Since my father introduced me to golf as a kid, he and I have spent countless hours on the fairways together. At 14, I was on his bag when he made his first hole-in-one, and a couple of years later he took me to my first major, the 1988 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. Through the years, we’ve competed as partners in casual matches and best-ball tournaments, winning our share. And we’ve made a handful of memorable early spring golf getaways to Florida. Although family and work commitments limit my course appearances these days, I still count a round with my dad as treasured time.
In the weeks leading up to Father’s Day, I read Walking With Jack, a new memoir that chronicles another father-son relationship in which golf plays a big part. With his son a promising player at the University of Toledo, author Don J. Snyder embarks for St. Andrews, where he spends the summer of 2008 learning to caddie in hopes of one day toting his son’s bag on a professional tour. Although the Old Course caddiemaster shuns him because he’s a writer, Snyder instead learns the ropes at Kingsbarns Golf Links.
After soaking in the wisdom of local caddies and subjecting his late-50s body to the rigors of lugging strangers’ bags 36 holes a day in Scottish weather, Snyder plans to return the next summer but reconsiders after learning in the spring that his son, Jack, had flunked off the Toledo team.
To show faith in his son and his caddying dream, however, Snyder returns to St. Andrews in 2010. He spends another season looping, this time on the Old Course and its Links Trust siblings, thanks to a recommendation from a fellow caddie. And a little more than a year after returning from his second season in Scotland, Snyder travels to Houston to caddie for Jack on the Adams Golf Pro Tour.
Although Jack struggles during his winter-long Texas stint, the experience proves enlightening for father and son. Despite Jack’s love of the game and talent for it, he comes to realize that pursuing the PGA Tour dream is not for him. And although that realization is hard for his father to accept at first, given the lengths he’s gone to become a competent caddie, Snyder ultimately emerges grateful for having spent a memorable winter on Jack’s bag.
More than just a golf story, Walking With Jack is a thought-provoking read for any parent. Although the effort Snyder expends to fulfill a dream with his son might seem extreme, it is by no means futile; through his journey, he discovers serenity in accepting Jack’s life choices gracefully, even though they will take the son down a different path than his father envisioned.