The bumps and crags of the aggregate patio are rough on the backs of my legs as I sit, what I hope is, a reasonable distance from the putting green, watching my daughters listen intently to the golf prof talking them and a small group of tiny humans through the mechanics of a chip shot. I watch as they go from whiffs and tops to solid contact, coming up just short of the target area one moment to sending neon colored balls skittering across the short grass more than fifty feet away the next.

It’s glorious.

I’ve been waiting a long time, in essence the entirety of my daughters’ lives, for this moment. Waiting for them to show an interest in the things I was enthralled with before a career and a mortgage and life knocked on my front door and announced it was moving in. I wonder if this – golf – will be the “thing” that sticks with them as they grow older or if it will be usurped by some other sport (an area in which I’m not much of a resource for beyond golf) or comic books or video games or writing or something else that I simply get the opportunity to spectate and cheer for from the stands or audience or sideline or wherever. I wonder if their “thing” will turn into something more than an avocation, an occupation, or maybe a passion, or possibly given that they are my children, an obsession.

This thought sits with me a beat as I watch my oldest knock one into the middle of the target area, my youngest replicating the small victory a few moments later. If they choose golf as their “thing” I consider what that will look like as they grow up.

It’s a game that twenty years ago, a different version of me could have rattled off stats and history and loads of other relevant/irrelevant details about without batting an eye. Now, I’ve only recently rediscovered the game - something that had once been such an integral part of my makeup, but I'd all but abandoned more than a decade ago - thanks to my daughters. There was a time when I played almost daily, worked in the golf management field, made attempts to shape my undergrad year to support a career in the game, and aspired to live the golf life for the rest of my days. In my downtime, I watched golf movies on repeat in the days before Netflix, read a litany of books on the topic, and became quite possibly the world’s greatest player of PGA Tour ’96 golf on the Sega Genesis.


There have been forays into other golf video games for me in the years since, whether it was the latest annual update of the PGA Tour series including a 15-year run with Tiger Woods’ name on the cover before Rory McIlroy killed the series in his sole outing with his name in the title, or cheeky games I played on my phone including a new mobile game that's been stealing ten or fifteen minutes of my day for the past several weeks, whose graphics are almost too HD for my tired eyes. But PGA Tour ’96 was and will always mean something to me that these other games, games that do an adequate time of entertaining and whiling away minutes or hours, simply can’t.

It’s a game that we played in the basement rec room of our house after my oldest brother moved back in after his divorce, it’s the game I could always manage to beat him at – my sweet pixelated revenge for countless Madden beat downs and slugs to my arm whenever I’d take any kind of lead in 16-bit hockey or football or baseball, PGA Tour ’96 was the game I spent countless hours playing, often late into the next morning, trying to get my swing timing down to an art form that almost allowed me to ace any par three a good chunk of the time, watching a small cluster of white pixels soaring through blue. It was the game that I’d play on weekends home from college, when and where I was struggling with the nuances of independence and a burgeoning adulthood.

It was staring at that grainy television screen where I tried to forget about my mother and step-father’s divorce, the death of my father, and then the death of my mother, the struggles of campus compounded by something heavier in my heart and head. It was where I found sanctuary after I’d moved back home, going to school full-time while working full-time, my then girlfriend/now wife completing her own studies half a state away in the days before FaceTime or texts or even unlimited mobile minutes. PGA Tour ’96 was what I clung to when I left the golf industry because it was too transient, my way of saying I was too scared to pursue the opportunities laid out before me. And then one day it wasn’t.

Somewhere along the way, the Sega got packed up and along with it PGA Tour ’96 and I finally addressed the loud banging at the door. Life pushed me aside and kicked its feet up onto the couch, and I let it. Eventually, I welcomed it, and maybe even offered it a beverage. We’ve become chummy and I don’t think there is much I would change about what’s happened from the day I tore the shrink wrap off that cartridge container to the one where it got packed in a box and vacated my attention, to the years since, leading up to now.


My daughters’ faces light up as the golf pro announces everyone has won a jar ball from the shop, their minds turning over the possibilities of brand and color before they’ve even seen the selection inside. I can’t help but smile, maybe this will be their “thing,” maybe it will be just a game, maybe it or some variation of what it could come to mean twill stick with them as they meet life head on, bold and brave and ready to take on what life has in its luggage, or the next dog leg hole, or someone else’s initials on the high score screen. They’re ready to play.

Campbell McInally writes, most often about golf, but sometimes other things. They are working on a novel, it reads a bit like a mix tape between Elizabethtown and Tin Cup, but better (or at least one hopes).