The day arrived and along with my golf bag and clubs, I carried all the associated anticipation, excitement and butterflies I normally experienced before competition. It remains a highlight in my golf career. By virtue of a top ten finish in the South Carolina Junior Championship, I qualified to play in the first annual Georgia/South Carolina Junior Team Match competition.
Unknown at the time, Georgia fielded a stellar team. Two Georgia players went on to win two of golf’s majors, the PGA championship and the Masters. One other played the PGA Tour and the others became accomplished amateur players. I was the only South Carolina player to remain in golf. It’s a nice history, but not the story.
The match was held at Houndslake Country Club in Aiken, South Carolina, an hour from my home. Mom and dad accompanied me. Dad caddied for me but was not allowed to give me advice nor was I allowed to ask him.
Particular in my memory, the match reached the fourteenth hole, a downhill par-five, an easy three-shotter with a lake lurking around the second shot. The lake guarded the green against a risk-taking, reward-seeking player deciding to go for it in two. Having played a sufficient tee shot, I stood at the moment of decision. Down in the match, I needed a birdie.
Remembering, time slows in my memory.
My movements possessed a hesitation replete with indecision and desire for advice. Dad stood calmly while I fidgeted and fretted. We traded eye contact and my body language begged for an answer from him. None was forthcoming. We knew the rules. From this instant, my memory echoes.
Symbolism and crossroads root deep in reality.
There, my father stood, loving, supporting, allowing. And there, I stood treading in all the free will allotted me. I drew upon all the resources living inside me, all that had been given to me. I knew, not by some common sense of knowing, beneath the superficial consequences of any decision I made, my father was present. Dependence and freedom played me equally, each with its own allure and reason.
Logic is not wisdom’s only guest. Free will, the seemingly illogical and elusive, extreme edge of loving, a love reaching for joy while risking pain through the giving and receiving, is wisdom’s guest, too. This moment pervaded defining, and anything defined well is defined long. Imprinted on my eternity, this moment with my father present — silent in word — seared its meaning through wisdom’s allowance. I knew my father would always be there, loving, allowing and waiting for my return.
Dad is gone now, but not from me. His presence remains. He lives within me.
I am my father’s son. I returned from where He allowed me to go, the untethered reaches of love.
Someone may ask, “why would God allow this to happen?” Because God lives at the extreme edge of love, too, waiting for our return.
“Those who have ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15, NKJV).
Deck Cheatham has been a golf professional for more than 40 years. He lives with his family in Dalton. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org