A Father’s Day reflection by
Joe Louis Barrow, Jr., Chief Executive Officer, The First Tee
I was first introduced to the game of golf when I was five or six years old.
My father [former heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis] would take me to Pipe O’Peace Golf Course (renamed in 1986 to Joe Louis “The Champ” Golf Course) outside of Chicago where he passed along his love of the game.
However, Dad’s love of golf was actually a pastime that worried his promoters.
My father’s trainers were concerned that golf would develop his muscles in the wrong way, plus it took a lot of his time.
He would go out to the course whenever he could, whether he was in training or not, and as a result, he became quite an accomplished amateur golfer.
The one time my dad did not listen to his trainer resulted in the only time he was beaten during his 12-year reign as heavyweight champion. That was the first Max Schmeling fight in 1936.
My father was overconfident going into this fight.
He later said, “I thought I was going to win no matter what I did. So I took my golf clubs to training camp with me. I had the idea that I was doing a lot of hard work for nothing, so I started cutting my training short. I’d box two rounds and drive to the golf course.”
Fortunately, Dad put more focus into boxing and less into golf while preparing for his successful rematch against Schmeling in 1938. [listen to the fight].
While Dad did pass his love of golf on to me, more importantly, the golf course became a special place for us as father and son.
My parents divorced when I was young, so during visits with my dad, he would take my sister and me to lunch or dinner, but it was difficult to really get to know him because people would constantly stop him for autographs or just to talk. But on the course, we were able to share a special intimacy created by two people sitting in a golf cart.
During these rounds, he told me about his background, revealed details of his fights and discussed my future.
Although he passed away in 1981, before I became involved in the golf industry, I think Dad would have been proud of my current work with The First Tee.
My father’s overwhelming desire to help others also influenced me.
This quality was an important factor in my decision to join The First Tee, and it now provides inspiration for this organization that is so driven to help young people develop the confidence, leadership skills and character to succeed in life.
This Father’s Day, I hope you too can reflect back on that special someone who has guided you through your life and inspired you to be the best you can be.