A slew of
bodyguards followed along the sidelines and after them all the other kids,
staring open-mouthed at Al and jealous of me. Was I proud and awed! I could
hardly believe it—me, Tim Sullivan, caddying for the Big Fellow. Every now and
then he would spot a soda-pop stand just off the course and stop to buy us each
He played a
terrible game. I don't think he broke 60 for the nine holes. He could drive the
ball half a mile, but he always hooked it, and he couldn't putt for beans.
Guzik was worse and Burke didn't play much better. Only McGurn shot a pretty
fair score, around 40. In addition to the regular $500 a hole, they kept making
side bets and Al lost most of them. About $10,000 changed hands that day.
When it was over
Al gave me a $20 bill, more money than I'd ever held in my hand before.
"All this?" I said, dumfounded. He nodded. "Sure, why not? You
earned it." And then he asked me how would I like to be his regular caddie.
What I didn't realize until I was a little older, he also wanted Babe to be his
Al came out to
Burnham twice a week on the average. I always caddied for him and he always
tipped me $20 or more. It made a tremendous difference to the family budget.
After a while even Mom, who worried herself sick at first about my associating
with gangsters, didn't talk about it any more. Al's game never improved, not
even after he took the club pro, Freddie Pelcher, down to Miami with him for
the winter so he could get a golf lesson whenever he wanted. He paid him $100 a
day, I was told, treated him to all the best whiskey he could drink and invited
him along on the parties. I felt so bad about Al losing his ball so often I
began cheating for him. I would keep a couple of extra balls in my pants
pocket, drop one near the spot where his disappeared, and pretend I'd found it.
He caught on pretty quick, but he just laughed and said, "You're O.K.,
when Banjo Eyes was playing against Al for big money he spotted me fishing for
a ball in my pocket. "The boy's cheating!" he screamed. Al pretended
not to believe it. They started arguing and Banjo Eyes called Al a liar.
"Nobody can get away with that!" Al yelled, turning red in the face and
swelling up like a bullfrog. "On your knees and start praying!" When
Banjo Eyes hesitated, Al reached into his golf bag where he stowed his gun
during a game. Banjo Eyes dropped to his knees, shaking, and I thought Al would
blow his head off. I started crying from fear. I admitted I'd cheated and
begged Al not to hurt Banjo Eyes. He calmed down right away, dropped his gun
back into his golf bag, slapped Banjo Eyes on the back and said, as if nothing
had happened: "Come on, let's finish the game."
Al once shot
himself accidentally on the course. I saw him do it. He was lifting his golf
bag when the revolver inside went off, shooting him in the foot. Probably one
of the clubs jarred the trigger. Hopping around on the other foot, bellowing
like a bull, he was a terrible sight. They drove him to the Hammond hospital,
but the head doctor wouldn't let him stay more than a day. He was afraid some
rival gangster out to-kill Al would shoot up the place. I tried to find out
where they'd taken him so I could visit him, but they wouldn't tell anybody. He
was back in a week, limping a little, but able to play nine holes. After that
the boys double-checked to make sure the safety catch was on before they
deposited any gun in a golf bag.
Jake Guzik and Banjo Eyes turned up without Al. Jake waddled up to the caddie
line and asked: "Where's the kid who caddies for Al?" I was at the end
of the line, with about 20 boys ahead of me, but he jerked his thumb at me and
told me to follow him. I said I couldn't, it wasn't my turn. His fat jowls
shook. "You're caddying for me today, see," he said. "Let's get
going." What could I do? I walked past the line, with 20 pairs of eyes
burning holes in my back.
That Guzik, he
was a lousy loser with a vicious temper. When he took his first swing at the
ball and it moved about 10 feet, he kicked a tree. By the 5th hole he'd lost
maybe a thousand bucks to Banjo Eyes. He'd been cheating, too. When he had a
bad lie and thought nobody would notice, he'd shove the ball with his foot. On
the 6th hole he landed in a sand trap. "How do I get out of here?" he
asked me. I didn't know much about the game. I told him so, but he figured I
was holding out on him for some reason. I had to say something, so I said to
try blasting it out with a driver. He got the ball to the top of the trap and
it rolled back. He tried three times and every time it rolled back. Then he
blew up. He grabbed the driver like a bat and went for me, yelling every dirty
name you could think of. I ran zigzagging across the fairway. Luckily, he was
too fat and slow to catch me or I think he would have killed me. He stopped
finally, out of breath, broke the club across his knees and threw the pieces at
me. I stayed close to the clubhouse while he played the last holes with another
caddie. When he finished, I got up enough nerve to ask for the money he owed
me. He just snarled.
Next day half a
dozen of them came, Al included, and I told him what happened. He called Guzik
over to him. "What do you mean treating the Kid here like that?" Guzik
said—I'll never forget it, of all the dumb alibis!—he said: "The Kid gave
me a bum steer." Al moved in closer, scowling. "Why ask a boy? You're a
grown man, ain't you? Besides, you never paid him. Pay him now." So Guzik
pulled out his wallet and took $1 from it. "I said pay him!" Al shouted
in his fat face, and he grabbed the wallet, removed two $10 bills, handed them
to me, and threw the wallet at Guzik's feet. Guzik picked it up and waddled
away without a word.
They all carried
hip flasks and kept swigging as they went along. When they got high, there'd be
some pretty wild clowning. They'd play leapfrog, turn somersaults, walk on
their hands. There was a crazy game Al called Blind Robin. One guy would
stretch out flat on his back, shut his eyes tight, and let the others tee off
from his chin. They used a putter and swung slow and careful. Otherwise they
would have smashed the guy's face. On the putting greens they'd throw down
their pistol holders—clunk—and hold a wrestling match. I kept busy picking up
the stuff that dropped out of their pockets—flasks, cigars, bills and change.
They made an awful mess of the greens, digging up the grass with their knees
and elbows. But there was never a peep out of the management. As soon as they
left, the maintenance crew would head for the damaged area with wheelbarrows
full of sod.