Earliest Known Photo of My Father Playing Golf: 1927

My father trying golf in 1927, with a corner of my grandmother's rose garden in the background.

My father trying golf in 1927, with a corner of my grandmother’s rose garden in the background.

He was two, and his grip was close to the one he used as an adult. I took up golf in my mid-thirties, and when my brother watched me hit a weak slice with a five-iron, shortly after I’d started playing, he said, “You’re already the second best golfer in the family.” The clubs in the photo belonged to my grandfather, who was a decent player. They were custom-made by Kenneth Smith, who was also from Kansas City and hadn’t been making golf clubs for very long. Among the other golfers who played with Kenneth Smiths, eventually, were Bob Hope, Sammy Davis, Jr., Mickey Mantle, Lyndon Johnson, Dwight Eisenhower, and the King of Morocco. I played golf a little when I was twelve and thirteen, and the driver I carried (which I hated) was a cut-down Kenneth Smith.

Here’s a Kenneth Smith advertisement from the December 1961 issue of Golf Digest:

GD Kenneth Smith 12-61

My father underwent major surgery when he was in his seventies, a few years before he died. The operation lasted for six hours, and he ended up with sixty-one staples in his abdomen. When he finally began to come around, a couple of days later, the doctors had to put restraints on his arms to keep him from inadvertently ripping out various tubes and catheters and monitoring devices. He was on a ventilator for a while, too. It was a rough time for him, and an even rougher one for my mom, who, after all, was conscious through it all. She was at his side when he opened his eyes. The first thing he said, in a voice that was weak but filled with hope, was “Am I at the country club?”—exactly what I would have asked in the same situation.

Kenneth Smith