LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON

From Chicken Soup for the Golfer's Soul The Second Round

Like Father, Like Son

Like many fathers and sons, Bob and Dave like to play an occasional round of golf together when they can find the time. Nothing serious: Ten bucks a hole; bonuses for birdies and “polies” (approach shots that come to rest within a flagstick-length of the hole); optional presses whenever you’re steamed—pretty much the same kind of convivial game fathers and sons enjoy in every part of America. The competition is fun, sure. But it’s the being together that really matters. Because of career commitments and travel and all the other complications of being two working stiffs, they don’t have a chance to see each other as much as they like. Even though they’re in the same line of work, both master practitioners of the same profession, Bob and Dave’s paths cross with depressing rarity. Like so many fathers and sons in our increasingly turbocharged world, they communicate mostly electronically, over the phone or—and this is one of the benefits of doing what they do—the television.

So when these two fellows do come together on the links, every moment counts.

When they arrive at the golf course, filled with the same kind of heightened anticipation most dads and sons feel before they’re about to display their game to the most important male in their life, the conversation usually goes something like this:

Dad: “How many strokes am I getting today?”

Son, scoffing: “None.”

Dad: “All right, fine. What tees do you want me to play?”

Son, indicating the back markers: “The same as me, of course.”

Dad, pleading: “You may not be aware of this, Son. But the old guys? We don’t play these tees. We start a little closer to the hole.”

Son, resting his hand on Dad’s shoulder: “You got your freakin’ name on your bag, don’t you? Quit your crying, and play some golf.”

These days, Bob, who is one of the longest hitters you’ve ever seen for a guy in his fifties, is about fifteen yards shorter than his son off the tee. But as old Pops likes to remind his precocious kid, the game of golf is not merely a driving distance contest. And every now and then he proves it to young Dave. “There are days I make him dig into the wallet, ” Bob says proudly. “And, man, he’s as tight as can be. It kills him!”

Bob laughs heartily. “It doesn’t happen all the time. I’m not ashamed to admit it: He’s definitely got the best of me these days. But you know what?” he says, smiling contentedly. “It’s pretty cool to be able to compete with the number-two player in the world. And to know he’s your son.”

Bob and David Duval are both touring professional golfers. They both crisscross the United States in search of birdies and the monster paychecks that accompany them. They are both winners on their respective Tours.

And they are father and son.

Fathers try to teach their sons well, and watch with pride and contentment as their boys blossom into the men Dad hoped they would be.

Fathers serve as role models for their blooming offspring, idealized examples of the fully realized adult man young sons hope to become. Fathers show the way, and sons try earnestly to follow.

Sons try to make their fathers proud. Sons try to learn their fathers’ lessons well. Sons hope to live up to their fathers’ guiding example.

Which is all to say that Bob Duval, professional golfer, Senior Tour champion, and, yes, father, is in the peculiar and enviable position of having a son who has become the man his old dad hoped he would. And then much more.

David Duval, PGA Tour superstar, is one of the most famous golfers on the planet, a stylish, enigmatic athlete who has at times been capable of dominating his sport more completely than anyone but Tiger Woods.

Bob Duval has finished in the magic Top-31 his last three campaigns on the Senior Tour.

David Duval earns multimillions in both prize money and product endorsements. He travels the country in a private jet. He cannot go anywhere near a golf course without being mobbed by autograph-seeking fans.

Bob Duval earns a healthy six-figure income. He flies commercially. Only friends and family members recognize him.

David Duval is Bob’s son. But that’s not how the world sees it.

“No, David used to be Bob’s kid, ” Bob Duval tells me, chuckling at the thought. “Now I’m definitely David’s dad.” He thinks for a moment.

“Everything has sort of flipped around, ” Bob Duval says. “The father has become the son.”

We’re sitting on the back deck of Bob’s Jacksonville Beach home. With Buddy, Bob’s faithful dog patrolling for lizards and the ocean crashing into the shore just a wedge away, it’s a perfect afternoon to reflect on what it means to be a dad. And not just any old dad—though dads of any sort are cherished by their sons—but a member of the Senior Tour dad, and the father of a PGA Tour superstar dad. “I remember when it happened, ” Bob recalls. “It was David’s first time being in contention down the stretch as a pro on the PGA Tour—and my first cigarette in several years! I was so nervous. He was battling with Peter Jacobsen at Pebble Beach. I remember having an overwhelming sense of pride—and it just got bigger when the phone didn’t stop ringing for two hours, even after he finished second. At that point, in the eyes of a lot of people, he stopped being my kid and I became ‘David’s Dad.’”

Bob Duval doesn’t say this with even the faintest trace of bitterness or remorse. He says it like a proud papa.

“I mean, my son chose the same path, the same business, as old dad. I couldn’t be prouder. I don’t think any dad could be prouder, ” Bob Duval says, smiling.

As if on cue, the phone rings. It’s David, who lives a little ways down the road, in Ponte Vedra. Wants to know what time they’re meeting this afternoon, for a round of golf. And if they’ve got a tee time arranged.

For some reason this thought amuses me immensely: David and Bob Duval showing up at a nearby golf course, wondering if, perhaps if it wasn’t too much trouble of course, if they might, you know, hop on to the 1st tee? And then I realize: Today they’re just a father and son looking to have an impromptu round of golf together.

And that’s pretty sweet.

Michael Konik

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