The four in
front will hold up the game by searching for balls, by mysteriously acquiring
friends and becoming a sixsome; they will accuse the four behind of cutting in
and trying to play past them. Sometimes they will charge at offenders with
raised clubs—especially the females, who are, in this respect, the more deadly
of the species Golfer Dykeriens.
The four behind
will snap and snarl at the heels of the foursome ahead. If a player so much as
stops to tie a shoelace, they will drive a warning ball whistling past his
head. They are masters of the impatient stance, the sneering look, the
"Hurry up, willya!" cries of outrage.
CHALK IN HIS
There are some
players who have spent years trying to figure out various strategies of
advancing their numbers on the blackboard. The powerful custodian of the
numbers is the starter, a city employee of modest salary but heroic caliber, a
man armed with only a piece of chalk, an eraser and a whistle, but capable of
withstanding the deadliest bribes, insults and threats, often delivered
simultaneously by the same golfer. The starter is able to handle minor
emergencies himself—such as five players suddenly teeing off when only four
have been called—but all requests for playing ahead of turn are referred to the
supervisor of park operations who maintains a day-long vigil in the
Appeals to the
director fall into several popular categories: The Professional
Engagement—"I'm Dr. Smith, and I wouldn't ordinarily bother you but I have
several patients coming to the office...or (variation) a serious appendectomy
scheduled for one o'clock"; The Social Engagement—"Have a heart, pal,
and let me tee off. I can just get in nine holes before my mother-in-law's
funeral"; and The Train (Boat, Plane) Schedule—"You gotta let me play
now. I'm sailing for Tasmania in two hours, and there ain't a golf course in
the whole damn country." Not one request has been urgent or unusual enough
to melt the supervisor, who after nearly 2 years at Dyker has observed human
nature at its most mendacious. Before the 1930s, Dyker was a private golf club,
first-called Dyker Fields and then the Marine and Field Course, but from the
beginning it possessed a unique Brooklyn personality. In the earliest days of
the motion picture industry, according to one old hand, when the Vitagraph
Studio was located in Brooklyn, Lillian Russell enacted a notable golfing
sequence at the old Dyker. The story called for Miss Russell to sink her putt,
and this she was able to do adequately enough in the rehearsal. When the
cameras went into action, however, Miss Russell's meager golfing skill failed.
The crisis was solved by an ingenious Dyker caddy who tied a string around the
ball, and as Miss Russell went through the motions, the caddy gently pulled the
ball into the cup. This sort of maneuver became a specialty with some Dyker
caddies, one of whom figured later in a tempestuous scandal when he was accused
of picking up a client's ball, racing 20 yards to the green, and dropping it in
for a hole-in-one.
recall that the old course was a popular dumping ground for hot goods during
the days of Prohibition, and even for victims of gang rides. Bodies were
promptly removed, but other inanimate objects often were not. A Ford that had
been driven onto the 5th fairway remained there for years, unclaimed and gently
rusting away, viewed by players after a while as simply another natural
enlarged city course was designed in 1934 by John R. Van Kleeck, who, with a
great deal of foresight, retired to South America, thus removing himself from
the range of the always-articulate Dykerites. During succeeding years Dyker
became more and more streamlined, with most roughs minimized in the interest of
speeding up play. Ten minutes wasted by one golfer searching for a lost ball
can set off a chain reaction involving a hundred lost tempers, up to and
including actual physical conflict.
One of Dyker's
first pros was Brooklyn's Wiffy Cox, winner of the 1931 North and South Open.
The five Strafaci brothers, including Frank, an amateur holder of many titles,
and Tommy, the family's only professional, grew up in and on the course,
starting their careers as Dyker caddies. Tommy, with his dark, John
Garfield-type of good looks and impeccably tailored clothes, has raised the
sartorial standard of Dyker an appreciable degree during the last few years. He
and the assistant pro, Harry Dunn, give about 2,200 lessons a season, possibly
a worldwide record.
Dyker has many
low-handicap golfers but is famous for its beginners, especially those whose
sole previous experience has consisted of hitting one pailful of balls at a
driving range. Duffers have been known to take 55 strokes on Dyker's first
hole. One beginner attempted to play with the covers still on his clubs;
another lady duffer inquired at the pro shop for a box of divots. Then there
was the caddy who came back to the clubhouse sobbing indignantly: "Dat guy
tell me I gotta keep my eye on his ball, and then he hooks it into the swamp.
He yells, 'Put down the clubs where ya seen the ball go in,' and I done it and
found the ball. But now I can't find the clubs."
snatching, a problem at all busy courses, has achieved the status of a science
at Dyker. Among the most skilled snatchers are the small boys who operate on
several fairways adjacent to the city streets. When directly accused, the boy
might be standing on the ball or has just slipped it to an accomplice, but he
is all snub-nosed, freckled and dirty-faced innocence. "I ain't got ya
ball, mister. Wanna soich me?"