Colbert: An ode to golf and grandfathers |

Colbert: An ode to golf and grandfathers

Column by Austin Colbert
The Aspen Times
David Ware, the late-grandfather of Aspen Times sports editor Austin Colbert, stands at the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland, which is considered to be the birthplace of golf.
Austin Colbert |

It would be unfair to blame my grandfather for my frustratingly average golf skills. He certainly spent his share of time with me on the driving range and the putting green, but my classic baseball swing always won out.

Still, I will blame him for my love of the sport. We shared a fondness for the ridiculous game that I will forever cherish, even though he has played his final round. My grandfather, David Ware, died last week after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 76.

While I’ve lost friends and family before, this is the first time I’ve lost another person with whom I was so closely connected. Growing up in Kansas, my grandfather was never more than a short drive away. My middle name is David, a name I proudly share with my “Pappy.”

Like any grandfather should, David meant a lot to me. While reflecting on my loss in solitude here in Aspen, my thoughts always went back to those things we shared a mutual passion for. While golf certainly stands out, it would be incomplete without mentioning travel and Kansas State University football.

I remember my first K-State game clear as day. The year was 1997, only a few days shy of my 10th birthday. KSU, an emerging power under Bill Snyder, beat Bowling Green, 58-0. I’ve long used the ticket stub as a bookmark (with reading yet another of our shared passions).

That was the first of dozens of KSU football games my grandfather would take me to, and he’s certainly the reason I continue to bleed purple in the fall. Any time I would visit, we would chat about K-State, my continuing struggles on the golf course and how I need to be more assertive in life (there always was a lecture in there somewhere).

But, more than sports, I credit my grandfather with my love of travel. My earliest memories of him involved going to his house where I would, without fail, find a National Geographic magazine sitting on the table. I was far too young to understand the stories, but the photographs never left me. Whether or not that is the reason National Geographic continues to be my dream job, I don’t know, but I do know it opened my eyes to how uniquely beautiful the world can be.

My grandfather loved to travel. From Brazil to Africa to China, he made the rounds, mostly late in life. As much as I love traveling myself, I can’t claim to have seen much of the world. The one and only time I crossed the pond to Europe came in 2014, when by grandfather took me to the British Isles.

We did a lot in a short amount of time. We toured through Ireland, hung out in Dublin, saw where the Titanic was built in Northern Ireland, explored Edinburgh, and then romped around London, with day trips out to Stonehenge and Bath. As much as we both enjoyed the history and the culture, for me, one thing stood out above the rest.

Not far from Edinburgh is the tiny Scottish town of St. Andrews. It’s known for its amazing ocean-side location, its incredibly old university, and for what might be the holiest site in all of golf. St. Andrews is the home to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, and along with the Old Course at St. Andrews is considered to be the birthplace of the sport.

Ironically enough, the day we visited was the same day as the British Open, one of the most iconic golf tournaments in the world. Unfortunately, while St. Andrews has hosted The Open more than any other location, that year the tournament was being held in Liverpool, England. So, while I didn’t get to attend The Open in person, I did get to watch parts of it next to my grandfather in one of golf’s most sacred places.

That trip, and especially being at St. Andrews, is among my last concrete memories of my grandfather, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Having moved to Colorado two years ago has made visits home difficult, and Alzheimer’s is certainly an unpleasant disease, with my grandfather’s mind this past year not being what it used to be.

So, I’d like to believe in his final days, any thought he might have had of me involved the same things I recall when thinking of him. All those failed attempts to straighten out my drive. Wondering if this was finally the season K-State would win it all. Trips to see Fred, who had been one of the only people to cut my hair for most of my life (my grandfather was always the one to take me).

And of course, St. Andrews, a magical place if there ever was. I’m not much of a believer in an afterlife, but if there is one, I’m sure my grandfather is there, putter in hand somewhere around hole No. 9.

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