My childhood friend Bob Schowalter and I spent countless hours at Shoop Park in Racine, Wisconsin playing golf during our late elementary and junior high school years. The first three holes of the course are adjacent to the beach of Lake Michigan. No telling how many of my errant golf balls have since deteriorated at the bottom of that Great Lake.
Bob and I were decent golfers for our age bracket, but I seriously doubt that it occurred to us that we could have played in junior tournaments with other competitors who were our age. The pro never told us that when we were propped up on the bar stools in the Shoop Park clubhouse drinking Pepsi from 16 oz. bottles that were common at that time. (In Wisconsin that is called drinking a “soda.”) Another young golfer from the same area was obviously encouraged to pursue such endeavors. He made national news this week.
Waterford, Wisconsin native Zach Nash won the Wisconsin Junior PGA Tournament that was played in Milwaukee. On August 11th he shot a stellar 77 as his grandparents from Iowa watched. That score propelled him to be the victor in the Boys Age 13-14 Division.
After the tournament was over, Zach went to play golf at another course and visit with a pro that has served as a mentor to him. While they were having a “soda” the pro noticed that Zach had an extra club in his bag. The rules of golf only allow 14 clubs during tournament play. Zach inadvertently had a 15th club in his bag. Apparently it was a friend’s “5 wood” that had been carelessly placed in his golf bag.
The poor kid shed a few tears in front of his mentor when the costly mistake was discovered. But he was quoted as saying that golf prides itself on honesty and players calling penalties on themselves. He ultimately returned his prized medal and the runner up in the tournament was claimed the winner. Zach’s parents and golf mentor Chris Wood commended him for his honesty. There are golfers nationwide tipping their hats to Zach now that this story has made national sports news.
I don’t know Zach, but I already like him. I join a host of golf fans around the country who really hope that this 14 year old has the opportunity in a few years to play some professional golf. I think he will be someone that we can be excited about cheering on in the gallery. But there is another lesson in this story that should not be overlooked.
Talented young people like Zach need mentors. They need mentors who are willing to drink “sodas” with them and talk golf, or tennis, or football…And they need role models who are willing to take an ethical stand when it is necessary. On that note, I have decided that I like Chris Wood too. He is the head golf pro at Wisconsin’s Rivermoor Golf Club. Head golf professionals at prestigious clubs are busy people, but apparently Wood is not too busy to drink a “soda” with a promising and impressionable young player.
Chris Wood has inspired me to hit the golf course in the next few weeks with a new mission in mind! I need to be alert to young men whom I could drink a coke with and talk golf with. (In Texas, all soft drinks are referred to as “cokes” and not “sodas.”) There will be some striking differences though… The “soda” or “coke” or whatever you want to call it will not be dispensed in a 16 oz. bottle and I am certainly not a golf pro. But I wonder if Bob Schowalter and I could have gone professional, if the pro at Shoop Park back in 1974 had just taken a little more interest in our promising games…The headlines in the Milwaukee Sentinal Journal would have read: Knox and Schowalter Take Junior Golf By Storm! Well…I guess I had better get back to sipping on my soda and quit dreaming…