"Present company excepted?"
"I had one caddie named Four-to-One," Nicklaus recalled. "All he wanted to do was shoot craps. I remember once at Memphis, on the 7th hole, I had about a 20-footer for birdie. He was tending the pin. I hit the putt, and he lifts the pin, and the entire cup comes with it. The ball hits the cup and ends up an inch short. So instead of a 2, I make a 5.1 end up losing in a playoff."
He must've felt that he wasn't getting much of a caddie in 1963 in Palm Springs when he was assigned one he'd never met, a Las Vegas cabdriver with a huge blond Afro: Angelo Argea, who was Fluff before Fluff was Fluff. All they did was stick together for the better part of three decades and win more tournaments than some touring pros ever play. "How .could I let him go?" Nicklaus said. "I got him at the Desert Classic, and I won. I took him to the Tournament of Champions, and I won. I took him to Sahara, and I won. I won the first six tournaments he caddied for me. [Aha! It was actually five of the first six!] How you gonna let a guy like that go?" Not that it changed Angelo. He was still an unrepentant gambler, unashamed partyer and unconscionable self-promoter. "Hell, half the time he was out nights promoting his book," Nicklaus said. "I remember one time I won the Sahara Classic, I gave him his check. He'd been asking me to go to the craps table with him for years, so I went. I had a bunch of money with me, and Angelo had $40. Well, I never got the dice.
"Angelo got so hot, he wound up making $25,000. I did pretty well too, I have to admit. So I said, Angelo, give me the money.' He did. Now, this is a guy who'd never saved a dime. He had debts all over the place. I said, 'Angelo, how much would it take to pay off all your debts?' He said, 'Three thousand.' I said, 'O.K., here's $3,000 to pay off your debts.' Then he goes, 'Can I have $3,000 to send my mother?' So I gave him another $3,000. Then I said, 'I'm taking this $19,000, and I'm setting up a trust fund for you. This is going to be money for you to start your retirement on. You have to have an absolutely drop-dead, fantastic reason to get any of it out, O.K.?' He said we had a deal. Within six months it was all gone."
Since Angelo saved zippo, he's still working for Nicklaus. He still does all the yardage books at every Nicklaus course. In fact I was looking at one of his numbers now on the par-517th, as Nicklaus prepared what I thought was a gerbil-brained shot.
He wanted to hit a three-wood that would have to go over a cliff, cross a gorge and navigate some trees guarding the green. He would have to hit it 285—carry 260. Even at this altitude, you had to be wearing a stupid patch to even try it.
"Give me the three-wood," he said.
"That's pure nuts," I said.
He is Jack Nicklaus.