In the Seminole caddie shack some of the lifers can quote you chapter and verse from the Bible even when they're up to their ears in a crap game. Spongey, who worked right up until his death last August in his 80's, was known for always carrying two bags. "He got mad if I didn't get him 36 holes a day," says the caddie master, Eddie Fobbs.
One day one of the younger caddies was standing on the 18th green. He said, "Spongey, how long you been here?" Spongey considered that for a moment and then pointed to the Atlantic Ocean, which was buffeting the shoreline.
"See that?" Spongey said. "When I first got here, you could jump acrost it."
Seminole is the place where great Tour caddies go when their feet get sore. In the old days Zunnie outdrove every player on the Tour—in his old beat-up Chevy. Once, in the 1960s, he and two other caddies were driving to Robinson, III., the next Tour stop, and on their way into town a police car pulled them over. The officer ordered them to follow him. He took them directly to jail. Other than being black, they asked, what had they done? "Fellas," the policeman said, "we know who you arc, and you'll never get a room in this town...so you can stay here." The police kept the cell doors open, tried to make the caddies comfortable and served them breakfast every morning. "Free room and board," says Zunnie. "How do you beat that?"
Some Tour players were so tight that their caddies had to watch every penny. For his 1967 book, Bogey Man, George Plimpton asked a gaggle of caddies if there were any players on the Tour whom they tried to avoid. "You know what Deane Beman give?" one caddie said. "Why, man, he give 10 dollar a day and three percent of his winnings. And when he han' that ovah, he look at you like you done stab him in the knee!"
When word goes around the Pinehurst caddie room that former North Carolina governor Jim Martin is approaching, caddies jump fences. "You know what Jim Martin pay me?" asks Gillis, a Pinehurst veteran. "Twenty-two dollars. Not only did the man not come up with a tip, he didn't even pay the minimum! I ran up to him and said, 'Man, the price is $25.' I got my $3. The man is cheaper than chitlins."
Pinehurst caddies can smell a cheapskate at the front gate. "We can sec if a man got money just by the way he walk," says Fletch. "Now, that man there, you see the way he carry hisself. He ain't got no money. Same with that man there with the ball retriever in his bag. You know when a man carry a ball retriever, he goin' to be a hack, for one thing, and he goin' to be cheap, too. I hate to get a man with a ball retriever. My man is Senator Sam Nunn. Sam's an $80 man. Every time."
If an organization called the Western Golf Association has its way, caddies will be leapfrogging each other for years to get Sam Nunn. There is a movement afoot to save the caddie, and it begins with the WGA, which will give away 200 college scholarships to caddies this year alone. Beverly Country Club in Chicago is up to 300 caddies. South Bend Country Club has reinstated caddies after almost 10 years without them. Suddenly club members are remembering how much fun it is to take that long walk down the middle of the fairway with nothing in their hands but a putter. Inverness Golf Club in Toledo, site of last year's PGA Championship, is now the largest employer of teenagers in Lucas County.
Why not? After all, when was the last time you went back to the 19th hole and told a hilarious story about your golf cart?
Turns out Laura McGannon knew some-thins nobody at Pinehurst did—that North Carolina provides free eye care for people who make less than $400 a month. In fact, she said, the Pinehurst area is known for two things in America: golf and eye doctors. Her husband explained it all to the guys two years ago.