On fathers and sons

April, 7, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- I recently did an interview about writing with Chris Jones, who works for Esquire and, in my opinion, is the best magazine writer in the country. One of the questions seems appropriate to repeat.

CJ: If I took a poll, I would guess that "Holy Ground" -- your story about your late father and the Masters -- would rank as your most beloved. What was it like for you to write that story -- the physical process -- and where does it rank for you?

WWT: I cried the entire time I was writing. It was in the Augusta National press room. I was a mess. The entire thing took, I don't know, four hours to write? I know I sat down with a blank screen and when I stopped writing, the story was finished. There was virtually nothing changed by Jay [Lovinger, my editor]. I drank coffee. I ate chicken sandwiches. I remembered my daddy. I felt his presence. I sent the story to my mother. She had one veto. I had, on a roll, said something about going from the back seat of a car to a church to a hospital room. She -- a very proper Southern lady -- said there were no back seats. I changed it to a fraternity party dance. Otherwise, it ran almost as the original draft. People still bring that story up to me. I've had people at Augusta, on the course, see my press badge and tell me how much it meant to them. The emails, they'd just kill you. Stories about fathers reconnecting with sons, about sons taking their dads to see games. Those were the most special. Well, second-most special. The most special is how much it meant to my mom. I just went and found her email. I'd sent her the story, saying, basically, this is locked and about to close. Last shot. She wrote: "oh my; i am sitting at my computer weeping and your daddy is in heaven crying tears of joy that the boy he adored loved him so and is a man to be so proud of; thank you for this; i love you so! xoxoxoxox mama."

The story ranks at the top of the list in some ways, but in other ways, it doesn't. Maybe writers will understand what I mean. I didn't write that story. There was no craft. I opened a vein.

I still get emails about that story, and they never fail to make my day. Yesterday, during the Par 3 Contest, ESPN aired the essay above, which takes the soul of that piece and translates it to video. Hope you enjoy it. But first, do me a favor.

Call your daddy right now and tell him you love him.

Wright Thompson is a senior writer for ESPN and is executive producer of TrueSouth and co-executive producer of Backstory. He is the author of New York Times bestselling The Cost of These Dreams.



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