By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
On this day when we honor our fathers, I was thinking exactly what does my dad mean to me.
Although he and my late mother divorced when I was 7, he was still a big part of my life. He gave me my first driving lesson, picked up the major part of the down payment of my first new car and when my mom died, he paid the funeral expenses.
There are fathers who will be there no matter what the cost. Take Phil Mickelson for example. In June 1999, Lefty was in the final pairing at the U.S. Open wearing a beeper because his wife, Amy, was due any day with the couple’s first child. He said he would leave if the beeper went off.
The beeper didn’t go off, Mickelson finished second to the late Payne Stewart and his daughter was born the next day. That same daughter came into play at this year’s U.S. Open. Mickelson flew cross country to be at her eighth-grade graduation Wednesday, then flew back in the middle of the night and made his 6:11 a.m. tee time, posting a 67 and grabbing the first-round lead.
Some fathers are so influential in our lives that we follow in their footsteps, like Jerry Walker, the girls’ basketball coach at Fort Gibson. Walker’s dad, Jerry L., was a longtime coach at Fort Gibson and his two sons are coaches – Jeff is the girls’ coach at Stigler and David is an assistant on the women’s basketball team at Harding University.
My dad, who I’m named after, was there on several occasions when I didn’t want him to be, when I needed discipline when my mom couldn’t – and I needed it in my youth.
If you’ve ever seen the movie “The Fighting Sullivans,” there is a scene when the dad catches all five sons smoking in a woodshed and tries to get them to stop by inhaling a whole cigar. Dad tried that with me and it had the same effect – I got very sick – but it didn’t stop me.
My father was also there for some of my most memorable events, other than my wedding and graduation from college. I’ve had two holes in one in my life, on the same hole, and he was my playing partner for both – it cost him $5 a hole to be a witness.
I’m the oldest of five, and we all have different interests. One of my sisters likes ballroom dancing, and Dad, who was a dance instructor, taught her. One of my brothers plays bass guitar in a rock band, and Dad played rhythm guitar for a while.
Dad will be 83 on Aug. 10 and his memory is fading. We thought it was Alzheimer’s, but he says it’s just aging.
We’ve established a tradition of calling each other on the Sunday of a major golf tournament and picking the winner. The only time either of us picked the winner, other than Tiger Woods, was in 1986 when I picked Jack Nicklaus to win the Masters – a fact I still remind him of.
So to all the sons and daughters out there, spend as much time with dear old dad as humanly possible. And not just today but every day. Life is short and time is precious.