Do You Remember Your First Tournament?
In the summer of 1974, right before my 10 birthday, I played in my first golf tournament.
My Dad was teaching a golf class at ENMU and I spent the last year on the driving range with him learning the fundamentals. He would drop me at the range and head out with his buddies for a round of golf and gambling. The games were fierce at our little club in Portales, NM. Everyday at 1:00 the boys would convene and work out the game for the day. High stakes for a small town.
Our range was small and really no more than a mowed pasture with discs at the 100 yard, 150 yard, and 200 yard intervals. There were no “range balls”… you brought your own in your “shag-bag”. Each shag-bag held around 75 golf balls– usually cast offs from Dad or balls that we had found. I would begin with a bag full of wedges to a small mound about 65 yards away that we called a “chipping green”. Then I would work my way through my bag hitting all of the clubs and emptying the shag-bag 4-5-6 times. After each bag I would walk out and pick the balls. My Dad told me to hold the shag-bag with the last 3 fingers of my left hand… to strengthen my grip. As I picked up the balls… I could see the patterns and walk the yardages for each club. It also gave me time to reflect on what I was doing… and what I needed to improve on.
It would be months before he would ask me to join him on the golf course. But once I got out there… I was hooked! I joined a summer recreation class that summer and hit balls everyday. Finally– they announced a tournament and we were flighted by boys/girls and our age. When I saw the trophies laid out that morning… I had to win it!
My flight consisted of 4 girls, ages 8-11… playing nine holes and walking, carrying our clubs. I really don’t remember a thing about my game that day. Only that we started on a par 5, #2… and it was a long walk down the par-5, #1, just to tee off on the first hole.
When we came around from #9 and reached the clubhouse– the other girls were tired and discouraged… and did not want to finish the round by playing #1 and walking all the way back in. So they refused to play the last hole! They said that I was too far ahead of them and they were done!
I was exasperated and afraid that my round would not count if I did not complete the entire nine holes! I thought that we would all be disqualified and that the trophy would go to NO ONE!
The pro told us to go sit in the shade and have a Dr. Pepper… and later I was awarded the TROPHY! I was thrilled!
I went on to play golf competitively — juniors, high school, college, and eventually professionally. I have played in many, many golf tournaments since then… but this is my favorite TROPHY. I still have it.