It's cool that the final round of golf's US Open usually falls on Father's Day. What more could a father ask for than an afternoon of watching golf's greatest players fight for one of golf's most prestigious championships. More often than not there are great fatherly stories attached to the winner, whether it be the winner's father waiting for him just off the green of the final hole, or his own children rushing him after he sinks his final putt like little kids do when they are excited to see their dad.
Today, I'm rooting for a particular story that define's Father's Day to me, because it defines fatherhood.
This past Wednesday, the day before the opening round of the US Open, Phil Mickelson attended his daughter's 8th grade graduation in San Diego, California. No big deal, I suppose, until you consider the graduation was in the evening. and he wouldn't arrive back in Philadelphia, the site of the tournament, until 4:30 in the morning on Thursday, just a couple of hours before he was scheduled to tee off. I'm not sure how many people would consider flying across the country and getting a couple of hours sleep before the opening round a great strategy for winning one of golf's major championships, but Mickelson has never been one to care what other people think, especially when it comes to his history of putting his family before golf.
Prior to becoming a father, I would have been one of the people thinking Mickelson's decision to keep a commitment to his daughter was a bad one. You only get so many chances to win a US Open, and at Mickelson's age, the number of legitimate chances are winding down faster than they used to, so winning needs to be the priority.
But I am a father now. And I get exactly where he is coming from. Not only was attending his daughter's graduation a good idea, it was really the only one.
I told a friend the other day who is expecting his first child that being a father is easy if you are ready to put yourself second in everything you do. He gave me a frightened look. I told him it's not as difficult as it sounds. Once that child arrives, you not only feel obligated to be there for them - you want to be.
I realize that's not true of all fathers - it will be for my friend - but there are many kids out there who live with and without fathers who don't want to be with them. I'll never understand that, I guess. I didn't make a decision to want to be around Ian and Elliott. Something took over me the moment I saw each of those two boys arrive in this world and it hasn't remotely let go since. I don't know why that same force doesn't take over every man.
I am grateful I have that feeling. I am equally grateful my dad had that feeling, and continues to have it. Since learning firsthand the stories of so many kids who have grown up fatherless, whether real or for all practical purposes, I have imagined thousands of times what my life would have looked and felt like had I grown up knowing I had a father who didn't want to be around me. Each time I do I come away feeling like I've been granted a miracle. I realize that single gift is the one that millions of kids wish more than any other wish every day of their lives.
I never had to wonder if my dad wanted me. My boys will never have to wonder it. And today, because an 8th grade daughter in San Diego doesn't have to wonder it, I'm pulling for Phil to win one for the dads.