A number of years ago, I had the pleasure of teaching and coaching young kids, ages 10 to 14, about the game of golf. Some kids had no clubs, some only a few and others were using their parents’ equipment (we all know that is not a good way to learn). I remember one 10 year old came to practice one day with his dad’s size 13 golf shoes on. When I asked him about the shoes, he said “I wanted to have golf shoes but didn’t have the money to buy my own so I thought I would borrow my dad’s.” By day’s end, his feet hurt and were getting blisters. “I’m going to wear my sneakers next time. These are hurting my feet!” I wanted to laugh but instead told him it was a great idea.
Every year, this program, ‘Hook a Kid on Golf’, had a national competition. Each local program around the country would send eight players and two coaches. This tournament was more than golf scores. These kids would be tested on golf history, golf rules and etiquette during the round. Total score was based on correct answers as well as score from a scramble format.
A good friend and I were selected and honored to be the coaches and travel with the team. We loaded what equipment these kids had onto the plane and headed off to a small town in Illinois. The event was three days of fun, games, golf tips and lessons along with the actual tournament. About fifteen teams competed from across the country.
On tournament day, each coach took four players and played a scramble format for nine holes. One group played the front, and the other played the back. The scores of both foursomes, including golf score, history and rules testing scores, and etiquette were to be added for the team score. This was a lot of pressure for 10 to 14 year old boys and girls to fathom.
My foursome played the back nine. Everyone was contributing with good shots and following course etiquette. Each individual player was tested on the history and rules during play. Then we reached the final hole and the final shot.
To this point, our score looked pretty good with missing one question on history and another on rules. A par would put us near the top, depending on how the other four on the front scored. We were 125 yards out and down to the last player to hit. His nickname was ‘Duct tape’. A 10 year old who had an artificial limb below his left knee. To keep his golf shoe on he needed to wrap duct tape around it. Thus the name ‘Duct tape’. He wore that name with pride.
He had been hitting the ball fairly well that day but not nearly his best. His confidence was way down because he felt he was letting the team down. I stood in front of him and did the coach’s thing; placing my hands on his shoulders and looking him right in the eye. “Okay Duct tape. This is it. It’s all up to you. We need a shot on the green close enough to make par. You’ve been doing it all season and no reason to quit now. Just put a good swing on it and hit the shot. You know you can do it.” He stepped up to the ball with his seven iron in hand. All the parents from our team and the competitors went dead silent. The team members had fingers crossed and a look of despair on their faces. This was for all the marbles. A season of practice, studying and learning as much about golf as they could, came down to this.
Duct tape put a good swing on it. The shot landed hole high and just about six feet to the right. I have never seen a 10 year old with one leg jump so high and scream so loud. His team began jumping up and down screaming, “You’re the man Duct tape. Great shot.” They started hugging him like he had just won The Masters. All the parents were clapping and some even had tears in their eyes.
We all started toward the green and then I slowly backed away so they could walk together as a team. Then, for some reason, the 3 team members slowed down and let Duct tape walk ahead of them. As he reached the green, everyone began clapping and cheering. It was if he really had won The Masters. They made their par and finished near the top in the tournament.
It was one of the greatest moments I have ever had, watching him walk up to the green and everyone cheering for him. Duct tape had pulled off the shot of his 10 year old life. Duct tape ‘you da’ man.’