Coming of age: ASU golf coach Thurmond takes daughters on trips of a lifetime

A long-promised father-daughter trip took ASU men’s golf coach Matt Thurmond and 14-year-old Elizabeth halfway across the world to South Africa. (Photo courtesy of Matt Thurmond)

Before jet-setting to Western Norway, Matt Thurmond and his oldest daughter explored Johannesburg and went on safari in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. (Photo courtesy of Matt Thurmond)

PHOENIX – A book inspired a father’s promise to his daughters to see the world.

In “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know,” Meg Meeker writes about the importance of fathers setting examples for their daughters over the course of their lives.

ASU men’s golf coach Matt Thurmond made a promise to his three daughters when they were young that they could pick anywhere in the world to visit for their 14th birthday.

“I was just thinking about it and I love to travel,” Thurmond said. “It’s kind of a time in a girl’s life when (or even a boy’s) it’s not so cool to be around your dad. They go from being your best bud to not wanting to be around you.”

On their 13th birthdays, Thurmond’s daughters pick a place in the world they would like to visit.

Preparation is not just left to Thurmond and his wife, Kathryn. Their daughters have to take part as well.

“We spend the year researching, planning and preparing,” he said. “Then wherever they chose to go, we’ll do all the traveling plans together and I make them do a lot of it.”

Thurmond thought for sure his kids would want to go to Disneyland or Hawaii. He was wrong.

“My first daughter, Elizabeth, went on a safari in South Africa,” he said. “My next daughter, Emily, she and I are leaving this week for a big hiking excursion in Western Norway, seeing loads of mountains and villages of Western Norway.”

Emily, who turned 14 in May, and her father left the country on Wednesday for a week-long trip they hope will provide memories to share for the rest of their lives.

“It’s for them not competing with the other kids or me not chatting with my wife the whole time,” he said. “It’s just me and them spending quality time together at a crucial time in life and also creating a memory that we will talk about forever.”

Elizabeth’s trip to South Africa saw stops in Johannesburg, cultural tourism (Nelson Mandela Apartheid Museum) and sitting in an open-aired Jeep looking for animals at the Kruger National Park.

“(The) guides take you around and they know to track the animals,” Matt Thurmond said. “(We saw) rhinos, elephants, lions, leopards, hippos, giraffes, zebras and baboons.”

The girls’ picks of South Africa and Norway were on the approved list of countries by their dad.

“I’ve taken them to quite a few places as well,” he said. “There are places on the globe I would have said ‘no’ but I don’t think they would have been able to come up with them or would have wanted to. There’s a couple hot spots in the world that I would probably avoid with a 14-year-old girl but I don’t think they would ever pick those places.”

This trip to Western Norway has special meaning for Matt Thurmond.

Father’s Day will fall during their journey.

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