In 1997, Keith Kijowski saw an ad for the inaugural Father & Son Team Classic and told his dad, Dick, they needed to play in the event. The Kijowski’s made the 13+ hour drive from Rochester, N.Y., to Myrtle Beach by themselves, swapping stories and looking forward to the opportunity to golf and spend time together.
They didn’t play well, as Dick, according to his telling of the story, put Keith in places on the course he had never seen before, but they had a great time. They knew immediately they would return, but what they couldn’t have imagined was the place the tournament would come to occupy in their lives.
Dick and Keith will return this year, as they have for every event, but much has changed over the years. Keith was a recent college grad and a new father that first year; he is now a father of two, a 21-year-old daughter and a 13-year old son.
Dick’s daughter Keri is now the mother to twin boys, and the entire family had to cope with tragic death of 19-year- old Kyle, Dick’s son and Keith and Keri’s brother, who passed away in a car accident.
Over time, the drives that were once just Dick and Keith came to include both men’s wives and children and now Keri and her family.
“It’s a tremendous event,” Dick said. “Its brings families together and you create memories you will treasure for the rest of your life. It’s not about winning; it’s being together, sharing the day and the game of golf.”
The Father-Son has become an integral part of the Kijowski family’s annual calendar. A wall in Dick’s bedroom is filled with pictures of him and Keith at the event, a reflection of their affinity for the tournament.
Keith is approximately a 10 handicap, Dick double that, and they finished second in their flight one year, but where they finish is a secondary part of the experience. That being said, the story they continue to laugh at involves the format of play that is annually their undoing – alternate shot – and Keith’s desire to play well.
“I’m a high handicapper and was putting him in spots he’d never seen behind trees, in water and sand,” Dick said. “He is normally not like this, but he came back to the cart, slammed his club and said, ‘Dad, you are killing me!’ We laugh about it now when I put him into a bad spot.”
The days of slamming clubs are over, but Dick has vowed to play in the event until Keith’s son is ready to take his place, meaning the Kijowski’s will continue playing in the Father-Son for at least another generation