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A Man of The Game
June 14, 2010
Everyone remembers Eddie Lowery as the kid who caddied in the 1913 Open, but the author, a longtime friend and former pro at Cypress Point, recalls the adult
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June 14, 2010

A Man Of The Game

Everyone remembers Eddie Lowery as the kid who caddied in the 1913 Open, but the author, a longtime friend and former pro at Cypress Point, recalls the adult

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Eddie Lowery must be the only caddie to appear on a U.S. postage stamp, in two popular books and a Hollywood movie. If Mr. Lowery were alive today, I think he'd be pleased by all that. But he was a complicated man, so it's hard to say for sure.

As the head pro at Cypress Point, just up the shoreline from Pebble Beach, I knew Mr. Lowery from 1971 until his death in 1984, at age 81. He was an active member at Cypress. He was a leader of the Hoods, a group of members who would play several days a week. Mr. Lowery would make the games, set the stakes and make sure everybody anted up in a tambourine in the locker room that served as the collection pot.

He lived the story of 20th-century American golf. There's an effort to have Mr. Lowery put on the ballot for possible election into the World Golf Hall of Fame. There's already a statue of him there, with his lifelong friend Francis Ouimet. I'd love to see him get in. He was a good player, a member of the USGA executive committee, a benefactor for amateurs and a friend to many caddies. He'd take two caddies just to go to the range, one to stay with the bag, the other to shag balls, and he'd pay them both as if they had carried for him for 18 holes. He was truly an original.

In 1913, when Eddie was a 10-year-old living outside Boston, he caddied for Ouimet in his famous U.S. Open win. You can see young Eddie's swagger and confidence in the iconic photo of him and Ouimet together, Eddie wearing a tie and a beanie. That image ended up on a 25-cent stamp issued in 1988. Eddie is prominent in a book about that Open, Mark Frost's The Greatest Game Ever Played, and in the movie based on the book.

Mr. Lowery never lost his colorful, profane working-man's Boston accent, despite the many years he spent selling Lincolns at his car dealerships in San Francisco and on the Monterey Peninsula. You'd hear him on a clubhouse phone saying, "How many cahs did we sell today?" If you went to his showroom looking to buy last year's model, he'd say, "I'm going to sell you a brand-new goddam cah." He'd arrive at Cypress for golf in a shiny Lincoln, dressed like an old-world Boston banker, in a suit and tie, a fedora and shiny shoes. In the Cypress locker room in the '80s, he was the only man still holding up his socks with garter belts. He liked locker rooms, perhaps because in his caddie years he couldn't get in them.

In 1956 Mr. Lowery, with his friend George Coleman, set up The Match (Frost wrote a book about that too) in which Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson took on amateurs Ken Venturi and Harvie Ward, both of whom worked at Mr. Lowery's car dealerships. Mr. Coleman took the pros, and Mr. Lowery took the ams, who lost 1 up. I don't know how much that match cost Mr. Lowery, but it's a good bet that he was all right with it. He made a lot of money, and he spent a lot of money too.

Ken Venturi will tell you that Eddie Lowery was the greatest bunker player he ever saw, and I feel the same way. He improved my sand play by having me practice out of greenside bunkers with a five-iron. Ken remembers a round during which Mr. Lowery was in nine greenside traps, getting up and down eight times and holing out on the other.

Mr. Lowery was a social creature, but in his own way. He'd have dinner parties at his home in Palm Springs during the Bob Hope tournament, where I sometimes played with him, but he'd sneak off to bed before dessert. The next morning I'd hear him knocking on my door before sunrise, saying something like, "Christ almighty, Langley, we got to go practice that bunka shot of yours."

Mr. Lowery was not the guy at the bar telling old stories. He was not a braggart. I never heard him talk about caddying for Ouimet in that long-ago Open. Joe Solis, the longtime Cypress caddie master, says that Mr. Lowery didn't want people thinking of him as "just a caddie." Eddie Lowery came up in an era when what you did defined who you were. Mr. Lowery, who never finished high school, wanted people to think of him as a man of golf, and he was. He was the ultimate golf person. He loved the game and the people who played it as much as anybody I've ever known.