The trip was memorable, but for all the wrong reasons. Aaron Bolden and son Bakari were in the Coachella Valley last June for a junior tournament. But they discovered bed bugs in their hotel room and decided to sleep in their car rather than be eaten alive through the night. The next morning, they un-kinked themselves from the seats, changed clothes in the car and headed off to Mission Hills CC for the tournament.
As they climbed out of the car, tired, stiff and miserable, Bakari turned to his father and said wryly, “Happy Father’s Day.”
They can laugh about it today – and, in fact, will be hoping for better things this weekend when they attend the same tournament.
This is a strong bond between father and son. It had to be, because Aaron has been raising Bakari as a single father since his son was 7.
“Back then, I thought things weren’t really that bad,” Bakari, 16, says today. “Things were pretty bad. We were at rock-bottom. Friends and family helped us out, but it was really my dad who just never gave up. I sometimes take it for granted. When something was wrong, I would always know that he’d be there to fix it no matter what.”
They were never homeless, Aaron says. Close, though. But he had grown up on some mean streets in Washington, D.C., and he said single fatherhood at a rough time in his life caused him “to get into survival mode.” He tried to shield Bakari from the harsh realities as they built a life together in North Hollywood. “There are not many things I’m afraid of,” Aaron said. “One thing I’ve always been afraid of is not being able to do what I need to do for my son. That’s my motivation. That’s what keeps me going.”
An important component of that support has played out on the golf course. This is the father-son odd couple in that regard. In a sport well-stocked with golfing parents who coax or push their children into the game, it was the other way around for this twosome.
Bakari learned the game as a toddler from his Thai maternal grandfather, Somgiate Boodparset. Aaron didn’t play and still doesn’t, but when the little guy demonstrated some aptitude for golf, Boodparset urged Dad to get involved in his son’s development.
Since then, that junior career has progressed impressively. Bolden plays on the golf team at Harvard-Westlake School in Studio City, where he just completed his sophomore year. And he was recently selected to play in the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach in early July, an event in which juniors are paired with Champions Tour golfers. He aspires to play golf in college.
Bakari has been active in the SCGA Foundation’s Youth on Course and G.A.M.E. Club programs.
Aaron Bolden, who works as a document archivist for a West L.A. accounting firm, admits that he had to learn as much as he could about golf when his son started playing. “I had to ask his grandpa everything,” Aaron said. He paused, chuckled and said of his son, “At 5 years old, I had to ask him questions.”
Which leads to a memory the father calls “one of the most embarrassing stories ever.”
Bakari was playing Heartwell GC in Long Beach as a young boy and hit a ball into the water. What had he hit? 6-iron. His dad told him, “Well, then hit a 7-iron.” Into the water again. “Hit an 8-iron.” Splash. Finally, the little boy spoke up: “Uh, Dad, the higher the number the shorter the club goes.”
Said Aaron: “So I squat down and tell him, ‘Listen, I’m your father, but on the golf course, if you know more than I do, then you are in charge.’ ”
Aaron, recalling this moment recently, laughed and said: “Those were the dumbest words I’ve ever said, because he has not relinquished the power since.”
Happy Father’s Day, indeed.