As I got in the Black Cadillac with black leather interior on a sweltering July morning in Panama City Beach, Florida, my legs burned on the seats and the stale smell of opened Chicken McNugget Barbeque sauce swirled into my nostrils, stimulating my gag reflex. I put my cap on the floor and started to pull my wild, curly hair into a ponytail, tying it with a red ribbon. My father, Glenn R. Funk, the District Attorney General of Nashville, leaped into the driver’s seat with an untucked striped polo and khakis with a mustard stain. Like every summer morning, we were headed to Sharkstooth Golf Club.
This is what my childhood looked like.
Often, I think about what would have happened to me if I had not decided to play golf. When I was ten, my parents took my two younger brothers and me on a trip to Carmel, California. My father was playing Pebble Beach one day, and my mother and I went shopping at the boutiques around the practice green. Inhaling the saltwater air and overlooking the eighteenth green, my heart stopped. I wanted to play golf.
My parents bought me a four-club Nike junior set, and neither one of them thought I was serious about it until I signed up for the Middle School Golf Team. My first match was at a now obsolete course called Through the Green in Franklin, Tennessee, and my father showed up with about ten minutes until my tee time, dressed in a full suit as he had just come from work.
From that moment on, my father came to nearly all of my competitive rounds. On the rare occasion that he was not there, he would follow online or have my mother text him hole-by-hole updates. He lived, ate, and breathed for my golf game.
He particularly enjoyed how almost no one believed that I was actually good. When I was in middle school, he would take me out with his friends and tell them that I was terrible. Because I was an eighty-pound girl who had on a pink skirt, they bought it and would offer to give me a stroke a hole. Knowing better, we would accept, and they would be begging for a renegotiation after I was even par through nine. Using their sexism against them, my dad loved how they pleaded for a new game. My underdog story never got old.
My high school team evolved into a powerhouse by my senior year. We were playing a team that we knew we would beat until I started to get the shanks on the range. A real Tin Cup moment, I became flustered but had no idea how to get rid of them – that is one of the horrors of the shanks: the more you think about them, the harder it is for them to go away. After the first hole, I visibly gave up. When the round was over and I had turned in my scorecard, my father dug into me, furious at my behavior.
That was the thing about him. He never yelled at my scores if I was giving it my all. There was nothing disrespectful about a 100+ if you went through your pre-shot routine and thought about each shot. After that match, he sat me down and made me look him in the eyes, firmly saying, “You do not ever give up on the game.” From that point onwards, I never did.
You see, my father loves the game more than anyone I have ever met before. His favorite activity is spending a Sunday afternoon on the course with me and always exclaiming “Don’t ever count me out” after he pulls off a “hero shot.” Because of him, I celebrate making long putts, winning tournaments, and playing the game. After all, golf is just that: a game. I could think of no one better to have by my side through its crazy ups and downs than my father, my champion, my competitor, my partner.
Landon Funk is a talented writer based in Los Angeles. Originally from Nashville, Tennessee, Landon went to Princeton University, earning her degree in English and playing on their varsity golf team. She is the author of “No Place that Far:” Splash Mountain’s Plantation Preservation and is a contributor for The Tab, Mic.com, FanBread, and Blasting News. Funk is a certified yoga instructor and specializes in power, trauma, and children’s vinyasa yoga. For further contact, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.