When a relative passes off to the next curve along the arc, we are left with sorting and solving. We uncover memories, in the form of keepsakes and mementos. These become gifts back to a time when we were younger, and so were they. Those clouded recollections clarify, and the lens is sharper than it was, even when we lived it through our eyes.
Over the past months, I’ve taken to Instagram to display photos that I’ve been privileged to capture over the past 20 years. Some have been taken at high school golf matches and tournaments, while others were collected at professional and international-level amateur events. Most of the collection fits between those two bookends, and each folio has a story for me to recall.
I remember where I stayed, who accompanied me, the people that I met, and sometimes, the meals that we all consumed. Faces and movements, apparel and equipment, return to me in fits and bursts, and I smile at those moments and days and weeks of my life in golf and beyond. As I deepened my search of an external flash drive, I uncovered a folder from the 2004 US Open at Shinnecock Hills golf club, most of the way out on Long Island.
In 2004, the wider internet and Keurig single-serves were young and fairly unknown. A website like BuffaloGolfer carried weight in the world, because of its existence. K-Cups were about to storm the ramparts of the morning-joe routine. Because we were a golf website, and because John Daken knew a guy at a college across the rail tracks from Shinnecock, we found ourselves in June that year with the greatest access known to golf.
Southampton University (or whatever name it goes by these days) was emptied of students as Fathers Day approached. John and I pulled in to the college at one in the morning on Monday of Open week. Retief Goosen had yet to arrive, but he would depart with an Open trophy among his luggage. John and I drove to where our dorm room ostensibly would be, expecting to park outside and sleep in his minivan. To our surprise, the door was unlocked and open, so we took a liberty and slept in those student beds that evening.
When the sun rose, we began to understand the magic of our accommodations. We were a literal thousand yards from the gate to the golf course. All that we had to do was flash our credentials and cross the bridge. The USGA had reached an agreement with the railway system to create a temporary station at Shinnecock, to discourage nearby and onsite parking. Patrons would ride the rail from as far away as New York City, easing traffic along the Long Island Expressway to the tournament.
After we registered with the dorm patrol and received our keys, we headed across the tracks to collect our permanent id badges. We both had photo and press credentials ah the luxury of those days and were guests in the press tent for a time. We looked at the morning offerings, but what we most wanted was coffee. No pitchers nor pots were to be found, however. We smelled it, but where could it be. It was then that each of us heard, for the first time, the inimitable pop of a K-Cup. Sorcery? Perhaps, but what a way to not waste coffee!
There are many other stories from that week in the Shinnecock hills. What I uncovered in that folder, so deep in the virtual warehouse, was a series of images that John himself shot. As I perused the collection, I knew both that it would end, like any novel, and that I did not want it to. I wanted to know what was important to John, important enough that he would preserve it in a photograph.
John was old-school, but had recently acquired a digital camera. Of course, in the hullabaloo of packing, he left the camera in North Tonawanda. We purchased two disposable cameras at a pharmacy. Imagine the hilarity of watching a marshal tell John that he could not shoot images with his cheap-ass camera, followed by John flashing his press badge. Breathe it in.
Here, then, is my latest (and hopefully, not final) gift from the Travelin’ Duff. The images may be from hot days in June, but they evoke the spirit that we carry into, and away from, the winter holidays.