A perfect example of this was the promise he made to me when I got my first handicap. The promise was that if I got my handicap to single digits he would buy me a new set of Pings and take me to Gainborough to have them fitted. In the UK the Ping factory is in Gainborough and at the time they were the gold standard in club fitting. It was the promise of an adventure and one that I worked every spare minute to achieve.
When I say every spare minute, I meant it. Often in the winter when it would get dark shortly after school finished my dad would pick me up and we would drive to the course just to hit balls for 5 minutes until it too dark to see.
I would practice my chipping in the living room of our house, chipping from in front of the TV onto the sofa. It wasn't far maybe 4 yards but right behind the sofa was a glass cabinet. My poor mum and dad must have been having fits at every lob shot I tried.
Then there was putting in my bedroom. I drew a line on the carpet with a permanent marker so I could practice making a perfect stroke. Often I would do this to the small hours of the morning. That line is still there to this day. It reminds me of how far I have come and how lucky I was to have such understanding parents.
I reached my goal of a 9 handicap by the time my 15th birthday came around. So as promised my dad booked a club fitting for me. My appointment was for first thing in the morning. Rather than spending money for a Bed and Breakfast dad decided to make the drive up and back to Gainsborough in 1 day. It was about a 4 hour drive so we set off at 3 in the morning. This was to make sure we didn't hit any traffic and had time for the odd delay along the way. My father hated to be late and often we would arrive 2 hours early because of it. I never minded this and I actually think it was a good habit for me to get into.
We did the usual stop at a motorway service station for bacon sandwiches and mugs of tea before our arrival at the factory. I have to say I didn't know what to expect but was floored by the amount of equipment I saw in the fitting room. It wasn't like a fitting is today. I have been very lucky to go to the Callaway facility in Carlsbad. The cameras, the trackman, the data that get produced is mind blowing. But back then when I was at Ping it was about hitting a club on a board that left a black smudge on the sole of the iron to determine the lie angle. My color dot was orange. The right shaft was established and the order was sent in. I actually picked my clubs up that day. which was perfect as we then went to play golf around Gainville golf course that afternoon.
I remember feeling so proud to be seen with a brand new set of Ping eye 2's. I think I floated around the golf course that afternoon. I have no idea how I played and I honestly can't remember much about the round but I remember the experience of the fitting and the proud feeling of accomplishing a goal.
Dad and I started the journey home, It had been a long day for him driving all the way there, playing golf and now having to drive home. I understood he would be tired so I made it my job to keep him going on the journey home. We stocked up on drinks, normally cokes and plenty of hard fruit candy. If your from the UK you know the kind, they are ones that come in round tins and always have sugar powder on them. We were also partial to cadburys eclairs. The logic being we needed some variety on a 4 hour drive. It wasn't just about the snacks it was about the music, we would play it loud and sing along to the songs we knew. These road trips with my dad became a large part of my golfing life and created many fond memories. I am pretty sure I will write about some of them in later blogs.
I was reliving this trip with my dad the other day and how much fun we had and what a gift it was he gave me. I hadn't stopped to think how much money it had cost him. He let slip that it felt like he had got a second mortgage to get the clubs for me, and that it started a cycle of loading up the credit cards over the summer and paying them off over the winter.
It wasn't long after this I started playing more events all over the country and the harsh reality set in. There wasn't enough money in the Stupples household for 2 people to play golf, at least not at the level I was getting to.
My Father stopped playing golf so I could play. He said he would have to as he had painful ankles and knees from old rugby injury's. He says he didn't miss it at all when he stopped as he was enjoying my golf so much and meeting so many new people all over the country at the courses I was playing events at.
I wish he had been able to keep playing but I know he wouldn't change a thing. It became my job to not only keep him going on long journeys, but to make him proud of me as his sacrifice made my career, my life possible. I wasn't going to give up trying ever. I wasn't going to waste the opportunity my father gave me.
Thank you again, Dad x