Masuda: Lessons learned from the Par 3 Contest
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Dash Day. Samantha Els. Jacob Immelman. Layla Lynn.
On a day that celebrates the likes of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, it is four unexpected faces that altered not only my view on golf, but also on what is most important in life.
Winning a green jacket is a milestone, one that will put you in history books and grant you countless hours on television for a lifetime.
Watching your child yell, "Da-da! Da-da!" as you walk down the ninth fairway during the Par 3 Contest at Augusta National, now that's an accomplishment.
For the 30 seconds watching Dash Day try to scramble out of his mother's arms to greet his father, I have never wanted to be Jason Day more – and the man has been in some of golf's greatest situations.
PHOTOS: Masters Par 3 Contest, 2014
See the family atmosphere that has helped make the Par-3 Contest part of Augusta National's rich tradition during Masters week!
But the thought of golf, or the tee ball he had just hit, didn't matter to me.
"I had a lot of fun with my little fella. He only lasted a couple of holes, but he came back on the ninth hole, which was good," said Day, whose eyes lit up just talking about his 21-month-old.
. . . Have I cherished enough of my own son's moments? Have I had enough of the "Da-da! Da-da!" moments? . . .
Layla Lynn won't even remember her first trip around Augusta National, as the infant walked around with her daddy, David Lynn, strapped to mommy's tummy all day. A year after choosing not to take a late tee time to play the Par 3 Contest, Lynn said it was one of his top priorities when he arrived at the tournament to secure an early tee time so that he could make the loop with his family.
"Amazing. Just amazing time with her being out there," said Lynn. "We're going to have to get some photos and make them up for her so that she can look back and cherish this moment."
. . . Have I spent too much time behind the camera instead of in front of it with my son? . . .
Of course, Lynn might not have to worry about that if he earns return trips to these hallowed grounds; just ask 14-year-old Samantha Els. The golfing world has watched her grow up in front of its eyes, with 2014 marking the third time she toted her dad's bag – that father being 2012 Open Championship winner Ernie Els.
"It's a bonding experience," said Samantha, a stellar tennis player in her own right.
A reporter later would ask her why everyone seems to like her dad – and her answer is more valuable than a Claret Jug.
"I don't know, he's just my dad."
From a teenager, that is the ultimate compliment, and Ernie seems well aware of that. He brought the conversation back to her multiple times during his interview, even smiling after revealing that she provided some tough love on the course Wednesday.
"I could have told you it wasn't going to move that much," Samantha quipped to her father after missing a couple of early putts.
. . . Have I pushed my son to be what I want him to be instead of allowing him to follow his own dreams? Is there such a thing as shared dreams? . . .
Jacob Immelman, son of 2008 champion Trevor Immelman, isn't shy about his dreams, revealing that he has no interest in a golf career – he wants to play basketball. Considering he's been wearing the white jumpsuit of a Masters caddie since before he was 2, that came as a bit of a surprise.
Yet, it's the father-son time that pushes the 7-year-old to spend more than two hours walking around a golf course.
"They just love this week," Immelman said, with both his son and daughter a bit fidgety at his feet.
. . . Am I my son's hero? Does he want to be me, the man, instead of me, the professional? . . .
Yet, despite the questions that went flying through my head Wednesday, somehow there was a ton of clarity. We all strive to be great in our careers, from winning golf tournaments to Pulitzer prizes.
But the only place that being great truly matters is when your child looks at you and simply sees Dad.
That's truly the tradition unlike any other.