Question of the Week

Starting from scratch

What were your earliest memories of beginning to play golf?

We all have a starting point in the game of golf. When did you begin playing, and where? Did someone influence your early interactions with the game?

Please send your response to editor Stuart Hall. In order to be published, add your first and last name, along with your city and state of residence.

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I grew up in a small town in southern Indiana. In the early 1960s, I was introduced to the game by my grandfather, Robert Meek. He had an old set of clubs and I was fascinated. He let me to use what I wanted out of the bag. Very old style with the very thin steel shafts covered in a wood-like material and leather wrap grips. I believe these grips were made during the transition from wood shafts to steel.

We had a big old walnut tree out behind the house. My friend Tom and I used the clubs to hit between our backyards. Used an 8-iron and played a game where we would drop the ball and had to hit between our yards — four houses apart — closest to the bucket. If you went over the walnut tree you would get an extra point. Did this for hours and hours. Still think of this when I am hitting balls today at the range. Thanks for the question and bringing back great memories.

Brian K Meek
Naperville, Ill.

In 1949, at the age of 12, we moved to a small town in Kansas that had a nine-hole golf course with sand greens. My father was a minister and we were given country club privileges. I did not play, but would hunt balls and sell them for 5 cents back to the golfers.

One day a man asked me if I played and I told him no, that I did not have any clubs. A few days later he showed up with a wood-shafted 3-iron and told me it was mine. I played with only that 3-iron until my 14th birthday, when my parents ordered me a six-club set from Montgomery Ward. That was it until I got out of the Army. That 3-iron started 70 years of great memories.

My low round was a 5-under 67 and I also shot my actual age, a 2-under 70. Have had 3 aces. At 82, I still play and routinely shoot under my age.

Gerald Geren
Nixa, Mo.

Right after 9/11 I felt the need to hit something. I went to a driving range. I missed a lot, but swung hard. I occasionally hit a decent one and was hooked.

Stephen Pearcy
Aiken, S.C.

I began to play golf in 1954 at the age of 3. I guess that makes me old. The course I played back then, Oaklands Golf Club, was located in Niagara Falls, Ontario. With a couple of cut-down clubs I began to attack the course with vengeance — literally.

My dad was my influence and taught me so much about the game, and most importantly the etiquette of the game. How to behave is something I’ll never forget. Yes, my game improved over the years. I remember my first time breaking 100, then 80 and finally breaking 70.

My dad died far too early, some 18 years after that first round. What I wouldn’t give for the opportunity to play one final round with a couple of cut-down clubs and my dad at my side, walking down the fairways at old Oaklands.

Paul Vicary
The Villages, Fla.

Beginnings are a fond memory. My Dad introduced me to the game at age 6. I made my first hole-in-one at 10 and I have been hooked ever since.

Jex Wilson
Manchester, Tenn.

I was 8 years old living in Dublin. My uncle first took me to his club where I had my first experience hitting golf balls. He gave me my first set of hand-me-down clubs and about a dozen well-used golf balls. We lived near a cemetery. I would walk there everyday and hit balls.

Now 60 years later, my love for the game continues to grow.

Jerry Wagner
Scottsdale, Ariz.

My first memories of learning about the game are of following my dad around a field at the local high school, watching him hit balls. When I was 5 or 6, he got me a set of Northwestern Chi Chi Rodriguez clubs. I remember running so that I could keep up. That is my introduction to the game I will love for life.

Bill Galinas
Drexel Hill, Pa.

My first round of golf was at Winton Woods Golf Club — now known as the Mill Course — with my mom and dad when I was 8 years old. I had a set of my dad's old clubs that he had "cut down" to fit me. The set included a driver through 4-wood, which helped me keep track of my strokes. On the tee, I would hit the driver; my second shot I hit the 2-wood; my third, the 3-wood ... I ended up shooting a 104 for nine holes. I pity whomever was playing behind us that day. The good news is that I still play the course almost 60 years later and do occasionally post rounds in the 70s for 18 holes.

Russ Walker
West Chester, Ohio

Durand-Eastman muni, Rochester N.Y. At age 11, in 1958, I knew I'd really be something if I hit the ball past the big tree on the right side of the first hole. Using the beat-up balls I found in the woods and creeks, and the old 3-wood I had as a driver made it harder, but when I was able to get it past that tree? Watch out.

Tom Gillette
Loveland, Colo.

I grew up and still live in a rural part of Illinois. Our town had a golf course, which was located on the outskirts of town. I lived even further out of town on a farm.

When I was 14, some new homes were built relatively close to where I lived. A young couple moved in to one of them. Not having any other kids around (except my brother) to play with and no air conditioning in the house, a lot of time was spent outside.

One of those days, I noticed the man who was my neighbor outside washing his car. I went up and was talking to him. I asked him what he was going to do next, to which he replied that he was going to play golf. I told him I had never been to a golf course and he offered to let me go and pull his cart.

I was so excited and talked my parents into allowing me to go with him although we went to a different course than the one near my house. I was thoroughly enjoying the experience. He asked me if I would like to try to hit one and of course I wanted to. I was instantly hooked.

On the ride home, he told me he had an old set of clubs I could borrow any time I wanted. The next day I rode my bike to the course near me to check out how much it would cost to learn to play. At that time, a half-year student membership was $40. I asked my parents (totally non golfers) if I could get one.

They were very hesitant because I had been given piano lessons, baton lessons, etc., but never really stuck to them because I wasn't interested in such. They told me they would pay half if I paid half — done deal!! I started playing every day with the borrowed clubs ... my neighbor gave them to me after about five days.

I made quick friends playing with all kinds of people. It didn't matter to me who they were, I was playing golf. One of my besties and I would meet at 7:30, play 18, ride our bikes home for lunch, come back for 18 more, ride home for supper, and ride back to play until dark ... every day.

He went on to be a very successful PGA Golf Professional at some of the best clubs in St. Louis. He played in several PGA Championships and the U.S. Open at Olympic Club. I didn't have any girls to play with so I always played with the boys. Being pre-Title IX, I couldn't play on the boy's team, but the coach did let me practice with them. Today those guys are among by best friends in the world.

As I turned 16, I needed a job as my golf was becoming more expensive. At that time, women were not welcome in the golf business, but my local pro took a chance on me and hired me. I am still employed there, but now am director of competitions and junior programs. I then played on my college golf team, which helped to pay for my college degree. I dual careered most of my adult life as I taught school and coached the high school golf teams.

In my golf career, I have gone on to serve with the United States Golf Association on several committees, including Regional Affairs, Women's Mid Amateur Championship Committee, Women's Committee, and Intercollegiate Affairs Committee. I have qualified for the U.S. Senior Women's Amateur. I have served as a USGA Rules Official at more than 75 championships, including the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, U.S. Women's Open, and U.S. Women's Amateur. I have also officiated at the Women's British Open, International Crown, and Curtis Cup. I serve as the Official in Charge of one of the NCAA Division 1 Regionals.

I am not writing this note to tell of my accomplishments. I write it because one man took the time to share the game he loved with me by taking a neighbor kid to the golf course. He had no idea that he was giving so much back to the game. More of us need to do this.

Sarah Haas
Carterville, Ill.

I started playing golf in 1955 at the age of 9 on the course about 600 yards from my parents’ house near Glasgow. My father played and gave paternal encouragement. I was offered a dollar if I could play the first three and last three holes in less than 60 strokes, which I managed to do after several months of trying.

My clubs were a cut down hickory-shafted spoon, a Forgan Junior 7-iron, and a putter. I loved to play, but was given only six golf balls for my birthday, and when I lost all of those I had to go out and tramp the juicy rough to find replacements.
There were no practice facilities, so my friends and I just went out and played whenever we could.

My first lesson, at about 12, was so poor that it put me off lessons until I went to Oxford University, playing off a 16 handicap. I had acquired a set of clubs by buying the irons individually to compliment a Christmas present of a 5-, 7- and 9-iron. I bought my first ever sand wedge when at Oxford. With coaching, I got down to a 3 handicap in my second year.

I’ve enjoyed a lifetime of golf, and now play to a 6 handicap.

Robin Lawson
St. Andrews, Scotland