When I was little, I loved playing golf with my father and his friends. But at the age of 7, I didn't have any friends who did too. I gradually lost interest. My grandfather, on the other hand, loved golf so much that his usually conservative, safe maneuvering of his car would become analogous to that of Dale Earnhardt when he knew he was on his way to the golf course.
As he grew old, he slowly lost the ability to play golf to the extent he wished to play it. He spent many days on the Internet or watching the Rays lose game after game, but he managed not to show how much losing golf was hurting him. He didn't like people feeling bad for him.
But I still remember those days I would spend at my grandparents' house, eating fresh grilled cheese sandwiches in the chair between the two, watching Tiger Woods and Davis Love battle it out on the Golf Channel. My grandfather would turn to me with all the pride in the world and say, "One day, I will be watching you on TV, playing golf." And I would tell him that he would and that I would win every time.
But he never got to. Only two summers ago, right before my freshman year of high school, he passed away.
It was at about that time that a good friend of mine persuaded me to do the summer golf program at First Tee of Tampa Bay. The high school golf team's coach ran the program and its tournaments, and my friend thought that completing the program might give him a good shot at making the high school golf team. Knowing my golf background, he invited me to join him and I did.
I had one problem, though. I didn't have any clubs that fit me. To swing my old ones, I had to assume a back-breaking pose. That's when I got an idea.
I went to my grandparents', or now my grandmother's, house and asked my grandmother if I could use my grandfather's clubs. She said that it was what he would have wanted, and so I gratefully took them. I went to the driving range several times to test them, and I liked each one. But I realized they were not complete. There was a 1-wood but no driver. So my friend gave me a John Daly Hippo driver, and I used it in my first tournament.
As I went to the first tee at Wentworth Golf Club in Tarpon Springs, which is now one of my favorite courses, I used the Hippo. The ball cut way off to the left and was almost lost in the trees. I wound up finishing that hole four strokes over par. The second hole was a behemoth, stretching around a clump of trees, down into a gulley and back up to a sloped green. This tee shot went way right and sliced through the brush. I lost the ball. Again, I finished four strokes over.
On the third hole, I decided to use my grandfather's 1-wood. I made a fearless stroke back and through, and the ball glided as if on the wings of angels. Sailing down the middle, it kept going until it was just 15 yards short of the green. My friend and another kid we played with started to cheer and slap my back.
I wanted to cry.
The Hippo my friend had given me had no heart, no soul. But when I swing my grandfather's clubs, I feel like he is right there swinging with me. Every ball I hit with those clubs soars high above the evergreen fairways, carving the wind pushing against it. Every time I go golfing, I know that my grandfather is with me, playing his favorite sport, doing the very thing that made him the happiest. When I grip the grip, so does he. When I debate over a putt, he gives me the answer.
He always said that he would watch me one day golfing in the elegant fields and rolling hills, shooting between trees and placing shots feet from the hole. In spirit, he does. I don't want the new Callaways or the Nike Sasquatch; I want him and the well-worn clubs that possess his soul and passion for the sport.
Troy Broadbent, 16, begins his junior year in the fall at East Lake High School in Tarpon Springs.