In Golf The Real Masters Are The Caddies

In Golf The Real Masters Are The Caddies

I am not a good golfer.

If you are a friend laughing at this I will take a moment for you to exhale, climb back into your chair, wipe the tears from your eyes and continue reading.

(cue the jazz interlude)

Ok, I'm not THAT bad.  But I'm not good.  I have fun, don't stress about my score, and most importantly if it's for work (the vast majority of my golf) I show my guests a good time.

I know the game, and love the game, because I was a "looper."

I spent ten summers caddying (looping) six days a week at a country club outside Chicago.

Six days is significant because I watched a lot of golf in salt stained shirts while lugging 60 pounds (two bags) of golf clubs 12 hours a day.

I started looping the summer after turning 12.  I was young but "big boned" and quite agile in my Sears toughskins husky jeans.

The caddy culture is unique.  Picture a group of kids thrown into a barren room (the caddyshack)  other than a card table and some benches.   From there the choice was stark: Either sit on the bench and stare at each other or buckle down for a game of poker with hung over smokers ten years your senior.  Forever etched in my mind is the 20 something, rail thin guy who stood at least 6'5.  We called him Lurch.  He sat in the corner in aviator glasses beneath his boom box which blared Van Halen throughout the day.

He frightened me.  When you're young, and they're old, they frighten you.

Lots of memories including:

1) The day I caddied for the General Manager of NBC Chicago, who walked off the 18th green and said, "I'm not tipping you, but I am giving you this NBC golf ball."  The ball was orange, peacock logo and all.  Is it wrong to hope he's now producing internet video from his mother's basement?

2) The member who teed off alone at 6:00 am.  He never took a practice swing, instead running up to the ball, club in hand, and hacking away without breaking stride using three clubs: driver, a wedge he called "the big one" and a putter.   Somehow he also managed to pick up every twig, scrap of paper and cigarette butt in his way.  I'd get back to the caddyshack at 8:30, ready for two more loops.

3) The member who used to give me a wad of 120 dollar bills, then take a buck after each shot.  After the round I kept what was left.  It was my first exposure to a falling market.

4)  The member who responded to my saying, "It's a tough game" by stopping, turning towards me, removing his hat and saying, incredulously, "And who are we, Bill, who try and counquer this game?"  I didn't want to conquer anything.  I just wanted to get away from this strange man and go home.

5) Looping in the Western Open, at that time the only PGA event employing amateur caddies, a tradition which ended in the mid-80's.

Caddying was a great experience and taught me valuable lessons.

I was around adults (rich ones) all day, so I learned the importance of looking people in the eye and acting appropriately, at least when they were around.

I learned the value of hard work and saving money, giving me more options as I got to college.

And I learned the value of pretax income since loopers get paid in cash the same day.

Golf is a metaphor for life.  Every hole is a new hole, every shot a new shot.  In golf and in life, we all yank a bad shot here and there.

It's the recovery that matters.


Filed under: youth

Tags: caddy, country clubs, golf, sunburn, work


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  • Nice article.

    I think I'm about your age and caddied for 8 years throughout my teens as well. Greatest job I ever had. Outside all summer, I made some great friendships, was well paid, learned to talk with adults, learned a great game that I'll play til I am very old and received a scholarship that paid for college. In speaking with parents of teenage kids, I always recommend it. It sure beats flipping burgers.

  • In reply to Tryder:

    Tom - thanks for reading and your comments. It was a great job - nothing like it for teens.

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