Game Changers

What I Learned About Golf and Life from My Father

By Abby Parsons, PGA
Published on

Tom Parsons, PGA and his daughter Abby Parsons, PGA.PGA of America

Everyone says that I am following in my dad’s footsteps now that I am a PGA Professional, but it is because of him that I am making my own footprints. 
I grew up in Pinehurst, North Carolina. A place where touching a golf club is inevitable. My dad was the Director of Golf at National Golf Club (now Pinehurst #9), there are 40+ golf courses in the county, and I had two brothers who loved the game. When people hear this, they think I had to have started playing competitive golf by the time I could walk.
Because of my father, Tom Parsons, this was not the case.
I played every other sport known to man as a kid. Soccer, hockey, softball, tennis, even football. Yet, no golf. Every once in a while I would dink around on the golf course with my dad and brothers, having fun in bunkers and finding the biggest pinecone possible. 
I would beg my dad to let me participate in the summer golf camps at National Golf Club with my brothers and he would keep saying, “not yet.” For some reason, that man knew exactly when I should start playing golf, and he was dead set on it.  
By the time I was 12-years-old and heading into middle school, I wanted to play for the golf team. Golf was the ONLY sport you could try out for as a 6th grader, and I was obsessed with sports at the time. I begged my dad to let me start playing golf so I could compete, and he finally gave in. 
Summer before my 6th grade year I played in my first-ever golf tournament. With a lot of practice leading up to the event, I had no idea what to expect. 
I won with my dad on the bag. I shot an impressive 40-something for 9-holes, but I won. From there, my little competitive heart was hooked. 
I remember I started on a par 3 with a 6-iron in my hand. I was so nervous and so excited, it felt like I chugged a gallon of soda before teeing off. The second I hit my shot, I ran to the green. It was my first tournament, I didn’t know that was not normal. My dad eventually caught up to me, handed me my putter and said “I’m just as excited as you, but let's just walk the course.”
By the age of 14 I was helping my dad teach the summer camps I begged to participate in. By 15 I was scoring strictly in the 70’s, by 16 I had a hole-in-one and an albatross, and by 17 I was at signing day with my family, scribbling my autograph on a piece of paper for my full scholarship at a Division I college golf program. 
My dad was by my side through it all. I always get emotional talking about my father and how he has shaped my golf game, career and life. Most of our relationship was built on a golf course. And because of this, I can never find myself to leave the golf world.
When he would watch me play in golf tournaments, he would always clap for me, no matter how good or bad the shot was. He knows how hard golf is, he knows I did not mean to hit a bad shot, and he knows how exciting a good shot can be. After every round he would let me vent or celebrate, and he would always be positive no matter what. 
Because of him, I have a motto with my students: “There is no positive to being negative.”
I have seen the effects of being negative on your kids who play golf, and I am the effect of being positive on your kid who plays golf. 

My dad was by my side through it all. I always get emotional talking about my father and how he has shaped my golf game, career and life."

I loved golf more than anything at a young age, and I still do because of this,  
12-year-old Abby would watch my dad give lessons, give speeches in front of major crowds before or after an event, mingle with members, and so much more. He loved every second of it, and so did I.
When I was in college, my family moved to Minnesota to shorten my dad’s golf season. I would work for him in the golf shop, help with tournaments, clinics, and merchandise during the summers. It felt natural to me, and it was easy to work for my idol. 
Now, I am writing this from my desk at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin where I am the 2nd Assistant Golf Professional. My first year I was an intern, my second year I was an Assistant Golf Professional, and now here I am. I would not be here if it weren’t for my dad. 
Last year, I brought my dad and some other family members out to the Straits Course to play less than a month before the Ryder Cup. The grand stands were up, the energy was high, and it was sunny and 75. It was one of those rounds I will never forget. My dad told me he was proud of me, and I thanked him for helping me get here. 
Tom Parsons is the best PGA Professional I know, but I may be biased. Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there, but to my dad: I hope you enjoy the 657th golf shirt that I am sending to you in the mail. Thank you for everything.