Sunday, January 3, 2010

It's A Long Way To Tippy, Really

Growing up in the late 60's and early 70's, I was always looking to make a buck to supplement my two dollar a week allowance my dad gave me every Saturday morning. I did plenty of the usual neighborhood jobs such as cutting grass, raking leaves, and shoveling snow. I kept the same regular customers season to season. The extra money kept me supplied in comic books, trading cards, and Sky Scraper Ice Cream Cones at Isaly's Dairy Store.

A new family moved into our neighborhood in the late 60's and I soon learned from their four boys how to make some REAL money by Caddying at Tippecanoe Country Club.

Golf was still pretty foreign to me, so I asked a bajillion questions about how to go about being a Caddy. I learned that The Club Professional actually conducted a class one morning a week on the Do's and Dont's of Caddying, how to rake a Sand Trap, determining yardage, etiquette, which club to use, etc. I decided I was in and told one of the boys I would go with him the next time they had a class.

The appointed day arrived and I anxiously knocked on my neighbor's door to start this new adventure. I was twelve at the time, the minimum age to Caddy. I asked how we were getting to the country club, which was nine miles away. He said we were going to "Thumb". "What?, I asked, What is that?" "Hitchhike, Ya Dummy, Ya know, put out your thumb and bum a ride from somebody!" Of course, I'd seen kids hitchhiking before, but had never actually done it myself. Too late to turn back now, I thought, so we headed up the street to the main road towards 'Tippy" as the country club was known to everyone.

It didn't take long for someone to stop and offer us a ride as we began "Thumbing". Fortunately, it was a very direct route with no turns until the last quarter mile on the road the country club was located on. Golfers were also on the look out for boys hitchhiking along the way, too, knowing they were probably headed to Tippy. The dangers and stigma associated with hitchhiking was nothing compared to today. Even my conservative parents had no problem with me hitching a ride.

We finally arrived at Tippecanoe Country Club and walked up the long driveway to this Grand Mansion and Golf Course nestled in the woods. My Middle-Class Mouth was wide open in awe at the magnificent sights before me. So, this is how that "Other half" lives, eh? I could get used to this lifestyle! Of course, being a lowly Caddy, I never got to see the inside of the club, in fact, we couldn't even use their restrooms. We had to walk into the woods and water a tree somewhere. If you had to do something else, plenty of leaves were available for your convenience.

I attended the Caddy School and immediately went to work. Most days were very busy and the pool of about fifty Caddies at any given time, usually had no problem in getting assigned to a golfer. The man assigning the caddies was called the Starter, staying on his good side was a good thing, I quickly learned. There was a pecking order in The Caddy Yard. More experienced or older Caddies were given the better golfers and the golfers that were considered good tippers. You could hear the audible groans when somebody would be assigned to a notorious Tight-Wad.

Minimum wage was $1.60 an hour then. Caddying paid $4.50 for nine holes and $9.00 for eighteen holes, plus tip for a single bag. If the course was very busy, you might get to carry two bags at the same time or "Doubles", as it was called. Double the work catering to two golfers, but double the money. a round of eighteen holes typically took four hours. If a boy carried Doubles twice in a day, he could make a cool forty bucks! That wasn't bad for a twelve year old, "still wet behind the ears", my dad used to say, whatever that meant.

Over that first Summer of Caddying, I made easily enough money to ironically, buy my first set of golf clubs. Taking up the game taught me that it's a lot harder than it looks. It did give me a better understanding of the game and to know the rules. I learned on a course near Struthers called Countryside. A perfect name for it in its early days. It was a glorified Cow Pasture, complete with Cow Patties sprinkled about the Fairways! I remember a silo on the ninth hole. None the less, A gang of about 8-10 neighborhood kids would golf there a couple of times a week.

After a long day of Caddying, I still had to face the nine mile trip home. On a hot Summer day with little shade and few rides while hitchhiking, it could be drudgery. I sometimes would spread out under some body's big tree in their front yard, taking a rest and often falling asleep in the cool grass. I'd awake from my short nap and continue the long walk towards home. Occasionally, I had to walk the entire way. Of course, I embellish the story when I tell the kids about it. You know, twenty miles both ways, all uphill, in a foot of snow. It just felt like it some days.

I caddied until I was sixteen, when I got a "Real" job. It was hard work, but also a lot of fun and I treasure the experiences. I was fortunate enough to Caddy for the eventual winner of The Ohio Amateur Tournament held at Tippecanoe. I got tipped fifty dollars and I felt like I was the one who won! Never did get to use that restroom in the Club House though...


  1. "Be the ball, Danny."

    Is the Tippecanoe Country Club still there? I never golfed there. Dogwood was more my speed. ;)

  2. It will be great to watch US Open Golf Championship - First Round, i have bought tickets from looking forward to it.