A Mother’s Day putting green for Donna Joyce

By Cynthia Adams     Photographs by Amy Freeman

Some moms get a card and flowers — maybe a box of chocolates or brunch — on Mother’s Day. Unless you’re Donna Joyce, who got her own putting green and golf hazard from her three sons a few years ago.

“The boys used to make ceramic things, or give me cologne, or a gift certificate,” she says, perched in her kitchen, (chronicled among this magazine’s pages two months ago), having a cup of orange tea.

That all changed in May of 2015. “Will this be topped?” Donna asks, gesturing to the backyard and shaking her head. “No, that was the pinnacle. This was way over-the-top for Mother’s Day.”

At the back of Don and Donna Joyce’s Irving Park yard the gift is one Donna can admire from the kitchen, dining area and the den — created by her husband, Don Joyce, and sons, Donny, Dillon and Ben. 

Over two weekends in May her guys labored to create something unique in a yard that had morphed over time as the boys grew into manhood. The newest iteration of the family’s backyard neatly coincided with Donna having taken up golf. The Joyces’ family excursions often included golfing destinations like Carlsbad, California, where the sons met golfer Sergio Garcia. 

The addition allows the golf neophyte to work on her game.

“My putting?” Donna laughs, wide-eyed, “I’m getting there. Rather than having to be the best at this, I can be a part of this.” Then she grins. “You know they say you drive for show and you putt for dough.”

Over the years, the area has hosted, among other things, a sandbox, a zipline and a treehouse, which were there in 1993 when the family first moved to the neighborhood. They removed the treehouse as the boys outgrew it. Then the sandbox was banished. In their place followed a lacrosse playing field with gravel and nets in 2000. 

The two older boys left for college; the youngest one was soon to leave. Then both Donny and Dillon migrated back home briefly when they entered graduate school.   

Other than an occasional place to play fetch with the family Lab, the lacrosse field, meanwhile, languished.

“Then Don mentioned that we should do something with the backyard,” says Donna.

She recalls seeing a picture of a perfectly manicured green mound, complete with hole and pin. “I asked my husband; ‘do you think we could feasibly put a putting green back there?’”

And the idea was set into motion. “They brought in some sand, built it up, put in some artificial turf from a home box store, and also had the idea for the chipping area,” Donna says. They rented a compactor to pack the sand and added decorative stone.  “This took a couple of weekends.”

She explains it didn’t hurt that her husband is the owner of Pomona Pipe, Inc., and in the business of designing and building roads and bridges. Plus, he had three sons to provide free labor.

“My husband is a civil engineer, so he knows how to do layout and design and execute the work. He’s also a lifelong golfer, so he knew what he wanted to create, along with the picture I’d already pulled,” Donna says. “He pretty much supervised and told my sons what to do and how to implement his plan.” 

The family plunged right in with gusto. “The boys supported it. There’s always a project in the making. We don’t shy away from projects.” She laughs. “What is my role?  Well, I’m the visionary with the Honey-Do list.” 

Now do they have a mini Augusta National in the making perhaps? 

“Well, I wouldn’t go quite that far, but it’s kind of a neat story,” Donna says.  However, the Joyces do hold their own Master’s party when the boys come home to visit. 

The putting green and chipping area, landscaped with rhododendron, various grasses and accents of stacked stone, is where the Joyce men — and Donna — now gather to hone their game and cook out. “We had a small barbecue and clinked drinks to dedicate it,” she recalls.

The newest golfer in the pack says nostalgically, “The backyard is where we’ve had many fond memories, even though it’s not in some exotic place. When I play with my sons, I relax and enjoy it.”

And it keeps evolving. To prevent the yard from looking overly links-y, the couple have a few more plans in store as do-it-yourself family projects. Next, the hot tub currently situated on the side of the yard will be deep-sixed to make way for a fountain, says Donna. “Then we will put in some boxwoods and herbs.” 

Meantime, she works at her game intermittently, sometimes with a girlfriend. “We’re just trying to get to bogey golf,” Donna jokes, her self-deprecating comment a testament to the difficulty, if not impossibility, of mastering the royal and ancient game.

“It’s not intuitive,” Donna affirms. So, she practices in the backyard with her guys, hoping to putt for dough. But that, too, has its challenges. Giving an appreciative look at their well-loved backyard as the family Lab traipses towards the green, she jokingly cautions: “Look out for hazards!”  OH

Cindy Adams gave her sister her golf clubs, shoes, glove and balls after a few miserable attempts at the game. 

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