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Authors: John Feinstein

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BOOK: Caddy for Life
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“Looking back, I think following Chris was going to be tough for Bruce under any circumstances,” Gwyn said. “My parents saw her as the norm, as what you would expect in a child. In her own way, she was just as abnormal as Bruce, because she was
perfect. If Bruce had been an average student, an average kid, my parents probably would have thought something had gone wrong. But when he was completely the opposite, they were convinced that something was terribly, terribly wrong. There was really nothing seriously wrong with Bruce, he was just
from Chris.”

When Bruce got to high school, Jay and Natalie decided a change of scenery might help him. They sent him to a prep school called Watkinson for a year, and things did not improve. Bruce’s grades were no better, he didn’t like the school, and the school didn’t like him. “Watkinson didn’t work for Bruce,” his father recalled. “So we decided to try Marianapolis.”

Marianapolis was a small Catholic boarding school in Thompson, Connecticut, near the Massachusetts border. Perhaps because it was so small—there were thirty-nine boys in Bruce’s graduating class—Bruce did better there. The teachers were able to give him more attention. His grades improved and so did his behavior. He even took the SAT’s and got 1,130, a solid score that would have gotten him into plenty of colleges.

But the thought of going to college never crossed Bruce’s mind—except when his parents brought it up. To Jay and Natalie, college was an automatic, no different than going to first grade. It was simply something that you did. Bruce didn’t see it that way. For one thing, he couldn’t think of a single thing he wanted to study in college or a career that would follow college. “There was a bus stop right across the street from where we lived,” he said. “Every morning when I was a kid, I would watch all the men from our neighborhood walk over to the bus with their briefcases to take the bus into Hartford to go to their offices. Most of them were in insurance, but there were some lawyers, probably a couple of doctors. I remember thinking back then there was no way that was going to be my life, getting up every day and going to an office from nine to five. I knew that wasn’t for me. I just would have felt cooped up doing something like that.”

Back then, watching the men line up for the bus, Bruce had no idea what he might do as an alternative. By the time he was in high school, that had changed. Golf had come into his life. More specifically, caddying had come into his life.

Growing up in New Jersey, Jay Edwards hadn’t played much golf. His father played golf, but Jay was a lot more interested in baseball. Often when Jonas Edwards would go over to Riverton Country Club to hit golf balls, Jay and his dog would tag along. “He would hit flies to me in between golf shots,” Jay remembered. “I thought that was a lot more fun than playing golf.” He began to play a little bit while in college and then, after starting his dental practice, began playing with friends on the public courses in the Wethersfield area. By the time the kids were born, he and Natalie were both playing a lot of golf and they were looking for a place where the kids could spend time in the summer. So they decided to join Wethersfield Country Club.

Wethersfield wasn’t a rich man’s club by any means, but it was a comfortable place with a very good golf course, one good enough to host a PGA Tour event. The Insurance City Open had been launched in 1952 at Wethersfield and, under different names it would stay at Wethersfield until 1983. When the Edwards family joined the club in the mid-1960s, it had become the Greater Hartford Open. Soon after the family joined the club, Bruce began to caddy there during the summer. He played golf too, but right from the start it was caddying that he enjoyed the most.

“Part of it was the money,” he said. “When I first started, you could carry double at four dollars a bag. Throw in a dollar tip for each bag and you made ten dollars a round. Some days, if there were enough people there, I’d go thirty-six. That added up to pretty good money for a thirteen-year-old kid. Plus I met a lot of guys that I really liked, other caddies. Most of them weren’t the kids of club members, and I felt very comfortable around them right from the start. Maybe if I’d been bitten by the playing bug it would have been different, but I never was.”

Jay Edwards thinks both his sons—Brian followed Bruce into the caddy program—might have been more interested in playing if Wethersfield’s pro had encouraged juniors more. But he didn’t, and both Edwards boys ended up spending most of their summers as caddies.

“What really made it fun, though, was knowing that there was that huge bonus waiting for you at the end of the summer if you did a good job,” Bruce said. “That was what we all really pointed for, because it was such a cool thing.”

“That bonus” was the Greater Hartford Open. In the 1960s, there were only a handful of full-time tour caddies. Most clubs that hosted tour events didn’t allow them to work anyway, especially the summer tournaments, where one of the allures of the caddy program was the chance to work in a tour event. The GHO was always held in those days on Labor Day weekend. That’s what made it the end-of-the-summer bonus for the Edwards brothers and the other Wethersfield caddies.

Bruce’s first GHO was in 1967, a few months prior to his thirteenth birthday. He was assigned the bag of Dick Lotz, a solid pro who would go on to win three times on tour. “I was only in my third year on the tour, and I couldn’t afford a full-time caddy,” Lotz remembered. “So at most of the clubs I would go to the caddymaster and ask for a local caddy, preferably someone who played golf. At Hartford, the caddymaster told me he would find me someone and I went out to practice. When I came back, he said, ‘I’ve got someone for you,’ and brought this very slight youngster out to me. I looked at him and said, ‘Young man, I don’t think you’re any bigger than my bag.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Don’t worry, sir, I can do the job.’ I told him we’d try it in the practice round the next day and see how he did. Well, a few holes in I knew I had someone special.”

What Lotz remembers most is Bruce’s passion for the job. “He knew exactly what he was doing and what was expected of a caddy,” he said. “Clearly he loved doing it. And he was such a nice kid. I met his family during the week and we really struck up a friendship. They were good people.”

Lotz played well during the week, finishing in a tie for twelfth place. That earned him a check of $1,200. From that he generously paid his caddy 5 percent—the going rate at the time was 3 percent. Bruce took the $60 check, had it framed, and put it on the wall in his room.

From that weekend forward, there was no doubt in his mind about what he wanted to do when he finished high school. He had no interest in college, no interest in any kind of “profession,” as his parents would call it—not law, not medicine, not insurance, not even dentistry. “I wanted to caddy on the PGA Tour full-time,” he said. “I knew it the first time I stepped inside the ropes. I just loved the way it felt. I loved being a part of the action, of knowing what was really going on and being a part of what was going on. I wasn’t nervous doing it, I was having fun.”

He also had a natural affinity for the job. Even though he hadn’t played that much golf, he had a natural feel for the game. He was always good at reading greens, even though in those years players rarely asked a caddy to read greens. Caddying was completely different in the 1960s from the way it is now. “Basically your job was to carry the bag,” Bruce said. “Carry the bag, maybe be encouraging at the right time, have a sense of humor. And never be late. If you could do those things, you could caddy.”

Bruce could do those things. When Lotz returned to Hartford a year later, he requested that Bruce caddy for him. He continued to do so whenever he came to Hartford. By then Brian was caddying too. He also enjoyed it—especially the money—but he wasn’t as passionate about it as Bruce. Jay and Natalie were thrilled to see that Bruce had found a niche, something he enjoyed, something that carried some responsibility, that kept him out of trouble.

“We always knew where he was during the summer,” Jay Edwards said. “There were a lot worse places he could have been instead of Wethersfield working as a caddy. We were delighted with it.”

Two of Bruce’s closest friends in those days were Gary Crandall and Bill Leahey. Crandall’s family also had a membership at Wethersfield, and he lived, by his description, “a half a block and a field I could cut through” away from the club. Leahey’s parents weren’t members, and he played most of his golf at Goodwin Park, a public course that wasn’t far from Wethersfield. But he also spent a lot of time at Wethersfield, which was about two miles from his house, working as a caddy. The three boys had met earlier, competing with and against one another as athletes in grammar school and junior high, and they enjoyed spending time together. All three had played soccer—Wethersfield was one of the first communities in the country to seriously embrace youth soccer in the ’60s—and Bruce and Bill had played Little League baseball against each other.

“Bruce was always a good athlete,” Leahey remembered. “Very fast. Soccer might have been his best sport. I think one of his big disappointments when his parents sent him to prep school was that he didn’t get to play soccer at Wethersfield, which was one of the real high school powerhouses in the state at the time.”

Crandall and Bruce were teammates briefly on the Wethersfield High School golf team before Bruce went to boarding school. They also conspired to run away together one year. Crandall is only four months older than Bruce, but he was a year ahead of him in school. During his senior year, he was confused about what direction his life might be going in when he graduated and upset about the divorce his parents were going through. Bruce didn’t have any parental marital problems to deal with, but he was locked in a constant battle with his parents about his grades, his behavior, and his future. So the two of them decided to escape—specifically, escape to Orlando.

“I had saved a fair bit of money from caddying, so I bankrolled the deal,” Crandall remembered. “We bought a couple of plane tickets to get down there. I had no idea what I was going to do, but Bruce had decided he was going to work at Disney World.”

They left early one morning, Gary showing up at the house to meet Bruce at 5:30 a.m. The only hitch was when Jay caught Bruce climbing out the window and demanded to know what the hell was going on. “I think I told him we were going to play some golf at sunrise, something like that,” Bruce said. “I’m sure he didn’t buy it, but I know he didn’t think we were running away.”

They made it to Orlando, and Bruce went to apply for a job at Disney World. He filled out all the application forms and was told there were jobs available, but if he wanted to work for Disney, he would have to cut his shoulder-length brown hair to conform to the neat, trim Disney look. Right there the Disney dream ended for Bruce.

They slept in the airport the first couple of nights, the better to save Crandall’s money. “In the morning a security guard would come around at six a.m., wake us up, and tell us we had to leave because people were going to start showing up for flights,” Bruce remembered. “But he let us stay there until then.”

They soon came up with a Plan B. The PGA Tour was in Greensboro, North Carolina, that week. They would use the last of Crandall’s money on tickets to fly there, then round up a couple of bags for the week. They arrived in Greensboro on Monday, and by Tuesday they had secured bags for the two pro-ams. But neither of them was able to find a bag for the tournament. After one night sleeping in the grandstands near the 18th green—“very uncomfortable,” Crandall remembered—they spent two nights in an $8-a-night motel. With almost no money left and no work on the horizon, they decided this wasn’t working out and went home.

Crandall had missed a week of school and almost didn’t graduate. Jay and Natalie were so relieved when Bruce came home safely that he escaped serious punishment. “It was actually one of our better talks,” he remembered. “They told me why they were so frightened and why it was wrong, and I for once realized they were right.” After that trip, Bruce forgot about working at Disney World. But caddying remained an important part of his life.

Bruce and some of the other caddies even started showing up at Westchester and Pleasant Valley, summer events just a couple of hours away, looking for bags. One year Lotz’s caddy left his clubs sitting outside the clubhouse after the first round at Westchester and they were stolen. Jay and Bruce had driven down to watch Lotz play, and Lotz told Bruce that if his caddy didn’t recover the clubs by the next morning, he was going to fire him. Would Bruce be willing to drive back down and work? Absolutely. Bruce made Jay get out of bed at 5:30 a.m. so he could drive him to Westchester in time for Lotz’s tee time. The clubs hadn’t shown up. Lotz borrowed an extra set from Dale Douglass and handed the bag to Bruce.

Caddying, especially in the GHO, became Bruce’s raison d’être. In the 1973 Marianapolis yearbook there was a question next to the photo of each graduating senior: “What makes you happiest?” Bruce’s answer: “Caddying on the PGA Tour.”

Even though they could see how much Bruce loved to caddy, Jay and Natalie had never once thought it was something he would consider doing as anything more than a summer job. They knew he wasn’t the best student in the world, but his grades as a senior and his SAT’s were certainly good enough to get him into a number of colleges. Problem was, Bruce never bothered applying anyplace, because he had already made his postgraduation plans: As soon as he finished school he was planning to head out to the PGA Tour. He was already trying to convince Crandall and Leahey to go along with him. Crandall was a year out of school and working at a job he hated in a drugstore, but he wasn’t certain the caddying life was the way to go. Leahey, who was two years ahead of Bruce in school, had already finished his first two years at Upsala College, in New Jersey. The idea of spending the summer traveling the country appealed to him. He told Bruce that as soon as he was finished with spring semester—Upsala had classes until late in June—he would meet him on tour. In the meantime, Bruce would start off on his own. It didn’t daunt him in the least.

BOOK: Caddy for Life
12.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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