In 1951, I was a sophomore at Woodmere High School (now Hewlett High School). Summer was approaching and friends had told me that something called "caddying" was a good job and paid pretty well. I wasn’t a golfer and didn’t know what caddying was, but I decided to look into it. My mother told me that she would take me to the Woodmere Country Club on Saturday, so I could learn more about it.
My visit to the golf course that day turned out to be the beginning of a connection with the Woodmere club that lasted for another five years. I began as a caddie, became a parking attendant, then a busboy, greenskeeper and, finally, an assistant to the tennis professional. While I worked there, I met boys from all over the Five Towns.
I found that I liked caddying. It was fun to be out on the golf course, watching the players — good and bad — hit their shots.
One day while caddying, I was in the group with Jay Hebert, the new Woodmere pro and a well-known PGA tour player. I still remember Hebert’s first shot at Woodmere — a long, high, out-of-bounds shot, over the fence that lines Woodmere’s first hole.
His reaction to such a wild shot? He laughed, and so did the rest of us. I have always admired the way he reacted to his poor shot.
At the end of the day, we caddies sometimes shagged (collected and returned) balls hit by golfers out on the 18th fairway. No driving ranges in those days. We wore baseball gloves to help us catch the balls.
I began to play regularly, at Woodmere on Mondays (called "caddies day") and Monday afternoons on Bethpage’s Black Course, which in those days bore no resemblance to today’s Black Course, with its manicured greens and fairways and long wait times.
During my second summer at Woodmere, I began to work Saturday nights as a busboy. The club held big parties every weekend, all summer, and I was lucky to get the busboy job. Even now, when I hear the song "I Love Paris," I am reminded of those parties.
In the summer before my senior year, I was offered a job working as a greenskeeper. It was hard, requiring me to work seven days a week. The head greenskeeper, Willy, told me I had to learn to operate a huge mowing machine.
After showing me what to do, he told me, "Now you do it."
I walked over to the mower, started it and promptly ran it into a sand trap. I eventually got the hang of it, and my job was saved.
In my senior year, I began working as a parking lot attendant. One day, I parked Milton Berle’s yellow Buick convertible — very nervously, I might add.
I was able to buy my first car in the summer before my senior year. It was a 1939 Oldsmobile sedan, all white. It became my "senior year car" and lasted until I left home for college.
I worked at Woodmere for two more years, this time in the tennis shop. I maintained the clay courts, hit balls with the members’ kids, and played golf with the tennis pro in the afternoons.
It was working at Woodmere that got me started in golf. I ended up playing on my college golf team and coaching high school golf. Even today, I continue to play at Timber Point Golf Club and Sumpwams Creek in Babylon.
Clearly, my life would have been very different had I not listened to my friends and looked into "caddying" those many years ago.
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