Saturday, May 14, 2005

O'Hair's Long Road - At Age 22

Golfer Sean O'Hair - the third-round leader of the Byron Nelson Classic as this is written - spent most of his childhood in Lubbock. But his childhood ended at age 17 when, forced by his father, O'Hair turned pro. More than 200,000 miles later - going into six years of traveling golf's minitours and overseas circuits - O'Hair is fulfilling the promise that made him one of the top juniors in the country back in those teen years.

The father and son haven't spoken in two years, however, after Sean broke away from his domineering father. The story was told in a Golf World article back at the start of the 2005 PGA season, and it's going to be told plenty more times with O'Hair's performance at the Nelson.

The father, Marc O'Hair, made his son run a mile for every bogey, and made him sign a contract at age 17 promising his father 10-percent of all future earnings.

Marc O'Hair, a large man who wore dark sunglasses, subjected Sean to a rigorous routine that stood out. He was sometimes brusque to tournament, rules and school
officials, event organizers and other parents. His son, by design, was treated as a commodity.

Sean isn't that keen to talk about his journey, which is understandable. But if he keeps playing the way he has thus far in 2005, there will plenty to talk about.

Taking a tough-love approach, Marc drove his son hard. While the results speak for themselves, those who watched the duo believe there was madness in the method. As a junior player, Sean was forced to run a mile for making bogeys or finishing over par at tournaments. Marc once claimed he made Sean run eight miles in 93-degree heat after shooting an 80. At a 1998 AJGA tournament in California, Sean shot 79, then spent part of the night logging seven miles on a treadmill, a friend, Christo Greyling, says.

Sean last spoke to Marc, (back row right, with Brenda, front center and K.D., front right) at his 2002 wedding.Photo courtesy of O'Hair family "The next day, he could hardly walk," remembers Greyling, a former AJGA player and a senior at University of Georgia. "We could hardly believe he [Marc] went through with it."
But it wasn't just a tough workout that his father was putting him through. After a certain age, Sean was apparently denied his childhood.

Other players, though, say Marc would berate his son in the presence of others. Dad admits slapping his son, but he says he never injured him. ... In addition to the golf work, Marc awakened his son at 5 a.m., had him run a mile and lift weights. After Sean turned pro, Marc cooked meals on a portable stove in their hotel room so that Sean ate the right foods. Every day was like boot camp, and the military comparisons aren't by accident.

The father doesn't seem the least bit embarrassed by his behavior, nor does he seem to have any regrets. Except, apparently, he regrets the fact that his "investment" in Sean's golf might not get him the money he expected.

How the family dynamic develops from here is anybody's guess. No question, dad feels a broiling sense of festering betrayal. In fact, Sean is worried that Marc will someday sue him for repayment of the money spent fostering his career. ...

"As soon as he gets famous, I am going to lower the boom," Marc says. "I am going to show everybody what he did to me. I have no intention of suing him. I intend to crucify him in the media, because what he did to me is not right."
Read the article.

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