A day together at Augusta National during Masters week was a dream son Dominic and father Bob Dastoli had shared for years. It became a reality on Monday, April 2, and it more than lived up to their great expectations.
"It was like heaven out there for us," said Bob, the head professional at Pontoosuc Lake Country Club.
"It was even better than I thought it would be," agreed Dom, a producer of original programming at the Golf Channel. "It was probably the best day we've had together on a golf course."
The father-and-son golfing bond that reached an apex on that spring day brought me back to my own teen years. I played high school golf in South Florida, but my parents never saw me hit a shot. They were wonderful parents and encouraged me to play, but they had zero interest in the sport.
On the other hand, high school teammate and good friend John Stoltz had a single-digit handicap father and an 80-year-old grandfather who walked nine holes every day. I was fortunate enough to fill out their foursome often. How I envied the daily bonding session that John, now a Class A PGA professional, enjoyed. One of my most vivid memories of those years was seeing grandpa Stoltz hit a hole-in-one and the joyous reaction of his son and grandson.
So, when I hear stories like that of the Dastolis, it reminds me of something I missed out on, but it also reaffirms what a great way golf is for parents to spend time with their children.
The Dastolis' day at Augusta was 24 years in the making. That was when Dom was introduced to golf by his father, then the head professional at Berkshire Hills Country Club.
Golf has always been a family affair. Dom's brother, Scott, and sister, Regina, also played, with mom Marianne sometimes filling out the foursome when someone was missing.
Marianne evidently understood early on what golf meant to her
"I tell people that my husband is the only man who can say he played golf every day of his honeymoon," joked Marianne of the newlywed's six days at the Ocean Club in Bermuda. "I didn't grow up with the game, but I think it is wonderful that it's something a family can do together."
During his high school years, Dom spent countless hours in the attic perfecting his swing. When asked, Bob would come up and help.
"The cool part about my dad was he never came up to the attic unless I asked him to," Dom said. "There was probably some pressure because of my last name, but I never felt pressure from him to perform. ... Those were the best times. There's nothing better than having a passion for something and being able to work on it with your dad."
The work paid off. Dom was named to the three All-Eagle teams at Taconic High School and finished in the top 10 in the state tournament twice. One match stands out above the others for dad.
"I was the coach for Pittsfield High and he was the No. 1 player at Taconic," Bob said. "I told Marianne that I was hoping Dom would be the medalist and we would win the match. And that is exactly what happened."
While his desire for competition waned when he attended college at the University of Connecticut, his passion for golf and its history have only grown, as his career path makes obvious.
In 2005, Dom attended the Golf Writers Association of America meetings in Augusta during Masters week. He invited his mom and dad to join him, thinking dad could get them into the tournament with his Class A PGA credentials.
"We went to the gate and he asked for two tickets," Dom recalls. "They said, ‘well, sir, we can only give you one.' He could have gotten in himself, but he wouldn't go without me."
"I know that upset him," Bob said.
Seven years later, Dom's wife, Amy, surprised her husband on his birthday with practice-round tickets.
"I always said that when I went there I would imagine Bobby Jones walking out into that nursery imagining a golf course," Dom said. "It was unreal to actually be there."
The Dastolis spent hours checking out the course hole-by-hole. Both agreed that TV doesn't do justice to the beauty or the hilly topography. There were also a couple of surprises.
"The trees on 18 cut in closer than you think, the undulation changes on No. 14 are huge and the hill on No. 10 is very steep," Dom said.
"We stood at the spot where Phil [Mickelson] hit his great shot [off the pine straw] on No. 13 and where Sarazen hit his shot [for double eagle] on 15," Bob said. "It was something any father would want to do with his son."
Hopefully, it is an experience they will be able to enjoy together again.