It was 6 a.m., and the whole house was still asleep, but I woke from the distinctive clanking of weights downstairs. Silently, I crawled out of bed, agile as a monkey, and made my way to the kitchen counter. I filled my favorite Barney sippy cup with chocolate milk and tiptoed toward the basement where my dad was engrossed in his workout routine. I gazed at him with eager eyes, silently pleading “put me in, coach,” and he obliged.

Our first house held a humble basement gym, its concrete walls serving as the foundation for our budding bond. Equipped with only the most basic exercise equipment, it was all we needed. With each workout and every sip of chocolate milk, our muscles grew, and so did the connection between father and daughter. At the tender age of 3, I leaned on my dad’s strength as we stood back to back, performing military presses. And now, twenty-two years later, I continue to lean on him.

In that basement gym, I sought to imitate my dad’s movements. Whether it was pull-ups or squats, he didn’t require a mirror to assess his form; he simply looked at me. When he stepped out of the basement, his shadow didn’t disappear. We played catch, shot hoops, and I became his little apprentice, eagerly assisting him like Bob the Builder. As a child, I believed “Bring Your Daughter to Work Day” was a weekly occurrence, unaware of its infrequency until later. When I had the opportunity, I loved watching my dad, Rock, interact with his patients. My dad played college baseball and even in a semi-pro league during my early childhood. Nothing thrilled me more than watching him fool batters with a pitch like a musician and his set of cards. I was so captivated that I would sneak into the dugout, joining the other players, until inevitably being shooed away.

People often asked me, even as a child, what I aspired to be when I grew up. Without hesitation, I would respond that I wanted to become either a doctor or the first woman to pitch in the MLB. 

But it was when we took up golf that I stopped mirroring his every move and decided to carve my own path. The rigid, yet athletic swing of a 40-year-old wasn’t exactly poetic.

When my brother left for college, our trio transformed into a duo, and our daily walks down the fairways of our home course commenced. It began with just four holes a day, gradually expanding to nine or more. The moment school ended, I would sprint to the golf course, eager to practice. Minutes felt like hours until my dad arrived, ready to hear about my latest golf revelations or embark on our journey down the first fairway. Each round concluded with a kiss on the cheek and my dad’s heartfelt remark, “That was a lot of fun. What a wonderful way to end the day.”

My dad has been by my side every step of the way. During moments of frustration, when my skills needed honing, as well as moments of triumph when my dreams and goals became a reality. There isn’t a tournament he doesn’t want to attend, and he will go to great lengths to be there. Through his unwavering dedication, I’ve learned the true essence of sacrifice and love. As I grew older and tournaments allowed, he assumed the role of my caddy. Our long walks together continued, and once again, I found myself leaning on him for guidance and support.

In 2017, I was at the U.S. Women’s Amateur and got a virus during the first practice round. With the help of my dad, I played the first 2 stroke play rounds only because he was holding me up. This picture is a snapshot of how he always holds me up.

Together, we embarked on a journey of learning the game of golf. Though I may have teased him about the beatings I gave him on the course, I always reminded him that I had simply had more time to practice. Yet, one undeniable truth remained: he had far more life experience than I did. Our golfing adventure was marked by something greater than the game itself—it was a vehicle for teaching the lessons of life. The values my dad instilled in me through golf have far outlasted the final putt dropping or the scorecard being signed. It is the values of honesty, faith, perseverance, hard work, sacrifice, love, and family that I carry with me as I navigate my everyday life.

An image of my dad and me after winning my first state championship title. Picture says it all.

I consider myself beyond lucky to have shared this incredible journey with my dad. He has been the metaphorical rock, providing support and propelling me forward through every circumstance. From the early mornings in our makeshift gym to the serene fairways of our golf course, he has been there every step of the way. If you’re a daughter lucky enough to share a bond like this or through the game of golf, honor that today. Look to your dad and thank him for the long walks, deep talks, and moments you forgot to look at the clock.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!