My wife and I went to China to get a daughter. Getting a golfer was a bonus.
Like most adoptive parents – especially those within the close-knit community of families who fly halfway around the world to adopt the abandoned orphans of China – we had no idea what to expect. Throughout the process, which includes mountains of paperwork, home-studies, interviews and mind-numbing interactions with immigration officials, we kept our eyes opened for parents of adopted Asian girls. Would our daughter be like the others we saw? Would she be dainty and demure? And how would she fit into our large, eclectic family?
Turns out, nothing was as we expected.
We picked her up at a camera store in Kunming, a “midsized” Chinese city of 6.8 million people. Nobody told us about the process ahead of time. Our adoption group was ushered into the store where we milled around the disposable cameras for a few minutes until one of the impatient future moms said, “Why are we here?”
Only then did we learn that the orphanage would deliver our children to the aisle near the zoom lenses. Within minutes, a bus full of nannies, infants, and toddlers stopped on the curb. Then, in a perfunctory ceremony that made the DMV look exciting, our daughter, Liza, was plopped on the floor in front of us by a young woman who was gone in seconds.
The poor child reacted as you might expect. She was 16 months old and had never seen a Caucasian person, never flown in an airplane, ridden in a car, eaten Cheerios, or even been in an elevator, all of which we subjected her to in a matter of hours.
Once home she adapted quickly, teaching herself to swim by the end of her first American summer and learning the proper way to attack corn on the cob on the Fourth of July. She also realized that golf was an integral part of our family. So, she dutifully grabbed the shortest club she could find and started making swings.
This was a thrill I didn’t expect. As the father of five sons, I had suffered through dusty Little League games and sat on cold, metal bleachers to watch poorly coached football. None of my boys wanted to play golf. My 22-year-old son (who plays at least three days a week now) told me, “I hated golf when we were kids.”
But I got a second chance. At about age six, Liza started crawling into my lap and saying, “Daddy, can we please go hit golf balls?”
You can guess how many times I said “no.”
She is 11 now, and my wife and I are fully engaged in the junior golf scene. Last summer she won six out of nine events she entered, and this year she has two wins, a second, and a third to her credit.
There are times when I have to temper her competitiveness. When one of her tee shots flew just under 200 yards (a large poke for an 11-year-old girl) she banged her club on the ground and snatched up her tee.
“How can you be upset at that shot?” I asked.
She said, “I was trying to turn it over, but it slid right.”
“Liza, 95-percent of the women who play golf would kill to hit a shot like that.”
She stared at me for a second, and then said, “I don’t play to their standards. I play to mine.”
Such are the travails of raising someone who loves the game. At a local parent-child, my pre-game pep talk involved telling her, “Honey, we’re just here to have a good time. It’s alternate shot. You’re going to miss some shots and so am I, so let’s not worry about it and just have fun.”
She agreed, but that didn’t stop her from trolling the range during warm-ups to check out the competition. Before we teed off she said, “Dad, I know we’re just playing for fun, but we could win this thing.”
I knew we were in trouble when she hit a 7-iron approach to six feet on the first hole, turned to me and said, “You can make that, can’t you?”
We won by nine shots.
Nothing may come of this. Too many children are pushed by their parents into this activity or that. I have no intention of being that dad, and when I become a little too involved in the drama of 11-year-old girls’ golf, my wife reminds me that there isn’t a media center on site.
But having a daughter this passionate about golf has rekindled my interest and motivation in the game. I know now how my father felt when I was 12 years old and waiting for the sun to get high enough to see my opening tee shot. And I appreciate the family bond that is nurtured through the game.
If Liza’s dreams come true she will compete at the next level and the next for many years to come. If they don’t, then she and I will play golf together for the rest of my life. When those are your options, things are pretty good.
July is Family Golf Month, an initiative the PGA of America is promoting through the Play Golf America campaign. To help kick off that program, my daughter and I played with my two oldest sons on July 1.
Liza and I offered to split up, but being 20-something young men, the boys insisted that they could take us. When Liza hit an 8-iron to two feet on 12, we closed them out 8 & 6.
The trash-talk continued well into the evening as we grilled ribs and watched the final minutes of the AT&T National. Life couldn’t get much better. And golf played a big part in that.