When you’re the second oldest of a large Irish Catholic family you learn to improvise in almost any situation.
As has been previously mentioned, my caddying career began around age ten – near as I can remember. Every Monday a “caddy school” was in session. This consisted of one of the older caddies or one of the assistant pros playing nine holes while schooling several of the youngsters looking to earn some summer cash in the art of “looping”. That’s a caddy term. Eighteen holes, it’s a loop, right?
Anyway, on this particular Monday I was one of the kids in the “school”. We all took turns carrying the guys bag. We learned how to “mark” wherever the ball went into the rough by aligning it with a tree or stake so we could find it. Never a good idea to use a bird or small animal since they tend to move – really, they told us this shit.
We learned how to rake sand traps, how to replace divots, how to be quiet, where to stand and always, how to keep up (this was the hardest because we were little kids with a heavy bag). We learned how to remove the pin from the hole, how to never, ever stand in anyone’s line on the putting green and how to “make like a statue” while someone was putting. Looking back, these were all good things, they just seemed like a lot of stuff to remember when you were ten years old.
Apparently, I was born to caddy because I graduated in just one session of learning. Hell, some of the poor kids had to go through the thing more than once. Was I good or what!
My dad was on vacation that week, so we took day trips to Newport Beach. I still remember the six of us kids (the other three hadn’t arrived yet) piling into our ’55 Chevy station wagon for the 45-minute trek to the shore. The ride back home wasn’t nearly as comfortable because we were sunburned, wearing wet, sand filled bathing suits and we were tired and hungry. When we got home, we all took turns standing in the driveway showering under the garden hose so as not to track sand into the house. Ahh, the good old days!
It seems like this beach reminiscing stuff doesn’t fit in but really, it does. Recall that I said we all got sunburned? Well, we did. And I managed a pretty nasty one on my shoulders. This was going to be my ticket out of looping at least for a few days, or so I thought. My mom had a wonderful sense of humor – had to with nine kids, right? She was also very clever at solving everyday problems with whatever was handy. A regular MacGyver.
As she explained to me, “we just need to find something to put on your shoulder, so the strap of the bag doesn’t dig into your sunburn”. Okay, sounded good, sort of……The good news was we found something. The bad news was the only padding of sufficient density to be found in the house was a box of sanitary napkins. This is not a joke! My mom sent her ten-year old kid up to Pawtucket Country Club to caddy with sanitary napkins scotch tapped to his sunburned shoulders. Told you she had a sense of humor. She called them “caddy pads”. She thought maybe she could market them to the other young loopers. I suggested it was a terrible idea and, to this day, I thank my lucky stars no one other than my immediate family ever found out the truth.
I’ve got to say, though, the damned things worked pretty good!