NCGA Golf

Winter 2019

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I n March of 2017, Todd Miller was in a hospital bed, fighting for his life as Lemierre's Syndrome, a rare and potentially life-threatening infectious disease, ravaged his body. Todd is the director of golf at Brigham Young University and a 37-year-old, married father of four. But when his father, two-time major golf champion and longtime NBC Sports golf analyst Johnny Miller, dropped everything to fly from a broadcast in Mexico City to be by Todd's hospital bedside, Todd became something else — a boy who needed his dad's love, and got it. "That was the changing point for me, when Dad came back," Todd said in a fall, 2018 phone interview, now hale and healthy. "To have him there in the hospi- tal, to see him walking through that door, was such a great feeling." Todd paused, his voice thick with emotion. "I always felt that when my dad was around, that I'd always be all right." Now you know why Johnny, the San Francisco native turned Napa resident and Northern California's gift to golf analysis over the last 28 years, knew it was the right time to leave television. Six children and 24 grandchildren need to know they'll be all right. "I've got all these grandkids," Johnny said, noting the October birth of No. 24, young Atlas Miller, son of Andy and Audrey. "And I just feel like I've got a lot of golf lessons to give and a lot of life lessons to give." The Miller "Lesson Tree", as it were, had its roots in Johnny's dad, Larry, who spent countless hours not just with Johnny ("I was groomed to win the U.S. Open," he said) but with Johnny and wife Linda's six children, too. "My grandpa was with us every day after school, would take us out every day to play golf until dark," said Andy Miller, the fifth of the six Miller kids, and a Napa-based designer at Johnny Miller Design. "I look now and say: Wow, that was unbelievable, the time he spent. I think my dad wants to do what my grandpa did for us." Johnny was present for one of the more magical moments of his fatherhood: Andy's hole-in-one at Bethpage Black in the 2002 U.S. Open, a 5-iron from 209 yards on No. 3. On Father's Day, no less. Andy was able to give Dad a hug and a high-five. They remain the only father-son duo to both make aces at U.S. Opens. Johnny and Linda will split time between homes in Utah, the Monterey Peninsula and Napa, while con- tinuing to give lessons, based on one word: honesty. NBC viewers may have come to view Johnny Miller's "honesty" as cruelly blunt ("choke," any- body?), but Todd and Andy say the foundation of a family's love comes from the very word. "The best word to describe him as a dad is that he's just very honest," Todd said. "Some people take that as harsh, but my dad is just as honest as he can be in every situation." Not that Johnny plans on hectoring his grandchil- dren with sermons on the virtues of honesty. He'll do it by example, through the various passions of his life — fly fishing, hunting and, of course, driving along- side in a golf cart at dusk, squeezing in a few holes before sundown, always teaching one other thing besides honesty. "I always say, on his tombstone should just be two words: Brush, brush," Andy said. "Every clinic he gives, he emphasizes brush, brush. Brush the grass. It's what he teaches." Andy sees it as a metaphor. "There's something more profound in that," Andy said. "All the stuff he's learned in golf, all the years, and he distills it down to that. I can do all the things: keep my elbow in, rotate my hips, but if the clubface doesn't brush the ground, the ball won't go in the right direc- tion. He always says, The ball only knows the 2 inches at impact." At 71 years old, with plenty of golden years in front of him, Johnny can hand down lessons learned from his father, and keep them alive through his grand- children. Sounds like a plan. Brian Murphy hosts the KNBR morning show "Murph and Mac" and was the San Francisco Chronicle's golf writer from 2001–04. 88 WINTER 2019 | NCGA.ORG M U R P H Y ' S L A W Family First BY BRIAN MURPHY "I just feel like I've got a lot of golf lessons to give and a lot of life lessons to give." —Johnny Miller, father of six and grandfather of 24

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