Tim Beckwith is the author of The Front Nine, which includes both life lessons and golf lessons directed at his son. Beckwith is a PGA Master Professional and serves as director of golf for The Oaks Club. He lives in Sarasota, Florida.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for this book, and how did you choose the lessons you share in the book?
A: I’m not saying anything new when I describe the absolute 180 your life does when you have a child. My experience was no different than many new parents. You’re faced with an overwhelming love but also your own mortality, your past, the unknown and we mustn’t forget the chokehold of fear that you just can’t shake…the fear that whispers to you nightly “please don’t let me screw this kid up.”
The fear coupled with the fact that my own father wasn’t a constant presence in my youth, led me to this book. Until I was 11 and my mother met my stepdad, I didn’t have a constant male role model.
This didn’t matter at all to me until I met my son Jackson. That’s when you start to think about the way you grew up and how you’d change things. I wanted to be better. I wanted to make things easier for him by offering life lessons that I consider fundamentals and being there for him.
That isn’t taking anything away from my mother. She did a terrific job raising three kids alone. I didn’t realize at the time of course she was teaching me these lessons along the way. It became extremely important to me that I do the same for my own child.
The life lessons I chose are simple for a reason; Jackson was not even 2 years old when I finished the book. Complicated lessons could wait. Since I am a PGA Master Professional with emphasis on instruction it was easy for me to break things down to the fundamentals. That’s what teachers do.
There are nine lessons offered such as “Play Fair” (don’t cheat), “Temper, Temper” and one of my favorites, “Don’t be an Asshole.” In my opinion, these lessons are the fundamentals of a successful life.
Q: You include life lessons as well as golf-related lessons in the book. Do you see this book appealing to non-golfers as well as those more familiar with golf?
A: I’d like to think the book has a broad appeal. It started out simply as a letter to my newborn son. Any parent can relate to that. And ultimately, both the life and golf lessons are the basics…and everyone can use a refresher now and then. Even scratch players have to break things down when they develop a glitch in their swing.
To me it’s no different in life, you hit a glitch, and you go back to the basics to see where you went wrong.
Q: Of all the lessons in the book, do you have one that you consider the most important?
A: I have a few favorites. The lesson on perspective is an important one, but right now I would have to say the one that resonates with me most is “Your One Superpower.” This lesson focuses on the one thing in life we can control--our attitude and how we react to situations. I really do consider it a superpower because no one gets it right all the time.
The reason it resonates so much with me is I am now the proud parent of a 7-year-old boy. As my wife and I navigate those parenting waters we are faced daily with the uncomfortable idea of him out in the world without us.
Second grade can be tough! He has come home crying because someone made fun of his backpack and he’s come home with a note from school because he threw a Lego in anger (at a wall, not another child, thank goodness).
Both of these are prime examples of reacting to situations before thinking. But like I said no one gets it right all the time. I still have adult players that throw clubs. Really.
I tell Jackson that unfortunately there are people in the world that are mean. I try to remind him that words only have meaning if you let them. It doesn’t mean your feelings won’t get hurt. But you have to try to let the unpleasant people matter less in your life. It’s easy to say but it can take a lifetime to learn.
The most important thing any of us can do in a tough spot is take a moment and remember that ultimately our attitude and reactions are the only thing we can control.
Q: What do you think your son will think of the book when he's old enough to read it?
A: I like to consider myself a down-to-earth guy, so I try not to delude myself whenever possible. So I do not delude myself in thinking that Jackson will want to have anything to do with this book when he’s old enough to read it!
However, I have hopes that when he isn’t embarrassed by me anymore (the dreaded teenage years) and we become friends in addition to being father/son, he will read the book and know how much I loved him, how much I wanted his happiness. I know he will understand all of that when he has children of his own.
Q: Are you working on another book?
A: I have a couple ideas brewing. Working as a golf professional I still see a lack of diversity in growing the game. I would like to see more women and underprivileged youth have access to it.
It can be intimidating and expensive. I know because we didn’t have a lot of money growing up. The only reason I picked up a golf club was because my mother waitressed at the local golf course and they gave me access during her shifts. It would not have been on my radar otherwise.
Obviously, I am a fan of the game and what it can do for confidence and the metaphor for life it offers. I’d like to see more books and programs geared toward demographics not traditionally targeted. I’m working on a fun introduction to golf that hopefully will show that golf can be accessible to everyone. It should be accessible to everyone.
I do get asked about a “Back Nine” and that is in the works. But I didn’t come into this life a parenting expert and I still won’t be one when Jackson is 18, so I’ll have to play some of the back nine with him before I can write it well.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: In addition to golf, I’m a huge Texas Hold-em fan, so I recognize a really lucky hand when it’s dealt. With my wife Jill and our son Jackson, there is no doubt I’ve been dealt the luckiest hand possible. To me, recognizing where you are lucky in life is critical to happiness. Lack of gratitude ticks me off.
Finally, don’t throw your clubs. It’s just stupid.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb