course, the men and women who do everything from marshal the crowd to cart the players around. That’s the kind of stuff my dad did 10 years ago when the PGA was last held at the AAC. And I don’t think I ever saw him have more fun.

From the time he got his uniform he was in hog heaven, thrilled to be part (no matter how small) of one of the biggest events in his favorite sport. Whether it was telling me about players’ antics on the driving range (and the fact their range balls were infinitely nicer than the balls we used to actually play) or giving me the play by play on the traffic he held up at a certain hole, he could hardly contain his excitement.

It was fun to see him in the role of child filled with awe vs. the been-there, done-that attitude fathers usualy exude. You mistakenly assume as a child that dads don’t have that quality only to learn later that they merely suppress it, the joy and wonderment of their children taking precedence. As you get older there are few things more satisfying than to see your parents experience the unbridled joy they spent a lifetime providing for you. So the week of the PGA was a very fun one for me as well.

The funny thing about golf is the ties it binds regardless of skill level. My dad was a good golfer as a young man, when he taught school and had afternoons free to practice and play. I’ve never been very adept, not that it’s kept me from trying. But no matter good or bad, slices or long drives, we always had a good time on the golf course. And it was no different at the PGA tournament.

As sports editor of the Daily Post, I had press credentials and checked in with dad from time to time, getting to see his enthusiasm for the job in person. We both wanted Phil Mickelson to win, but had no problem with David Toms taking the title. I had pictures of both framed for him, along with the cover of the program and his volunteer badge, making a nice addition to his den.

With the PGA returning to the area, those memories are rekindled. But to be honest, they aren’t ever far away. The picture of me and my dad, Jerald, in front of the AAC clubhouse that sits by my desk attests to that.

A lot can change in 10 years — just ask Tiger Woods. My family and I know that very well. But as the PGA prepares to tee off this week, those good memories are at the forefront as I remember a week my dad would never forget.

Todd Cline can be reached via email at todd,cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Wednesdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com.