Caddie, 83

June 19, 1996|By FRANKLIN MASON

FOR A LONG time he did not think about it at all and then lately he thought a lot about it. It was about his caddie days and his caddie badge.

He had it still, the caddie badge. It had a blue border, a white center and red numerals. At the top was written ''Clifton Park,'' at the bottom was ''Caddie,'' and in the center was ''83A.''

He had always liked the badge and liked it now, maybe even more. The 83 was meaning a little more to him. It has to do with time, with time past, and with now. And No. 83.

Back then caddie jobs were scarce. He might snag one on a Sunday but it was a long day. He'd get up early and walk to the course and put his number in. It might not come up until afternoon. Then he'd tote the bag and watch the ball for five hours. A long day's journey until almost night.

Bags were lighter then, were simple canvas. Clubs had wooden shafts and were called by names instead of numbers as today.

He remembered the old first hole at Clifton. Then it ran 500 yards and more, right beside Harford Road, parallel to the trolley tracks. The scorecard forbade the golfer to tee off while a streetcar passed. They thought it better not to hit a passing passenger in the face.

Even a dollar, a dollar even

The scorecard also listed the caddie fee. He was to be paid 60 cents. Sometimes he got six bits, 75 cents. Sometimes he even got a dollar, a dollar even. That was a good day.

It wasn't always work. Sometimes he got a chance and he'd play the game. His own game with his own clubs. But he wasn't any good. He might break 100 but never shot as low as the number on his badge. And now 83 turns up again. And in a new way. It is a birthday, it is in June, it is the long-ago caddie's 83rd birthday. He is glad for the badge, glad he has it still, and pins it on.

He heads to Clifton Park again. He likes the place, still feels sort of proprietary. Once he felt he knew every blade of grass.

It was all long ago. Now the number on his caddie badge matches his number of years.

He no longer carries the clubs of others, nor yet his own, but that is all right. It is what time is, what time does. It is good to walk the great green grass again and remember other days. When 83 was just his badge and not his years.

Franklin Mason is a retired Evening Sun editor.

Pub Date: 6/19/96

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