MONROE—Parents watch hopefully. They look at their offspring and wonder what decision they will make. They offer a little bit of advice. Sometimes it’s met with an ‘I agree.’ or a ‘why?’ or even an ‘I know.’
It’s a microcosm of parenthood. The parents of competitors on the North Georgia Junior Golf tour get to experience the small picture of the natural progression of teaching their children lessons and then watching them put those lessons into action all the while cheering (quietly) for their success.
This happens as many of the competitors under the age of 13 can have a caddie to walk the course with them at each NGJG tournament.
Most of the caddies are parents, though sometimes there are cousins, brothers or friends filling in. For the most part, family leads the way. NGJG executive director Chris Manzi feels the family atmosphere is one of the most unique things about the tour and the sport of golf. Families migrate to their corners and spaces in crowed gyms and yell from the bleachers.
Whether its advice or cheers they have to be weeded out from the fray that comes when athletes are between the lines.
“It’s the one sport that you can have your caddie out there and it can be a parent that’s out there with you during the competition,” Manzi said. “If they play basketball your parents are watching and they may be yelling at you from the stands. You’re not out there. The family aspect is huge for us.”
Many of the older golfers that play the tour regularly have been doing it since they were youngsters learning how to play. Seeing their parents walk the course with them over the years has helped the tour and the families involved create a community.
“We have parents coming out there just to watch the kids and we have them as caddies for the younger kids and it gives them a chance to be in the competition,” Manzi said. “It really is a family atmosphere. A lot of these people get to know each other. They’re repeat players. They may play 15 or 20 tournaments a year. You see the same people. It becomes a little bit of a social gathering out there where you see someone before the round and you chat and catch up. To have dad out there with his daughter or mom out there with her son right there is a huge element to why so many people enjoy playing in these tournaments.”
As much as parents feel they can teach their children about life and the game, walking a golf course has taught some of them balance in being a parent.
A day on the golf course is a long time. Being in an argument makes a potential good day a long and dismal day. Some of the best memories have taken place on a golf course for 11-year-old Josey Bufford and her father Bryan Bufford.
“Some of our best memories are on a golf course,” Bufford said. “It’s a beautiful setting and it’s a beautiful day. We’re in a beautiful area surrounded by beautiful homes and nature. To spend the day together is great. You’ve also got to look the flip side of it. If you butt heads all day it just makes it rough, so we’ve got to find a way for both of us. She’s the one participating and she’s holding the club. There is a fine line between being there and supporting her and being there and aggravating her.”
At 13-years of age players are no longer allowed caddies and for parents it can feel a little like sending their children off into the world.
“You train them up and we can only hope they make the best decisions when they grow up and leave the house because of the training and because of the time spent together and hopefully because of the memories we made,” Bufford said. “Once they have to carry life themselves or carry the clubs themselves, it’s the same thing, you’ve got to make sure they make the right choices.”