By Mike Sharkey

Geneticists have yet to determine if playing golf well is hereditary, but if they are looking for a good case study, the Slayden family may be a really good start.

Nancy and Kevin Slayden have four boys, ranging in age from 10 to 17, and all four play golf and play it well. Kevin Slayden, Sr, played golf on scholarship at Princeton University and so did his father. Kevin Jr., is a home-schooled 17-year-old who has already signed to play golf at Mercer University in Macon, Ga.

“We are really excited for him,” said Nancy Slayden.

Spenser (15) is also home-schooled; Stewart (12) attends Landrum Middle School and Lucas (10) is in the fourth grade at Ponte Vedra Palm Valley/Rawlings Elementary. The Slaydens live on the second hole of THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, providing the kids one of the best courses in the country as their home course.

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Given that golf is not the cheapest sport to get into, the Slaydens have managed to hold the costs down. They drive to as many tournaments as possible;  sometimes Nancy and a couple of the boys head in one direction while Kevin and the others head another, and often clubs and golf bags get handed down.

None of the boys has had a single professional lesson or a swing coach. Then again, when your dad and grandfather, who just happens to live right down the road, both played golf in college, an expert teacher and playing partner are never very far away. The boys also play together a lot.

“They have a built-in buddy system,” said Nancy, who admitted she doesn’t play golf at all. “There is always someone to play with. But, our view is very unique. We don’t tell them to go practice. All four of them have developed a love for the game. They all play differently and they all learned to play from my husband.”

The Slaydens also are not your typical Little League or soccer parent. You know the type: the ones who scream at their kids, the coaches and the umpires from the other side of a chain-link fence or yell from the sideline during a soccer game at virtually everyone and everything.

“We don’t watch their tournaments. We drop them off and pick them up. We have never walked the course with any of them,” said Nancy, explaining having parents hovering over every shot creates undue stress and anxiety. Instead, she and Kevin let them play. “The last thing they need is mom and dad standing around watching them. We might be the only ones like this, but for us, it works.”

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At 12, the PGA TOUR  is a long way off for Stewart. But he already has goals and enjoys the game for many of the same reasons lifelong golfers do: the challenge the game presents each and every time you play.

“I like it because it’s an individual sport and it’s challenging. I like to play by myself sometimes and practice by myself,” said Stewart, who has designs on playing on the PGA TOUR. “I hope so. It will take a lot of hard work and I am good at putting.”

Nancy said all of the boys are good athletes in addition to being good golfers and have played everything from basketball to baseball. But, golf has reigned supreme.

“They play a lot together, but they probably don’t compete. It’s more of a supportive role,” she said. “They are fans of the game and love golf. They love the history of golf. It’s a very unique world to grow up in.”