Caddying

From the main road to the clubhouse is the length of the first hole, a short par 4, around 300 yards.  That’s how golfers look at distance, in terms of yardage, though the first time I road my bicycle to the clubhouse I was more terrified than anything.  Would someone come out and chase me away?  I was not a member of the club.

As I approached the first tee, which was just in front of the clubhouse, there was a group of three men on the tee.  I stopped and sat on my bike as they hit their tee shots.

At that time, golf was played almost exclusively by men.  It would develop into a family sport, sort of, and women and kids would play.  But on a summer afternoon in 1968, on a rural golf course in central Illinois, men dominated the sport.

One of the men asked what I was doing.  For  many of my stories about the golf course, I will not remember exact conversations, or an exact sequence of events.  As I write this, the events in my memory are almost 50 years old.  I know from experience that these three men on the tee would have been curious, if not a  little annoyed at being watched by a strange boy on a bike.  But they would have been polite, as that was the way then, even with strangers.  I was not causing trouble.  I was quiet.  That would be enough for any golfer to respect in a gallery, even a gallery of one.

I’m sure my answer to the man’s question was not very creative: “I’ve never been on a golf course before,” I might have said.

“Well, do you want to walk around the course with us?  You can caddy for me.”

I would have been hesitant at his suggestion.  For one, I was excruciatingly shy.  As the oldest of four boys who had moved from one small town to another every year or two, never acquiring friends, living a very sheltered life, I would not have wanted to become the center of attention.

Perhaps sensing my hesitation, he added, “I’ll pay you.”

My parents had given us an allowance a couple of years before, maybe $0.10 per week.  Candy was cheap back then, and we didn’t really need money.   But for some reason I hadn’t seen money in a long time.  We just didn’t need it.

“Sure!”  If I remember, they offered me a dollar, a small fortune, to carry the clubs.  And as caddy, I had other duties: retrieving errant balls, delivering a putter to the green, raking a sand trap, etc.  It was all new to me, but I was eager to learn.  But more importantly, I was eager to have that dollar.

Caddies were unheard of at Pine Hills Golf Course, as I would later learn.  They were just being nice.  I have no recollection of who they were.  The course was listed as “Semi Private”, meaning that there were members who paid annual dues, a few hundred dollars per year, and what we called “Green Fee Players”, who paid $2.50 for nine holes and $4.00 for eighteen holes.  In later years I always assumed that these guys were green fee players, but I can’t really know for sure now.

About all I remember about the round is that I finished, performed my function adequately, and collected my dollar.  Afterwards, I jumped on my bike and rode home, knowing that I would visit the golf course again soon, and maybe get another caddying job.  Little did I know then that caddying would not be in my future.

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