Dear Reader: I decided to write about myself using a series of anecdotes from my golfing life. I think you will enjoy learning about me from this perspective.
My mother arranged for me to go to Sunningdale Golf Club in London, Ontario to learn caddying skills when I was twelve years old. I can still recall the details of my first assignment exactly as they occurred. The member had suffered a heart attack, and he wanted to hit a few balls on the driving range. Back then — the 1960’s — golfers had shag bags full of practise balls. When they went to the range, they hired a caddy to pick up the balls. The member hit FOUR balls and signalled me to come in to where he was. As I walked in, I thought, “What did I do wrong?” It turned out that the golfer felt weak and did not want to continue. He handed me two $1.00 bills (the going rate for a full 18 hole round) and apologized for not being able to continue. I thought that I had died and gone to heaven. My allowance at the time was 25 cents a week.
My caddying skills improved quickly, and I managed to develop a good rapport with several members. I had two customers at 7:30 a.m. each Saturday and Sunday. Being the first golfers out allowed us to complete their round by 10:30, so I could take two more bags at 11:00. I had just enough time to grab a burger before heading out for a second round. That’s four bags on most weekends. A couple times a month the head professional invited other local pros for a “money game”, and I would grab two more bags — a total of ten bags, and $30.00 for the weekend’s work.
HAMBURGERS, MILK SHAKES AND PEANUTS
Hamburgers—Caddies were well cared for. After a round, they could go to the back door of the kitchen, and order a hamburger — for 25 cents. With “the works”, no less! And the fries were equally as good. A few years into the program, I was hired to work in the bag room. This allowed us to order supper if we were working over the supper hour.
Milk shakes—The milk shakes were good, but we made them even better! The kitchen staff was busy, if we timed it right. They would tell us to make the milk shake ourselves. We would fill the metal shake mixer cup right to the top with ice cream and pour a bit of chocolate milk over the ice cream — about 3,000 calories each!
Peanuts—I had a “regular” customer who treated me really well. He knew that I loved dry roasted peanuts, so before going out, he would head to the bar to get five or six bags, and tell me to “save a couple” for him. The halfway house was handy to the tenth tee, so he would ask if we needed a “refill”. Of course we did, so he would get four or five more bags. And the guy was a good tipper! When I was about to go to teachers’ college, he gave me the second biggest tip of my caddying career. Great guy!
BIGGEST TIP — PATTY BERG
In the mid 1960’s, Sunningdale Golf Club hosted an LPGA tournament called The Supertest Ladies’ Open. The first year, Patty Berg fired her caddy each day — a disaster! The second year, the head professional assigned me to Berg’s bag. I protested, but it did little to change his mind. I made it through the first day all right. The reason that things had gone so smoothly up to this point was that she hit the ball almost the same distance as I did — easy to club! On the second day she claimed that I “misclubbed” her — one foot past the pin and one foot off the edge of the green — on the twelfth hole, a short par three. She was upset! I was certain that she was going to fire me. Nothing more was said. I made it through the third day. All this time my buddies were teasing me about getting fired. That stopped when I showed them the cheque that Patty gave me — more than double any other caddy’s pay for the week. And a few months later, I received a Christmas card from her. I wish I had been smart enough to keep the card.
SHELL’S WONDERFUL WORLD OF GOLF
The London Hunt Club hosted Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf in the late 1960’s. The program featured three golfers playing for one spot in the finals for that season — Ben Arda, a Phillipino, Dan Sikes, an American, and Roberto DeVicenzo, an Argentinian. Sikes and DeVicenzo flew into London the day before the program was to be taped. Arda wanted to win badly. He showed up five or six days before the taping, and played 36 holes each day. Arda won. I had never seen the program until the GHSC played an anniversary event at the Hunt Club in the 2010’s. The pro shop had the CD for sale. There is only one time that I am in the tape — I am the caddy with the yellow shirt.
Arnold Palmer was supposed to show up the day before the taping of the above mentioned show, and I was supposed to caddy for him. But he was a “no show” My biggest moment, almost! Flash forward twenty or thirty years! I had the opportunity to join Dr. Bern Bernaki, GSC region 2 director to view Arnold Palmer’s collection of golf memorabilia in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Thousands of clubs, shoes, bags, etc. And the Pennsoil tractor! Every endorsed item on display! The workshop featured over 200 putters used by “The King”.
Back in the 1960’s, Remembrance Day was a national holiday. It was also the day for the Caddy Tournament. On November 11, 1964, I scored my first hole-in-one on Sunningdale’s third hole, to shoot a 41 (front nine) to win my first tournament. I still have the trophy, a silver plate, The Jim Windsor trophy.
I was introduced to hickory golf by two Sarnia ministers who enjoyed a challenge. At the time, I was operating a company called Leaderboard Golf at a local driving range. Two customers asked if I could install modern rubber grips on hickory shafts. I did so, not knowing any better. We got to talking, and this led to me signing up for a Hickory Hackers event at Dundas Valley Golf Club. I played with a lady, her son and a GHSC member — and we won! I was hooked. To this day, I have these same guys wanting modern rubber grips on their wooden clubs.
MY FIRST ROUND
I had to prepare for the Dundas Valley event, but I only had two clubs — a mashie and a putter. I shot 45 on the front nine at my home course. Easy game!