What it means to be a #GirlDad

AJGA dads share what it means to have a close relationship with their daughters
Michael Morard with his daughter Michaela.JPG

There's truly something special in the bond between a father and daughter. Its meaning became ever so clear after the tragic deaths of Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna on Sunday, January 26th.

Their deaths served as the catalyst for ESPN anchor Elle Duncan to share a touching story about Kobe's love for his daughters. Duncan recounted meeting Kobe at an event while she was pregnant. When Kobe found out she was having a girl, he high-fived Duncan and said, "girls are the best." Kobe, who was the father of four daughters, added, "I would have five more girls if I could. I'm a girl dad."

This story quickly inspired thousands of posts across social media using the hashtag #GirlDad. It prompted dads from all walks of life to share photos of their daughters using that hashtag.

As part of the AJGA, juniors and their parents create lifetime bonds from time spent traveling, practicing, and experiencing the highs and lows of competitive golf. In honor of Kobe and Gianna, here's what it means to be a #GirlDad from a few of our junior golf dads.

John Rosholt in USGA bib with daughters Calynne and Chandler.JPG
JG Rosholt with his daughters Calynne (L) and Chandler (R).

JG Rosholt:

Being a father to five kids, which includes four girls, is the craziest ride of my life. I never imagined how I would relate to a girl as her dad ... until I was one.

I remember the first time one of my girls asked to put her hair in a pony tail. Who could have imagined a simple elastic rubber band feeling like a Rubik’s cube when trying to put it in her hair? I remember picking up the mail at the mailbox barefoot only to have my neighbor comment that he was glad he wasn’t the only one with nail polish on his toes.

These young girls of mine were gentle and kind and yet could be incredibly tough when they danced, did gymnastics, or golfed. I'm continually blown away by the mental toughness I witness in each of my girls.

I have been blessed to spend so much time watching Calynne and Chandler develop their golf games over the last 8 years. I'm usually just the driver who makes sure they're fed, but I more importantly have been a shoulder to cry on and at times a punching bag on the bad days. I have watched all of my girls develop into unique young women that all have a heart for God and for people.

I love my son, but a father-daughter bond is something I wish every father had the chance to experience. Daughters are incredibly unique. I'm not quite sure I will ever fully understand or figure them out, but they bring so much joy, laughter and craziness to my life that I will always be thankful for the gift I have been given in each of them.

Jason Black:

As a parent, my greatest joy is the one-on-one time I have with my two daughters. With my oldest daughter, Ally, our golfing days started when she was in diapers and I plopped her down on the putting green. Sixteen years later, we find ourselves traveling across the country, playing golf with new friends, and going on crazy adventures… all due to being involved in the great game of golf. I refer to these moments as “Golf Endorphins."

I commented to a friend the other day that “my daughter is my role model." Strange I know, but she is one of those special kids… full of talent and not afraid of hard work. Not to mention she has a heart of gold, and this “old soul” personality that makes her a great friend and teammate.

As a competitive dad, I certainly want her to win tournaments, improve her ranking and continue to excel in the game. That said, regardless of her golf accomplishments, I know that she a foundation that will serve her well. It might be on the golf course, in the board room, or with her future kids. No matter what it is, I am forever grateful to be her dad.

Ally, thank you for letting me join you on the ride… golf is one of the greatest gifts for this girl dad!

Mike Englemann:

On June 21, 2002, my life changed. I gained not only a beautiful baby girl, but also a best friend.

When I pictured having a daughter, golf was not the first hobby I imagined her having and I definitely never would have imagined it turning into so much more. From the age of three, she spent every day on the golf course, and I spent every minute right there next to her. I took her to tournaments around the country and we had so much fun exploring the towns and meeting other dads and daughters.

The memories we made are so special and I constantly look back, smiling and laughing at the good times we had. Whether it was caddying for her in her first golf tournament, or getting fired and rehired minutes before she shot 63, I wouldn’t trade those times together for anything. She might not admit this, but deep down she knows I’m the best caddie out there.

Of course, spending so much time together, we've had our fair share of fights, but that seems so small looking back. I try to remember as time passes to cherish every minute because as we recently saw, it can be gone in the blink of an eye. These past 17 years have been better than I could have ever asked for, and I am looking forward to the next chapter.

Warren Schutte:

It's crazy how life goes and how there's such a thing as the “circle of life.”

I grew up traveling all over the world, playing in tournaments with my family, but mostly my dad. We developed a special relationship that really helped shape my life, and the relationship I now share with my daughter. I lost my dad in 2000, but in 2004, my daughter Abbey was born and the relationship I have come to share with her sends me back to times with my dad. At times, it feels like a mirror to the past.

I was a competitive golfer most of my life and played professionally for almost 18 years. When my playing career started to wind down, all I wanted to do was share golf with my kids. Abbey took to it immediately and I could not keep her away. All she wanted was to beat her big brother and prove she was his equal.

Her first tournament was at age seven, but since then golf has taken her on an amazing journey which we share together. New friends, new places and life lessons are the great things people get when they play golf. Golf is the closest game that resembles life and it is now shaping Abbey’s life and her path.

As a dad, I look at Abbey and beam with pride as I watch how she's growing up and becoming a young lady that is driven and passionate with her choice to play competitive golf. I know that I'm the luckiest person ever, being able to experience this with my dad, and now my daughter. I'm not sure how it gets better.

Some of Abbey’s best lessons have been learned over the past few years as she stepped into the life of an AJGA golfer. She has enjoyed some success and some heartbreak as tournament golf exposes so much, leaving players very vulnerable at times. That being said, it also satisfies the soul when goals and dreams are reached. She is making new friends and meeting people from all over the world, and these relationships will last a lifetime. The fact that Abbey has chosen to challenge herself as a player and see where this game takes her is very cool, but even more cool than that is that I get to spend time with her on that journey.

The greatest thing for me when watching Abbey play golf is seeing how her passion to achieve greatness and her drive to get better is shaping her personality. The enjoyment she expresses when a putt goes in, or when she pulls off a great shot sends tingles down my spine and makes everything we do together worth it. I would not trade places with anyone in the world. This is simply an unbelievable journey and experience for a dad.

Chris Sambach:

On Sunday, January 26, we lost an iconic sports figure – Kobe Bryant – in a tragic accident. My daughter Amanda told me while we driving in a golf cart between holes 8 & 9 at our home course in North Carolina. We were playing our usual round together as a family, as we have done every Saturday and Sunday for the last 10 years. To say the least, we were in disbelief and it was only when we finished our round that the devastating news broke that Kobe’s beloved daughter Gianna also perished in the crash.

Stunned disbelief soon turned into unimaginable heartache. It was now hitting close to home as I thought of a father and daughter's relationship and a family’s devastating loss. The unconditional love and pride that I have for my daughters and family, and an innate instinct to protect them from harm, washed over me as I contemplated the news.

I thought about how the missed three-foot putts, the shots into the hazard or sinking the winning putt on 18 are really meaningless in the grand scheme. There are intricacies and beauty intertwined in the relationship that a father shares with his daughter. Like all “golf dads” I have experienced the journey of watching my baby girl go from a child, to an awkward tween, to a sometimes aloof teen, into an amazing, confident and kind young women - all in the blink of an eye.

How many dads really get to spend the amount of quality time with their daughters that we do? Sharing all of their highs and lows, guiding them, the pushing and pulling, learning from them, making Tik-Toks together, the laughter and tears, uncomfortable beds, sharing Holiday Inn Expresses together and trying to find something edible for breakfast.

I still remember the time I accidentally slammed the car door on her fingers before the round and she shot a 68 – we joked about making that a part of her warm-ups.

The rivalries turned into friendships; children and parents. I have never experienced anything as hilarious as golf dads telling stories over dinner after a round.

Cold mornings on the range in the dark, sweltering afternoons of the final round, a hug at the end of the tournament, figuring out how to open and close a push cart, packing up the car, the ride home. Wash-rinse-repeat for a lifetime. I have resolved to never take these small moments with my daughter and family for granted. I will smile more, be more positive, stress less and hug Amanda and my family a little more often.

James DeBruin with Daughters.jpg
James DeBruin with daughters Madison (l) and Peyton (r).

James DeBruin:

Being the father of two amazing daughters is the most amazing privilege and adventure. I have enjoyed watching both of them grow up into distinct budding adults. I have been fortunate enough to have a job that is close to home and thus allows me a lot of extra family time. Some of our most important bonding moments have occurred on the golf course. I get to watch them smile, frown, laugh and scrap as they compete to play their best. Most importantly, in the time between shots, I get to hear about everything that is going on in their heads, whether it’s their favorite band (Queen and Twenty One Pilots), their favorite/least favorite subject in school, or what their favorite Disney ride is (Flight of the Avatar). Golf has also allowed me to watch them grow from little kids who didn’t know where the pin was or what hand went on top, to being able to share their love and passion as mentors to other young golfers.

When you first have children the most common advice you are given is to appreciate every moment because the time just flies. I can honestly say that I have taken this to heart, and I try to spend as much time with my girls as possible. It is hard to picture my weeks without family game nights, a few rounds of golf, and a tournament on my calendar. And, although, I am horribly biased I can tell you that these girls are the most amazing young women. They are the two people that can light up my day and remind me constantly of how lucky I am.

Michael Morard with his daughter Michaela.JPG
Michael Morard with his daughter Michaela.

#GirlDad... sometimes a picture says it all.

For those junior golf dads out there reading this and wanting to share your story, please send your thoughts and pictures to to be added.