Some people only need one introduction to golf—I needed two.
Uncle Joe played Dyker Beach Golf Course in Brooklyn. I could spend paragraphs describing the crowds at Dyker Beach, but here’s all you need to know: Brooklyn’s population is 2.64 million. It has 2 golf courses.
So how did Uncle Joe get to play Dyker? My Honest Abe of an uncle cut a hole in the boundary fence near the 3rd hole. He and his buddies would patiently wait for a break in the steady stream of players, and then . . . they’d jump in.
Uncle Joe told me about this the day he came to our house to teach me, his 12-year-old niece, how to play. Hearing his passion for the game that day makes Uncle Joe the very first “really crazy about golf” person I met. I didn’t yet realize: “like uncle, like niece.”
How did the lesson go? After hitting 20 balls, I told him I just wanted to play softball. What was I thinking?
The golf introduction that stuck came from Lloyl Egger. I was 20 years old and had just started my first full-time job. I was young and green and wanted to fit in. One day, Mr. Egger, one of the supervisors, said, “Hey, Patty, do you know you look like Nancy Lopez?”
I said, “Who’s she?”
My first golf faux pas (in my defense, she was still an amateur at the time). But, thankfully, Mr. Egger didn’t seem to care and invited me to join him and a few other employees for 9 holes after work. Eventually, I would become a regular part of that after-work foursome. I was no longer green. I was fitting in.
Mr. Egger became my golf guru, but not because of his technical knowledge. Sure, he spent some time teaching me how to actually golf: how to grip a club, how to tee it up, how to swing. But the rest of the time he spent on golf’s honor and etiquette, the respect we show for the game and each other.
We’re the officials—we keep our own scores—so it’s up to us to know the rules and abide by them. Mr. Egger showed me how to keep pace, mark a ball, fix a ball mark, tend a flagstick, replace a divot, where to stand and when to be quiet. Most players learn all of this over their first 100 rounds. I learned them all from the beginning because they were important to Mr. Egger. He had a reverence for golf, changing my life forever.
My Uncle Joe and Mr. Egger were ahead of their time. Neither made the assumption that because I was a girl I wouldn’t love golf. I grew up before Title IX changed sports for girls in high school . . . but lucky for me, I had my own equal-opportunity boosters—two men who saw me only as a golfer.