The waiter was busy taking their orders.
When he got to Brady, Ben Crane’s 9-year-old son, the youngster simply held up a plastic Ziploc bag. Inside were two of the prettiest rainbow trout you’d ever want to see.
“I want you to cook these for me,” Brady said.
Those fish were the first he’d ever caught fly fishing. And seeing how excited his son was as he reeled those trout in may have been the highlight of the trip for Brady’s dad.
“I was so proud of him,” Crane recalls, smiling broadly. And the fish tasted pretty darn good, too.
That three-day fishing trip in Arkansas earlier this year was their first “boys only” excursion. Joining Crane and Brady were Crane’s brother Tim and his son Elijah and their father Doug.
The two left the day after Crane accepted the Charlie Bartlett Award given by the Golf Writers Association of America at its annual dinner in Augusta, Georgia. The award recognizes a player for his or her contributions to the betterment of society, and Brady – to his credit -- gamely sat through myriad of speeches that night.
The two flew to Memphis the next day and then drove three-and-a-half hours to the White River where they settled into the cabin that would be their home for the next three days. The return trip was even longer, five hours in a car, but no one was complaining.
The father-son bonding time was precious to the five-time PGA TOUR winner.
“It was a long drive, which was actually fun,” Crane recalls. “He’s nine so now he can be sitting up front with me and I'm just looking over at him and just enjoying that, having that time together and playing some Michael Jackson songs, playing some songs that mean something to my childhood and stuff.”
Crane says he and his wife Heather often talk about how quickly their three children – Brady and his sisters, Cassidy and Saylor, who are 11 and 6, respectively – are growing up. This trip was an opportunity to put the brakes on, if only for a few days.Crane's son Brady with one of his first catches. (Ben Crane)
“Heather and I always think about this season of life,” Crane says. “What would we give in 10 years to have this day back with our kids where they're impressionable, where they're learning and they're growing?
“We just want to be intentional about parenting them and teaching them the joys and the pitfalls of life.”
Some of the stories Crane told his son were funny. Goofy, even – after all, this is the man behind the hugely popular Golf Boys videos. But others were more impactful – like the time a couple of little girls put a young boy struggling for attention in his place.
“I was kind of bragging about stuff, whatever, and these girls, I walked into the house and they said, ‘Man in the mirror, take a look at yourself and make a change,’” Crane said, reciting the lyrics of the popular Michael Jackson song. “And it like crushed me like a little eight, nine year old kid.
“I told Brady, I'm like, when we brag about ourselves it does not go well. Like other people do not enjoy hearing it. … But now I look back on it. I'm like, okay, they were sending a message that was hurtful, but it was a good one.”
And while Crane says “it’s amazing to see your kids light up when you share personal stories of your childhood,” it was hardly a one-way street. And the two had such a good time together that when offered a choice between sports camp and a trip to the John Deere Classic with his dad, Brady chose the golf tournament.A selfie with Ben and his son Brady. (Ben Crane)
One thing the group didn’t count on during that trip to Arkansas, though, was Mother Nature. Turns out the weather was unseasonably cold for April.
“We literally went through our suitcases and we put on everything, every t-shirt, every whatever … because it was probably 40 degrees on the river,” Crane recalls. “So it made the fishing really, really slow and so it wasn't normal.
“So you had to tell stories. You had to bundle up.”
Once in a while, though, the rainbow trout couldn’t resist those flies cast into the cold, clear water. So there was no need for any fish stories when the trip was done.
The Cranes caught the real thing – in more ways than one.