How and when did you start your love affair with the game of golf?
Mine was in Green Bay Wisconsin when my aunt Lorrie invited me to play my first round of golf with her at the age of 9. My awesome auntie was the only relative in the family that played golf, and for me it was love at first sight.
The courses in Green Bay are beautiful in the summer time, lush green and buzzing with summer bugs. I returned home to Orinda CA determined to continue my love affair with the game of golf. My only option was to ride a very heavy Schwin Bicycle up and down steep hills to Orinda Country Club to get in line for a caddie job.
My first week I got a bag a total of ZERO times, and was frustrated. But I was determined to get on the course and make some money while learning more about the game. Week two the caddie master who looked like he woke up wearing his disco clothes from the night before, finally pointed to me and said get up here.
At the age of 9 I was nearly able to carry one bag, let alone a big single bag with 50 balls in it. I have never worked so hard in my life to carry this heavy bag up and down hills , chasing this total hacker all over the course while looking for his ball on almost every hole.
My reward was a cheap and insulting $6, which at the time was considered the base pay, with no tip. Still that didn’t keep me from coming back the next day. I finally got a player that could play, AND he had a light bag. This gentleman also gave me a whopping $8 which made my day, and the long bike ride home a lot easier.
I continued caddying all summer and saved every $5 bill I received which went into a cigar box. I didn’t own my own set of clubs, and my parents never played, so there wasn’t some old set in the garage. After I had accumulated $120 or 24 five dollar bills, I proudly purchased my very first set of clubs. I bought the Jack Nicklaus Golden Bear set of irons and woods. I was crazy excited to try my new set of clubs.
Problem #2 arose as my mother was not willing to drive me the 20 minutes to the nearest golf course. My brother had some friends, twin brothers that started playing golf at the same time as me, and I finally got them to let me tag along. We frequented Tilden Park Golf Course, Boundary Oaks and Franklin Canyon. But the game was very expensive with no subsidies or special rates for kids.
What these course did offer was late day discounted fees, usually after 3pm or 4pm. Usually we only had time for nine holes, but we did everything we could to play as much golf as we could. I was hooked, and the caddy job barely was enough to cover my golfing expenses, so I got other jobs. I sold knife sets door to door. I worked for neighbors weeding and painting. I tried a paper route. And then at age 16 I got my big break, I got a job at Pietar’s restaurant in Lafayette washing dishes Fri and Sat evenings from 6pm – 2am making $2 a hour.
My weekly paycheck was $28 after $4 was taken out for all the taxes. After 6 months washing dishes I got advanced to bus boy where I made the big bucks, $2 an hour plus tips that averaged $10 a night. There was nothing I wouldn’t do to fund my golfing addiction.
Now golf has priced itself well beyond what most families can afford. The image of golf being for the rich became a reality as the price of golf escalated over the past 50 years. The game is in jeopardy of dying without the injection of new players, the youth joining the ranks of addicted golfers.
Fortunately there are some amazing and very successful organizations that are making a difference. First Tee of America and Youth on Course have been super successful in getting kids into golf, keeping kids in golf while also providing scholarships and I think most importantly allowing these kids to forge great friendships while allowing access to low priced golf.
Golf tee times have always run at fairly low capacity. Prime time tee times are always in demand, but once we hit 2-4pm the course empty out. This is a perfect time to allow the youth onto our courses at fees as low as a few dollars. This will keep the game we love alive, and will continue to support the thousands of courses globally that are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.
Without the youth, the future of golf is in question.
If you love the game of golf, please support these organizations, every dollar counts and we all need to do our part.
Check em out, and stay tuned