Said & Done: Damp days for golfers

  • Golfers play a game at The Meadows Golf Course in Greenfield. Though this course in dry and firm, Paul Seamans remembers the deep pools of water that plagued the Meadow Brook Golf Club in Reading in 1937. Recorder File Photo

  • SEAMANS Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

For the Recorder
Monday, June 11, 2018

North and south of Boston in the late spring and early summer of 1937, it rained ’til the earth could take no more.

Every gully and ditch, every undulation and depression, became either a pond or a lake, depending on the extent of it.

Frogs and boys never had it so good. Tadpoles swam where they had never swum before. In any field near home, you could find a place to roll up your pants and go wading.

It was a hard time for golfers. Sand traps became water traps and fairways produced water hazards where golf-course architects had never planned them.

I was a teenager in 1937, and spent that summer caddying at the Meadow Brook Golf Club in Reading. Tropical rains that produced headaches there for golfers produced bonanzas for us caddies.

Golfers teeing up on the first hole, already facing a drive over a road, were additionally intimidated by a frog pond newly formed on the fairway 150 yards off the tee. There was no way they could dog-leg it. It was either a long ball over the water, or into the drink.

Your handicap 15-player became an instant duffer. Belters who normally carry a sand-trap halfway down a fairway topped their balls and pushed them into the pond. They never asked us to retrieve them. They took the penalty and drove again, often as badly as the first time. That frog pond was paved with Pro-flites, PGA Specials, Spauldings — balls of every make and manufacture.

At dusk when all the 19th holes had left the bar and gone home, two or three of us took our pants and shoes off and hunted golf balls. We’d feel them with our toes a couple of feet below the surface, fish them out and put them in a bucket.

Our club “pro” at that time was a Greek athlete by the name of Apelakis. He’d buy all the balls we could gather up from the flood. Before the earth dried out and things got back to normal, we made a bundle at the expense of patrons who failed to produce the long ball.

When Jim Fox was the Greenfield Recorder’s sports editor, he challenged me to a golf/archery match, a contest we never brought off in view of Fox’s departure for a desk on the city newspaper.

Fox might have been trounced if we’d met head-to-head on his proposition. Record arrow flights from hand-held bows exceed 1,000 yards. The best of the long-ball hitters rarely drive beyond 400 yards, even with the wind behind them. On this basis, assuming skill on my part, I’d have made the longest green in two flights, leaving Fox back in the ruck on par five holes.

Fox was no dope. He’d probably insisted on a handicap, making me earn my keep.

Had this confrontation come off, it would not have been the first time golfers and archers opposed each other. In 1450, Scotland’s warrior king, who thought that chasing a feather-stuffed ball over the moor was a silly practice, ordered golfers to put away their balls during March, and instead take up their long bows.

The king, whose royalties had been challenged throughout Scottish history by men armed with bows and arrows, had little vision. Pardon him! How could he have anticipated St. Andrews, golfdom’s Mecca and Scotland’s gift to golfers who, without any king’s edict, have long since swapped their arrows for a bag of clubs.

I hope you know about St. Andrews. You don’t have to be a golfer to know about St. Andrews. All you need do is follow a few televised golf games; you’ll hear about it soon enough.

You pronounce it “Sn-Tandrews” after the English system of phonic abuse. It’s golfers’ holy of holies, and everybody who wears the game’s spiked shoes wishes that one day he’ll make tracks in that hallowed ground.

The Scots pioneered the game, though every archeologist who ever dug up a stick with a mallet on one end, no matter where unearthed, made the claim that its owner was a golfer. The term “duffer” probably cannot be attributed to the Scots, perhaps because they produce no hackers. They did call their youthful players “cadets,” a word that the French instantly mispronounced “cad-day.” Thus the “caddie” — or caddy — came to be.

So, for two months during the wet summer of 1937, I was a cad-day, building muscle carrying tons of golfer’s tools over the Meadow Brook golf course. That course had one thing St. Andrews was not able to boast: a truck farm right next to the second fairway.

We caddies raided the corn rows and apple trees on evenings when we couldn’t be seen, building a fire for a corn roast and apple bake.

Those were Depression days. We had learned the hobo’s trick of scrounging. Our caddying paid little enough. We often got home with less than 50 cents in our pockets, and a major stomach ache to remind us of our dietetic indiscretions.

The only time I swung at a golf ball in serious competition, I drew a broad mile. I had sliced the ball into the woods. When I found it, it had a gash in its skin running a third of the way around its face. For all the world, it looked as though it was laughing at me.

I note this as a final element among these general observations about golf and golfing, for I started and finished my game as an irremediable duffer.

Paul Seamans is a permanent resident of the Charlene Manor nursing home. Some of his columns will have been previously published.