Karzmer: Hugs for losses, encouragement for others a recipe for mothers

Two years ago this week, I wrote my favorite column. It was my first Mother’s Day piece.

I never really knew how to explain why that column was so special to me until last fall when I went to the Boardman Hall of Fame Induction ceremony. My friend Jesse Potter verbalized the thought just right during his induction speech: “The only thing better than making a great memory with someone is having the opportunity years later to tell them how much that memory means to you.”

What a great statement.

This year is even more special for me because, for the first time, I get to tell my wife, Beth, just how wonderful of a mother she is. Our daughter is only 6 months old, but I can already tell that my wife was destined to be a great mom.

But this is a golf column. So I want to use my remaining space to highlight a very special mom who knows a thing or two about raising a good golfer. Her name is Christine Terlesky.

Christine’s story has been well-documented — she has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Here is the story I wanted to tell — a mom’s viewpoint of raising one of the world’s best junior golfers.

For those of us who went to Boardman and remember watching Ron Moschella and his daughter Christine Terlesky coach the Spartans girls basketball team, I was certain of the overall message I was going to hear — competitiveness, practice, hard work, intensity, win.

I was prepared for that. And I would have been fine writing that piece. But then we talked.

And 20 minutes later, I had to sit back and reassess. Let me just say this — the Terleskys just get it. Together, Christine and her husband, Brian, have three children — Brian Jr. is 14, Tyler is 9 and Emma is 5.

Brian Jr. (“B”) is literally one of the best 14-year-old golfers In the world. Brian started golfing at 2 by mimicking his dad’s chipping. Smartly, Brian Sr. knew that there were a few swings out there better than his own for Little B to copy. Within two year,s he was copying Tiger Woods’ swing and making pars at Mill Creek Par 3.

By the age of 4, all he wanted to do was golf. He watched golf, practiced golf, played golf, talked golf. I can attest to this, because it was around this time when I first met B. I think he was 4 or 5 when he walked up to me and said: “You’re Jonah? I’m going to break all of your records at Boardman.”

I liked him from the start.

But as a parent, Christine said their focus was on the enjoyment of the game. They pulled Brian back at times just to make sure he continued to enjoy the game and not get burnt out. Brian Sr. did some research and helped create a little practice schedule that kept B on track while keeping the game fun. A decade later, Brian Sr. is still B’s coach, so it’s clear something there works.

Tournaments started when he was 6. That summer, he finished second at the U.S. Kids’ World Championships in Pinehurst, N.C. And he’s been winning ever since — world champion at 10, third place last year. And I can’t tell you how many hundreds of tournament victories he has..

My question for Christine — what role did she play in this dynamic? How did this fiercely competitive former athlete and coach push her son to get better?

Her answer: “My role was to give him hugs when he lost.”

It’s funny how sometimes the most basic and important answer can also be surprising to hear.

It was about this point in the conversation that I remembered Jesse’s quote. I realized that I’m not going to report anything new on Brian’s victories or on Christine’s health.

But I did decide that on this day to recognize special moms, maybe we can all just share in the enjoyment Christine displayed sharing her memories of family and golf.

There was the time Christine was so proud of Brian in defeat. He was 6. He needed to birdie the last hole to tie the leader. And his approach shot came up short in the water. And even though he knew he had just lost the tournament, he took his drop, finished the hole with his head held high, and proceeded to shake hands and congratulate the winner on the last green.

Or the time that Grandpa Moschella caddied for him. Somehow, Grandpa Moshella is always able to joke with B and keep him calm. She laughed recalling how the two of them were chest bumping their way around the course as B made six birdies in a row.

Or just last summer when the whole family went to PGA National in Palm Beach, Fla. Christine walked all 18 holes each day and watched Brian finish third in the Optimist International Championships.

I asked about advice to other moms with junior golfers.

“If they show an interest, give them the opportunity,” she said. “Encourage them. Set realistic goals. And support hard work. Golf is great.

“It’s a lifelong sport. It teaches kids how to be honorable. How to respect opponents. How to admire opponents. There’s no trash talk in golf. It’s good for kids to learn a sense of honor.”

I asked Christine what her long-term dreams are for Brian in golf.

“I just hope he doesn’t feel a lot of pressure,” she said. “I want him to enjoy it. A good high school career. A college scholarship and get his education paid for. That’s what we’re shooting for right now.”

For additional information on ways you can help Christine and her family, visit www.chipinforchris.com.

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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