But this McGannon was an odd duck. For one thing, he was a Dartmouth graduate who had managed the Alfred Dunhill cigar store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, and second, he actually seemed to think of the caddies as people. "Some of these caddies are the happiest people I've ever met," McGannon says, "happier than a lot of the richest people I've ever met."
Hoping to find a sponsor and make the PGA Tour, McGannon, now 34, left the cigar-store job in 1990 to go to Pinehurst and sharpen his game after hours. But somewhere along the way he got caught up in his caddies' lives. He'd pick them up hitchhiking on his way home and drop them off at one-bedroom shacks that housed four families. He'd hear them coughing day after day in the caddie room, and yet none of the men ever mentioned going to a doctor.
But it wasn't until his wife, Laura, happened to come by the caddie room that Jim knew how serious things were. A teacher of visually impaired kids, she could sec the problem. If the eyes are traitors of the heart, these hearts were aching. Laura saw men with opacity in the backs of their irises (signs of glaucoma); men whose eyes bore the glaze of cataracts; men whose alcohol abuse and high blood pressure threatened their sight.
She was alarmed. "Don't any of them ever go to an eye doctor?" she asked.
"Can't afford it," Jim said.
"Oh, yes, they can," she said.
If the sight of a player and a caddie ambling down a fairway ever becomes just a memory, it won't be the fault of caddie heaven: Old Marsh Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Old Marsh is a purist's club. There are no tee times. No men's days. No opening day. At Old Marsh, members just play golf. And they still believe in the magic of kings mingling with cobblers. Every foursome must take at least one caddie, and the caddies are very good. The caddie master is the most famous caddie there ever was, Angelo Argea, who carried Jack Nicklaus in his heyday. Argea won five of the first six tournaments in which he packed Nicklaus, and 42 before he retired. It figures that Argea would set up caddie nirvana: regular, well-paying loops, a locker room, showers, even cable.
No wonder Old Marsh caddies almost hate to see winter end, for that's when they pack their stuff and go up to caddie in the Northeast, at places like Shinnecock Hills, Winged Foot, Glen Oaks and Westchester. You will even find a few Old Marsh caddies at Pine Valley, where some people go not to play the course that Golf Digest ranks No. 1 in the world but to watch the fore caddies in action. At Pine Valley one caddie runs ahead of his group on every hole to watch the tee shots. When you've driven into the fairway, the fore caddie gives baseball's "safe" sign. When you've hit into the six-inch rough, he holds his hands out flat, one above the other, six inches apart. When you've hit into the tall rough, he holds his hands about a foot apart. A train-whistle motion means you're on the railroad tracks. A rowing motion means you're in the lake. And when he crosses his arms into an X, it means "Mark an X on your scorecard, because you're never getting out of there."
Caddies aren't too fond of leaving Seminole, either, mostly because it has the best eats in caddiedom. The caddie master's wife, Rozzie Fobbs, fixes up daily specials for only $3: smothered chicken and collard greens, or stewed beef and oxtail soup, or pork-chop sandwiches and grits. Many are the days when the smells emanating from Fobbs's kitchen are so good that the millionaire club members have to be shooed from the door.