A Love of Golf

Pud was 85 years young. When he was in his fifties he had one of the ugliest golf swings I’ve ever seen.  His hands were low. He sagged at the waist. He bobbed his head up on the backswing and down again. Yet in the hitting area he must have been in the right place. His first handicap was two.

That was in 1946, the war was over, and he’d already been a long time in golf.

Pud grew up in Queenstown and was a victim of the Depression.

His love affair with golf began in the 1920s when with mates Teddy and Howard Cocks, Allan Robertson and ‘Bull’ Reval (the future Port Adelaide football champion) he used to walk over to Seaton and watch the members at Royal Adelaide.

Golf became his livelihood during the Depression:

There were 40 or 50 of us caddies, Cocksy, Robertson, Reval, Clarrie Peterson … we were among them. You would only make 2/6 a day as a junior storeman at McKell’s. Thirteen bob a week if you were lucky. We’d make more than that on the golf course.

 

The Royal Adelaide professional Willie Harvey controlled the caddies although later there was a caddie master called Bert Rodda.

The pro would give you a medal for a booking which was 1/3 but then you’d get tips. Usually two shillings but sometimes only a bob. You’d chat them if you only got a bob. Legh Winser was the best golfer by far, a national amateur champion, he was secretary to the Governor, but he was a miserable bastard. 

Three shillings and threepence might not sound much but Pud would get four rounds on weekends which made it 13 shillings. And often he’d get to carry two bags which meant double the money. In addition to that he usually caddied a round a day during the week when about 20 caddies supplied their services. Ladies day was on Friday.

Lady Elizabeth Britten-Jones was the best woman golfer. ‘She could play, the cunt’, Pud said, and a look at the record books shows that she won no less than eight club championships and 11 South Australian titles.

Pud’s language was always colourful but such was his manner of delivery one would never describe it as foul. A fellow golfer of later years Pud once described as a ‘real foul-mouthed bastard’. You had to believe him.

The caddies carried the clubs, cleaned them and dried them and polished them with a rag, and laid them in racks afterwards. The wooden shafts required this to prevent warping. Caddies rarely offered advice on choice of club or shot selection to the members.

Who were the players in those days?

A lot of wealthy men. Doctors — Jay (Sandy’s father) … At one time I got a cancer on my lip and Dr Jay said to come down to the hospital and he cut it out free of charge’. Then there was Norman Darley the wool merchant and Alan McLachlan the pastoralist (father of Ian, the politician). 

Pud got to carry lots of clubs but had less opportunity to use them.

We caddies were allowed to play the course once a week on Thursday mornings but we had to be finished by nine o’ clock to make ourselves available for members. We had no clubs of our own but were able to use those of the members. This meant that you rarely played with the same set twice in a row. We would start at daybreak and finish in two and a half hours. We always managed to complete a round.

For most of the time, however, play was restricted to the caddie yard where a makeshift game was organised with a ‘club’ shaped out of wire, and cork for a ball.  

Sometimes the caddies went further afield. One occasion Pud remembered going up to Mt Lofty, catching the last train to get there, sleeping the night in the sheds and consuming a bottle of plonk to keep warm. Another time he caddied for the North Adelaide professional Angus Polson at Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne. ‘The only trouble was he couldn’t play.’

Pud says caddies were rarely abused by members. It was only in championships where players might get nasty and this happened more in national amateur and professional titles than in club events. 

Royal Adelaide was the site of the Australian Open and Amateur in 1932 and Pud remembers the precociously talented young Victorian left-hander Harry Williams.

He nominated that he would drive over the roadway that cuts through the eighteenth fairway and he did, that’s a distance of around 300 metres, not bad with hickory shafts, and in winter. 

He recalls the powerful team of American golfers who came here in 1934, people like Denny Shute, Craig Wood, Leo Diegel and Paul Runyan. Earlier he had seen the incomparable Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen.

Pud didn’t start playing until he was 32 years old. He caddied through the 1930s and then came the war. In order to play golf he had to get a clearance from Dick Destree because caddies were regarded as professional and he couldn’t play as an amateur. 

His first club and only club was North Adelaide. He remained an active member there for more than 40 years, winning the club championship four times and playing pennant golf over three decades. 

In 1947 Pud joined Ansett as a storeman and the generous arrangements for staff enabled him to travel widely to watch golf as well as to play interstate. In 1952 he took a trip to Melbourne and was amazed that playing the major championship courses at Royal Melbourne and Metropolitan cost 7/6 whereas the public golf course at Albert Park was 8 shillings. 

In the 1970s when I was playing pennants Pud had retired but was never short of an opinion. He was ever critical of one of my team-mates, a short but accurate hitter. ‘He should never be in the side, the weak cunt’, Pud would say. You wouldn’t be surprised if he added, ‘I could hit the ball further with my dick.’ 

He never did explain what else they learned in the caddie yard.

 Bernard Whimpress

© 1999, 2010

 

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