I bladed the tee shot horribly on the fifth hole at Green Meadow Country Club in Helena.
The ball was screaming right to the center of the pond tucked in front of the green when something amazing happened.
Just like it was a perfectly thrown river rock, the ball skipped across the water and onto the green. It stopped less than a foot from being the luckiest hole in one in the history of golf.
I tapped in for a birdie before paring the final four holes of the front nine. Then I played a lights-out back nine.
Thanks to that magical shot, I played out of my head that day and found myself in a tie for the lead in the 13-and-under division of the Montana State Junior Golf Championships.
I was tied with my pal Eddie Kavran from Dillon. Eddie, who went on to play for the University of Idaho before becoming a pro in Billings, did not play out of his head. He was always good.
As soon as my score was posted, the dad started in. No, not my dad. It was the father of another player.
“You’re the big leader,” the dad said, oozing enough smarm to make a politician squirm while pretending to be my friend. “Now all the pressure is on you.”
This guy’s son was four shots behind us, and he stood about nine inches taller. He was one of those boys who peaked physically before he reached high school.
The boy needed to show identification to play in the 13-and-under division, but probably not at the bar. His dad clearly wanted his son to come back and win the state title, and he figured he needed to psych me out to do it.
The next morning, that dad was the first adult I saw as I walked into the clubhouse at Bill Roberts Golf Course.
“There’s the leader,” the dad said. “You probably didn’t get any sleep worrying about today’s important final round.”
As I went to the practice green to hit a few chips and putts, and the guy followed me.
“You better get your practice in,” he said. “Things are a lot different now that you are in the lead. You’ve got to handle the pressure.”
Even at 13, I knew exactly what this guy was doing, and he was wasting his time. The guy didn’t have to mess with my head because I was already a mental midget.
Plus, the guy’s 23-year-old-looking 13-year-old son hit his drives about 150 yards past mine, and that was very advantageous, especially when he was playing in my group for the final round.
Predictably, the knuckleheaded dad’s son came back to win the tournament. Eddie placed second, and I took third. A distant third.
My third-place medal, though, seem just fine to me when I thought how the big boy with the big trophy had to go home with that big bozo.
I was sure glad my dad would never do anything like that. He let me win or lose on my own, and there’s something to be said about that.
Word-class knucklehead dad LaVar Ball stealing the headlines when the world should be talking about his superstar son Lonzo Ball leading UCLA into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament got me thinking about that golf dad from 1987.
Lonzo, a “one-and-done player” at UCLA, has become a secondary story as his dad feuds with Charles Barkley, talks about how he would “kill” Michael Jordan on one on one in his prime, and takes shots at LeBron James’ 12-year-old son.
The worst thing about LaVar Ball isn’t that we have to argue that he wouldn’t have played with, let alone “killed,” the world’s greatest player in a game of one on one. It’s that the national coverage he is receiving will only encourage more dads to act like him.
That is bad news because we all know fathers like LaVar Ball almost always make it all about themselves, even though they say they are thinking only of their sons. Ball certainly has. Otherwise, he would shut up and let Lonzo take his rightful place in the national spotlight.
But LaVar Ball wants us all to think he is the reason his son is a superstar, and, who knows, maybe his.
For every guy like Ball, though, there are thousands of guys who completely ruined the sporting experience for their child — not to mention the people who were trying to watch the boy’s team play.
For every Earl Wood there is a Marv Marinovich.
Woods and Marinovich planned their child’s life, preparing them to be professionals from the time they could walk.
Tiger turned out to be one of the greatest golfers of all time. Todd Marinovich ended up with a criminal record and a meth addiction.
That kind of life planning for your son is about as reliable as planning for your retirement by buying Powerball tickets. Sure, somebody eventually hits the Powerball, but for most of us the lottery is nothing more than a tax on people bad at math.
Still, the success of Tiger Woods on the golf course following his lost childhood led to an explosion of helicopter dads, and we all know too many of them.
You don’t have to look far to see a potentially good athlete — and person — sabotaged by his overzealous father — or mother, but usually his father. That disruption goes well beyond the field and court, too, since a large percentage of these overzealous sports parents don’t focus nearly as much on the GPA as they do the stat line.
Thus, they set their children up for failure beyond sports. You can probably name a handful of examples you have seen personally off the top of your head.
We even seen those annoying dads cost their sons college scholarships because college coaches don’t put up with fathers like that — unless they’re a once-in-a-generation talent like Lonzo Ball.
The boy who won the 13-and-under state title way back when did not turn out to be that generational talent.
In fact, I never saw or heard of him again after the trophy ceremony. To my knowledge, he never even played high school golf in Montana.
I never saw his name in PGA Tour standings, but I’d like to think that he moved out of state and went on to a successful college golfing career.
I truly hope he overcame his father and had a successful and happy life, on and off the golf course.
There’s probably a better chance, however, that he won the Powerball.
— Bill Foley, who is overdue on the Powerball, writes a column that appears Tuesday on ButteSports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74.