Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

For Many on P.G.A. Tour, Fatherhood Trumps Golf

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

For Many on P.G.A. Tour, Fatherhood Trumps Golf

Article excerpt

Golfers today are not afraid to drop out a tournament when a new child is born or to bring their families on the course to celebrate victory.

Half a dozen people were inside the ropes with Ryan Polzin, the head professional at Royal Oaks Country Club in Houston, as he played his final practice round before making his tour debut at the P.G.A. Championship on Thursday.

Polzin's followers Wednesday included his 7-year-old son, Brody, who scampered up the fairways while the two Royal Oaks members who had volunteered to mind him gave chase. Welcome to men's professional golf, where children (and the people assigned to watch them) have replaced swing and mind gurus in the new entourage.

Who needs a sports psychologist -- well, besides perhaps the 24- year-old defending champion, Rory McIlroy, who in golf years is not much older than a child -- when there are sons or daughters present to lend instant perspective?

There is nothing like a cherub's gummy smile to wipe away the day's disappointment or accentuate a winner's good fortune. The new father Hunter Mahan, who played nine holes Wednesday with Tiger Woods, took his smartphone out of his left back pants pocket several times between shots to gaze at photos and videos sent by his wife, Kandi, of their 10-day-old daughter, Zoe.

If anybody could relate to Mahan's new-parent pride, it was Woods, whose smile becomes several hundred watts brighter when he talks about his two children. He didn't mind at all when his victory Sunday at the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio, was upstaged by his 4-year-old son, Charlie, who sweetly sought out his father's arms after Woods's final putt dropped.

When Woods's son nuzzled his face into his father's chest to seek refuge from the cameras, it penetrated Woods's human armor of swing coaches, publicists, psychologists and trainers better than any competitor ever could. "I think that captured him as a human being," said Shaun Micheel, who won the P.G.A. Championship the last time it was held here, in 2003. "I think sometimes people forget that about some of these guys."

Bubba Watson gave the world a peek behind the curtain of invincibility last year when he broke into tears after slipping on his Masters green jacket, later explaining that winning his first major championship was the second-most awesome event of his year after the adoption of his son, Caleb.

Phil Mickelson made some people watching the British Open this year cry when he finished his magical back nine on his final round and fell into a group hug with his wife, Amy, and three children. Asked to pose with the winner's claret jug, Mickelson turned it into a family portrait, and in the process sent a clear message. Victory, however sweet, is no substitute for what is most precious.

The message delivered by Mickelson in those photographs was reinforced by Mahan the following week. …

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