Karzmer: Thanks to golf, ‘Poppa’ lives on

This week, as most of you know by now, is one of golf’s big four weekends.

Not only is it the U.S. Open, but as tradition would have it, it’s also Father’s Day.

Growing up, my father worked hard and sacrificed his time each day to give his children an opportunity to enjoy the game that we loved AND advance our games to the highest level possible.

For me, that meant the opportunity to compete as a junior and collegiate golfer. I was lucky enough to compete on some of the best courses in the country. And to compete against a lot of the golfers we’ll watch on TV this afternoon.

I owe those experiences to the sacrifices my father made. But I would also like to talk about the special relationships I had through golf with my grandfathers.

With Poppa Ford from my mom’s side of the family, I remember Mill Creek Par Three — playing “Rocky Ridge” or “Short Holes” as he used to call it. I remember him teaching me the importance of the short game, the importance of chipping, of putting; of always giving my best. And the importance of having a desire to compete and to win.

As the years went by and my Poppa became less able to walk 18 holes, we got into a routine. After each round, I would call my grandparents’ house. Granny would get on one phone, my Poppa the other. And together we would go over my entire round, shot for shot.

I remember so clearly how excited he would get when I would talk about a short 300-yard par four: “Oh yeah, that’s my kind of hole,” he would say. “Birdie Time Jonah Baby.”

Or how he would say “Rocky Ridge chip” when I would describe a little chip left after missing a green.

I remember Grandpa Karzmer caddying for me in the great junior match play tournament at the Muni. He taught me two very important things: the first was that a 6-iron would never do you wrong. I don’t know why, but he loved his 6-iron. Every time I pulled a 6-iron for a shot, he would remind me, “6-iron is my favorite club. This will be a good one.”

The second was the importance of walking down the fairway with a putter in your hand. As soon as I’d hit the green, the putter would be out. “No better feeling in golf than walking down the fairway with a putter in your hand,” he reminded me more than once.

So these memories are really what golf has given me over the years.

I lost my Poppa, hard to believe now, about a dozen years ago. But today I can still hear him get excited about a short par 4 on the phone.

When I pull a 6-iron for a shot, I still remember Grandpa Karzmer’s fondness for the club. And trust me when I say that once I hit the green, I’ll be walking down the fairway with a putter in my hand.

It’s a special time for my wife and I now because we’re expecting our first child. A daughter, as long as all goes as planned, will be joining us in November.

It’s hard writing this now, but I remember on the last Father’s Day I spent with Grandpa Karzmer, he told me, “I hope that I’m around to tell you Happy Father’s Day when the time comes.”

And even though he’s no longer with us, I know how excited he would be for my wife and I if he were.

So now it’s my father’s time to fill that role.

Hopefully my daughter chooses to play golf. But maybe it will be dance. Or cheerleading. Or speech. Or softball.

But regardless of what she chooses to do, I am certain of two things: If I am able to give her half of the opportunities my father gave me, I will have done a phenomenal job as a father.

And if she is blessed with just a fraction of the memories spending time with her grandfathers that I have with mine, then what a blessing that would be for her and her grandpas.

Jonah Karzmer is a former golf professional who writes a Sunday golf column for The Vindicator. In his spare time he sells commercial insurance for Huntington Insurance and loves getting feedback on his weekly columns via email at jonah.karzmer@huntington.com

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