The richest person at the recently concluded US Open was a caddie. A caddie the business world is very familiar with. Scott McNealy co-founder of Sun Microsystems was seen lugging his son Maverick's clubs when the tournament opened at the Pinehurst Resort & Country Club. McNealy was the only caddie-daddy at the event as his 18 year old son from Stanford was playing as an amateur in this Major event.
Golf has been a father-son game from its inception. It builds relationships and shapes character, making it valuable time for any dad and his son(s). American golfer Matt Kuchar's father, Peter Kuchar, knows all about golf because he has caddied for his son occasionally since nearly fifteen years ago. Peter Uhlein, son of the Titliest CEO has benefitted from his father's golf and business knowledge extensively. Then there are such duos in pro golf where both dad and son have won the same tournament. A most recent one worth mentioning should be when Bill Haas won the 2010 Bob Hope Classic, which his father Jay won in 1988.
In India Inc I have met many golfers, golfing-CEOs who encourage their children to take up the sport because it gives them a reason to bond. I reckon my conversation with Vindi Banga at the Wentworth Club outside of London. In his private equity avatar, he spends time with his son and sometimes gets a week off to Gleneagles for a few rounds of golf. His two sons, having grown up playing sport, also know a bit of golf giving all of them some good quality family time on the fairways. Montek Singh Ahluwalia's weekend retreat for long has been the Delhi Golf Club where he would join his almost regular foursome for a game and catch up on the government buzz. When he can convince his son to step out for a round, he shares its really the time he gets undivided attention. Father-son games are not just about playing a sport. In golf it's about conversation, ideas, opening doors, building relationships, passing on business values.
Take the example of KP Singh of DLF, whose son and vice chairman of the company Rajiv Singh plays to a handicap of two. Besides the fact they have a course of their own, they do scramble to get time together given their business commitments. Having given Rajiv the complete reins of the business, the now 80-something patriarch of the Singh family discusses future land plans, real estate expansion and consolidation with his son while playing half a round or eighteen holes. In the making of such father-child duos are businessman Jai Mehta, whose son practises often at the same range as me. K Balakrishnan, formerly with Lazard and now an independent banker is honing his and his child's swing together.
Golf is the game of personality and character. It builds a bond that's hard to break. Which is probably why people realise it teaches their offspring more than a sport. Golf is not just about how far you can hit a ball or the numbers recorded on the scorecard – it's about making connections and getting to know your fellow players.