John Dunn has played one of the most spectacular, and probably the most exclusive, par 4s in the world. He and a buddy hit from the forward tees on No. 10 at the National Golf Links of America, hit over the trees, into the third fairway at Shinnecock Hills and onto that green.
Each made par on their makeshift 450-yard hole. "I've never heard of anyone else doing that," said Dunn, who had playing privileges because he caddied at those courses, and many others around the world, during two decades in which he wrote a book that was released this week: "Loopers: A Caddie's Twenty-Year Golf Odyssey."
Dunn's book is a paean to golf in general, caddying in particular and the Hamptons as a distinctive part of both. He has "looped" at Augusta National, Bandon Dunes, St. Andrews and has hitchhiked across the country with his golf clubs. Knowing that he also is a travel writer, people inevitably ask him to name his favorite place.
"I don't know how to answer that, but I do mention the Hamptons a lot because it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been," said the man who grew up in Connecticut, lives in California but considers himself at least in part a Long Islander because of the four years he spent caddying on the East End. The beauty manifested itself to him through Atlantic Golf Club, National, Shinnecock and Maidstone.
His years there comprise much of the book's soul. He writes nothing about the celebrities for whom he has caddied. His lens focuses on the courses and the people who work on them.
"You can flip a coin," he said, to determine which is better, National or Shinnecock. Dunn will just never forget how parched he and his companion became when they were playing Shinnecock after starting at National in late fall, after the former had turned off all water. Dunn sneaked through a hole in the fence and staggered to a home, where a pleasant lady gave him a drink in a cup large enough to be banned in New York City.
In a telephone interview, he was effusive about all of the clubs: National as the place for big business people, most of whom don't leave anywhere near Southampton; Shinnecock with a surprisingly large share of local people; Atlantic, where he did most of his caddying, with its farmland character and the women members who would prepare snacks for the caddies, as if the loopers were their children.
One of Dunn's regrets is that he does not mention Maidstone at all in the book. "You can't write everything," he said, adding that the club on the water in East Hampton was spectacular. "It was kind of like being inside a Monet painting."
His highest praise, though, is for the men and women who read greens, gauge winds and carry bags. Dunn said he exhorts young people to work as caddies because they are sure to meet people who can start them in business careers.
At the same time, he knows why people want to make a career of caddying. "You're making so much cash, you're working on the most beautiful courses in the world. It's hard to leave," he said. "The fact that golf is an incredibly addictive game has a lot to do with it."