Arnold Palmer

My Second Job

My Second Job


The best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft a-gley

(Robert Burns)


My first job as a clam man for Uncle Jimmy was an endeavor ending as a short-lived catastrophe.

It was not that I needed money, because I had an allowance for doing house chores. By the same token, I always seemed to need more than was covered by that pittance, and hated the glowering parental stares or lectures on budgeting, which arose as a direct result of me asking for more money in the middle of the week. At that point in time my parents would have preferred that I studied for good grades as opposed to getting a job, but also preferred that I no longer beg for loose change.

My materialistic needs were beginning to outstrip my income. It was a dilemma.

At about age sixteen I was sitting around on a mat at wrestling practice, when hair-slick Louie told the coach he was going to have to miss the next Saturday morning inter-school match. Most matches took place after school on weekdays such that a Saturday event was rare. The coach was livid in his demand for an explanation, to which Louie simply replied that he needed money and that he was “going looping”.

  • I gotta go loopin’ coach. I need to make some bread.

So that was that.

I later asked Louie what loopin’ was. He said it was golf caddying and that making it once around the course was to do a full loop; ergo why it was called it loopin’. Two loops then was “double loopin.” Carrying two bags one time around was a “loop double” which was good because it was twice the money for half the time. Not getting a call from the caddy master was “nuttin’ doin.”

He told me he could do a ”loop double” making twenty dollars for the round which made my eyeballs pop out of their sockets at the thought of such a fabulous sum of money. I asked him if I could get in on it too, but he didn’t know.

My father had no objections too it, and after giving me the most cursory explanation of what to do, one Saturday morning brought me to a public club where he sometimes played, introduced me to the Caddy Master; then left me there.

I was grilled about whether I knew anything about caddying, had I done it before, if so, where or when. With no other choice, I bluffed and fibbed just enough to get through the interview. After all, I had walked a few holes with my father once and thought there could not possibly be that much to it. Then I was told they probably did not need me today, but to go to the caddy shack, then just wait there, as I would be at the bottom of the days call list.

The caddy master bellowed

  • This is a hierarchy, you know, so you will have to prove yourself to earn your place on the list. And don’t forget to show up every week. Show up and shut up. That’s the two most important things.

Most of the boys who were caddies were a little older than I was and obviously knew their craft. Being the xenophobic introvert, I hardly interacted with anyone, and certainly not wanting anyone to know I was an acolyte, just sat around in the shade. I should have asked some questions instead.

It was a ferociously hot day as I waited half of it just dawdling around. Then just when I was about to give up, the club suddenly got busy and they actually called me up for caddy duty.

I was assigned to two Jewish men, who tried to chat me up with a few superficial personal queries, then the usual comments about my Jewish first name contradicted by my Christian faith. But soon enough the match was on and I had to go to work. The only thing I remember about either of the men is that one wore baggy khaki pants, which fell like tent flaps over his thin spindly legs making him look like a daddy long legs spider about to go on safari with a quiver full of iron arrows.

In not having the slightest clue as to what to do or what my job actually was, which included not being able to track errant shots, what club to hand out, how to help with a putting line or what advice to give on distances; the men subsequently lost their balls, they lost their putting lines, they lost their shots and ultimately then they lost their cool.

One of them started criticizing me to the point of making me cry, but his partner was a little more compassionate when he found out it was my first try at it. He then actually attempted to teach me a little about the expectations of the art and science of looping. That is, the art and science of being a pack mule with far sighted vision and GPS skills, a genie who can predict the shot skills of an amateur hacker and one who also has an intuitive vision as to how a ball breaks on an undulating carpet known as the putting surface.

Although I am sure my new mentor continued to harbor a smoldering annoyance at being stuck with me, I still struggled with his bag, he struggled with his game, and as we struggled along together we finally made it all the way around and back to the Clubhouse. A double loop!

Of course I did not get a tip while the caddy master said I would have to learn more about the job if I ever wanted to come back. I was not quite sure how one could learn to do it if one was not actually allowed to do it or somehow mentored, which resulted in this experience being probably the first, but certainly not the only the only time in my life I saw failure being proscribed in an organization by the hiring of unqualified help and then compounding the mistake by never training anyone nor ever providing the employee any idea of the job’s actual expectations.

My father’s solution was to forget the whole episode and that I should just learn to play the game instead. He said working it was being on the wrong side of the bag anyway, that I would enjoy it more and maybe even make more money than a caddy if I had some athletic talent. He chided:

  • Do you know how much money Arnold Palmer made in just four days last week?

Yet little did he know how much he had just become the prophet of doom, when one actually does try to master this squirrelly sport. The words ‘enjoy’ and ‘golf’ become an oxymoron that will haunt you until the day you die; when you and your golf sticks join The Big Sky Country Club, where rumor has it that every shot results in a monotonous hole in one.

He knew even less just how difficult it would be for anyone to become a super-star like Arnie, that his own son would not even stand a chance without a few hundred thousand hours of practice and that a small fortune would be needed for private lessons.

Then in addition to everything else, my first day as a caddy was so hot that everyone was flirting with hyperthermic dehydration. At one point in the middle of the round one of the men in the foursome started handing out salt tablets. He also told me to take a few of them stating that the salt would “keep the water in” and boost my “circulation.” So I naively did as I was told and swallowed them down, followed by additionally advised large drafts of water.

Of course when a person is dehydrated, drinking hypertonic fluid is not exactly a desirable cure or prevention which can also be harmful if done to excess. The kidneys seem to resent it, which explains why men lost at sea die in renal failure when they finally capitulate and feel compelled to slake their thirst by drinking seawater.

At home, when I told my mother about it, she had an old fashioned southern conniption. Being more concerned that I would take any kind of pill from some random stranger than for what was actually contained in the tablet, she started muttering under her breath small fragmented sentences about child abduction, sexual abuse and rape.

The result was that between the facts of my own incompetence, my father’s indifference, coupled with the salt tablet incident, it was the first and the last time I ever went caddying. My second job had lasted exactly five hours.

It was hard work, it had wasted an entire day, and it had made wrestling practice look desirable by comparison because even if the only wage ever paid by practicing that sport was mat burns and aching joints, it did also come with the fringe benefit of having free open Saturday afternoons.




Great expectations:

Training a Llama to be a Caddy


Photo source: Google images: © Bandolero’s Buckaroo Bonzai