By Thomas T Wartelle, WGTF Master Golf Teaching Professional

I never saw my Pop play a round of golf. I saw him hit a golf ball only once in my life. He hit a left-handed persimmon wood about 250 yards with a draw. Although he followed me while I played, or caddied for me many times, I never saw him hit another golf ball again. Pop still smiles when I tell him about my golf and loves to hear about my son’s (his grandson’s) golfing achievements.

When Pop was with me on the golf course, he was always supportive. He knew the difficulties of the game of golf. I think he saw golf as a parallel to life. When I wanted to turn pro, he immediately said, go do it. Never once did he question my decision to choose golf. He saw many of my ups and downs. He always encouraged me to continue. When I told him I was going to Europe to play professionally, he said to go chase the dream. I never saw Pop outwardly worry about anything. As a man of great faith, he always believed in try to do your best and things will work themselves out.

Pop had two sports figures that he always admired: Ted Williams and Arnold Palmer. Arnold Palmer was the same age, height, and weight as Pop. Pop liked Arnold’s strength and grit. Mr. Palmer always conducted himself with grace and class. He was a fierce competitor, but he treated people with respect and dignity that they deserved. He transformed and inspired generations of people.

Pop admired Ted Williams’ work ethic and skill. The “Splendid Splinter” went on to lifetime batting average of .344. He was the last Major League player to bat over .400 in a season. Like many men of his generation, Ted Williams was a veteran. He willingly served his country, twice sacrificing prime years of his baseball career.

Pop, Ted, and Arnold were similar men. They dealt with life’s ups and downs. Each paving their way to be true heroes in their own right. They were a generation of men that should not be forgotten.

One of my fondest memories with Pop was a U.S. Open qualifier a few years back. I was playing well. The final hole was a real tight par four that I had previously struggled with the tee shot. I glanced over to him, and he had a look of serenity on his face. I hit a perfect tee shot followed by a wedge to 15 feet. After the birdie putt dropped, Pop said, “I always knew you were going to make it.” I shot 67 that round. I felt like I really made him proud. Unfortunately, I missed out of going to the Big Show by one shot. On the ride home, I bought Pop a Budweiser. Sitting there, he looked at me said, “I know you will get them next time.” Later in life, I realized that I made him proud just by simply having the courage and grit to chase my dreams.

Thanks to the “Greatest Generation,” I will always be a fan of Ted’s Tribe, Arnie’s Army, and Pop’s Platoon. They taught us to fight and persevere. But it didn’t end there. They taught us to love, respect, and use your wits to continually move forward to the future.

Pop, I promise to teach my son to work hard and birdie the next hole!
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