At age 7 in the spring, I learned to ride my bike to the Wichita city golf course and caddy. That summer, I turned 8. Years later, my mother insisted that I started at eight and turned nine that summer. She may have been correct.
The requirement was to pay a caddy $.75 for nine holes of golf and $1.50 for 18 holes. I don’t recall ever being paid that little. I remember getting a dollar for nine holes and $2 for 18 holes.
I would always waste some on a candy bar. Back then, a nickel would buy a large candy bar. Today that same candy bar is smaller and costs $1.
I was too young to understand anything about social status. All of the other caddies were from the other side of the tracks.
There was a building for us caddies to wait until a golfer came to select a caddy. They almost always picked me first, and I had no idea why.
The golf pro who ran the golf course as a business had a son who was my age. I was the only caddy with which his son was allowed to hang out.
The pro knew many of the golfers and would recommend that I be picked to caddy.
The pro would also teach the proper techniques to prospective golfers. A caddy was paid to collect the golf balls. We used a special device to collect the balls, so the caddy didn’t need to bend down to collect the balls. This job was called shagging the golf balls. I not only got paid but was usually close enough to hear the pro explain how to stand and swing correctly.
I didn’t caddy every chance that I got, but often. Since I was in school in the spring, I sometimes could caddy nine holes after school before it got dark. I would ride home late and get something to eat. When school was out for the summer break, I could caddy every day if I chose.
Sometimes I chose to do other things, but being a caddy was my favorite.
I was one of the smallest caddies, and some of the golf bags were quite heavy. My eyes were perfect, and I could see where the golfer’s ball landed better than some golfers. I don’t recall losing a ball that didn’t drop into one of the small ponds called a hazard.
Sometimes the path down the fairway was near a tree line. If I hurried, I could walk along the tree line and maybe get lucky and find a lost golf ball. I collected many balls that way. Golfers didn’t mind as long as I got to their ball when they did. I could sell the balls to golfers for extra income.
Before a tournament, a golfer would ask me to be his caddy for the game. That paid much better than the usual rate. I remember saving well over $100 that year. I was the only student to enter the third grade with that much self-earned money. In 2021 it would be around $3000.
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Updated 30 March 2023