THE FRONT ROW with MARK NELKE: Catching up with dad on Father’s Day ... sort of

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There were two times you could count on dad taking a nap — on Sunday afternoons, and during the sermon. But he always knew when to wake up.

A good Father’s Day was getting up early to play 18 holes with dad and brother Steve at Sun Dance or Wandermere or Esmeralda, then home for lunch cooked by mom, then watching the final round of the U.S. Open.

These days, all that’s left is the Open on TV — on a station that wasn’t even around back when dad was around.

Life happens.

But if there were a way to catch up ...

Dad: Is Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame yet?

Me: No dad, sorry, I know he was your favorite player, Charlie Hustle, and all that. But he’s still banned for betting on baseball — I know that happened after you watched him.

Dad: Do you guys still play Sun Dance on Sunday mornings?

Me: No. Sadly, they closed down that golf course after last season — they’ll probably put up a bunch of houses.

It’s funny how golf has changed since we started playing — those early years in Salt Lake, where we would call up to get a tee time and you could hear the guy in the pro shop groan when we told him we just wanted to play nine holes. They wanted that 18-hole revenue. Now, with fewer people playing golf these days, they have ad campaigns on TV saying it’s OK to “just play nine.”

(Sun Dance was one of dad’s favorite courses. It had plenty of tree-lined fairways, but sometimes that was a good thing — the trees were often tall enough to knock down errant tee shots and keep them in your fairway.

I think dad also liked the course because it was flat, and suited him walking with a pull cart.

I think he was also proud that Steve would eventually become an assistant pro there.

One year, during a round in late September, dad parred the final hole, the par-4 18th. It’s always nice to par (or birdie) your final hole — especially as the golf season winds down.

For us, that par meant a lot more a couple of weeks later.)

Me: Hey dad, these days, instead of being buried, you could have requested human composting!

(Dad was always quick with a clever response. One night, after we got home from dinner following Saturday night Mass, I turned on the TV — you actually had to physically turn on the TV in those days — and proudly proclaimed, “Hey, the NHL playoffs are on.”

Dad’s response: “Here’s a quarter. Call somebody who gives a S#%@.”

On this occasion, however, he simply shot me a glance as he flipped hamburgers on the barbecue we had on the back patio, as our cat, Sam, started digging a hole in the garden in the back corner of our back yard. Moments later, a small rock whacked against the wooden fence just past where the cat was. Sam looked up, then went back to digging.

I’m not sure how my dad would have felt about human composting. Though I’m pretty sure he would have been in favor of cremation — of the cat, especially that one afternoon when dad came home from work and found that Sam had made a mess on mom and dad’s bedspread.

Then dad went back to his barbecueing, occasionally glancing down inside the dog house nearby where Casey, our wiener dog (naturally!) was stockpiling pine cones collected from the back yard. Some had become chew toys.)

Me: Hey dad, remember that park where we went to Expo ’74 right after we moved up here? Spokane is finally getting around to cleaning it up, more than 40 years later ...


(I snuck a glance at him. It was nap time. By the time he woke up, the golf tournament was heating up).

Dad: Is Arnie still playing?

Me: No, dad, he died in 2016 at age 87.

(Dad liked Arnold Palmer. Part of it was Arnie’s personality, part of it was his go-for-it playing style. Part of it might have also been Arnie’s button-down cardigan sweaters, which looked like some of the ones dad used to wear. Heck, I remember wearing button-down sweaters to Catholic school. Hail, Arnie!)

Me: Jack (Nicklaus) is still around. He finished with 18 majors. He won the Masters at 46. Tiger won the Masters this year for his first major in 11 years.

Dad: Tiger what?

Me: Tiger Woods. His given name was Eldrick.

Dad: Did he give it back?

Me: Sort of. Tiger was his nickname, and he changed it to his real first name when he was old enough to do so. He’s only three majors behind Jack. For a while it looked like he was going to pass him with no problem.

Dad: What happened?

Me: Tiger was doing really well — 14 majors in 12 years. Then his wife found out he was messing around, and took a 9-iron to his car. Imagine that!

Dad: Hope she used enough club.

Mark Nelke is sports editor of The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2019, or via email at Follow him on Twitter@CdAPressSports.

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