Sports

Golf: Analysing the Strained Family Dynamics of the PNC Father-Son Challenge

Ever wondered what it’s like to be the son of an obscenely rich, hugely successful but emotionally distant father? Try watching the PNC Father-Son Challenge, suggests Greg Bruce.

The international golf year ended with the PNC Father-Son Challenge. Before you decry the tournament’s name as more evidence of golf’s sexism, Bernhard Langer nearly played with his daughter last year before she got injured. He thought about having her play this year, but he won with his son last year, so…

The field was made up of a wide cross section of all-time golfing legends and Lanny Wadkins. Every one of them was forced to play with their son, as if that would make up for all the years of childhood they had spent playing in Greensboro and Scotland.

Spectators come to the tournament to see legends like Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino, still out there and giving it a rip, so the tournament to some extent is about nostalgia. But the best reason to watch is to speculate about the inevitable psychological damage vastly successful, rich, famous fathers have had on their children.

It’s impossible to extrapolate from a few post-round interviews to see what that damage might be, but that’s no reason not to try.

Vijay (right) and Qass Singh at the 2012 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club, April 2012. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Vijay (right) and Qass Singh at the 2012 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club, April 2012. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

After the first round of the two-round tournament, Vijay Singh praised his son Qass (pronounced Qass) for his “bombing” drives, while Qass looked on stone-faced, as if he had never forgiven his dad for not buying him a Porsche for his 16th birthday.

Vijay Singh, forever tainted by accusations of cheating in 1985, described by Steve Williams in his recent book as, “the least impressive character I’ve ever come across in golf” – what kind of role kind of role model was he for his son?

Standing next to his smiling dad, Qass couldn’t have looked less pleased to be there. When asked a token question or two, he answered like someone used to avoiding questions.

Vijay kept talking proudly about his son’s drives, like he knew nothing else about him, like he was just taking it on faith that they were even related. Maybe they weren’t. The resemblance between them was as tenuous as the rapport. What must it have felt like for Qass to be playing in his probable father’s shadow after having already lived in it for the past 20 or so years?

Time and again in the post-round interviews, legends of the game tried to find ways to say nice things about their sons, who had probably shown up for one of two reasons: A) It was the first time in years their fathers had offered to take them out, or B) the winners’ cheque was 200 grand.

At the finish of the two rounds, there was a four-way playoff. After a spectacular eagle putt, Lanny Wadkins emerged as the winner, to the amazement of the other players, who had never heard of him.

“It’s me, Lanny Wadkins!” he said. They stared at him blankly. “Former major winner Lanny Wadkins!” he said, increasingly desperate. Still nothing. “All time great Lanny Wadkins?” Jack Nicklaus shook his head sadly. Davis Love III cried.

Lanny Wadkins’ son didn’t care. Lanny Wadkins kissed him on the cheek, very close to his mouth, and you could almost see his son calculating whether that kiss was worth 200 grand. It clearly was. Of course it was. His father was Lanny Wadkins.

 


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