My first golf club

Guest Columnist

I first saw golf clubs when my dad bought a set. I was about seven at the time. I had seen them in the garage for months before I got up the gumption to try them out. My dad knew I was messing with them, but they were too long and too heavy for a seven year old to swing.  One  Saturday  after he had played,  he gave me my first golf club,  a cut down  iron club  which would be suitable for an 7 year old  child to use. We went into the back yard to hit plastic golf balls. The balls had holes in them and went about 20 feet when struck. That Saturday was the beginning of my love affair with golf.

The combination of  a day long stroll through a manicured park, the smell of the fresh cut grasses, the solitude, peace and serenity you can enjoy while playing a game of golf are unmatched by any other activity I have participated in. Golfers are an unique breed, but we also enjoy being with people who share the same values and interests that we have, especially when they are willing to share with a very young boy their affection for life as well as the game of golf. Six years later when I am 13 years old  I am introduced to two such men of the world of golf.

Carmen Santorelli was the manager of Highland Park Golf Course. We got to know each other at the end of the previous summer when on occasion he would pick me up as I was walking to the golf course carrying my golf bag and my practice balls. Occasionally he would pick me up  if he saw me going home in the evening.

After he got to know me, he told me that I could begin caddying for him the following summer. I had been doing some light caddying at the course already, and I knew how to play golf. By the next summer I was bigger, stronger and really wanted to caddy for Carmen. Carmen began picking me up on the way to work and dropping me off at the end of each day.

When we arrived at the golf course, I would perform my daily chores in the office and the ticket-booth. No free lunch here, I would learn that in life if something is worth having, you would appreciate more if you had your share of “skin in the game”.   After my chores were done, I would gather my golf clubs and my cloth bag of practice golf balls, then  walk to the field where I would practice hitting golf shots.

Carmen played golf each weekday at 10:30 AM. with different groups of friends. He was a splendid golfer and a proper fellow to be with. I  would caddy for Carmen each day. After his round of golf I would clean and  put his clubs away. When this task was completed, I would meet up with my  pals, and we would play our daily round of golf together. This was be my routine  each day for the summer of 1956.

Carmen paid me $1.50 each day to caddy for him, and kept my clubs and practice balls with his in his office and  made sure I was safe, fed and  watered. He taught me about the spirit of golf. As his caddy, I became his student. He taught me the physical aspects of hitting the golf ball, but more importantly he taught me to have a respect for  the spirit of the game.

He showed me by his conduct and his manners on the course how to treat your fellow golfers, whether they be opponents or partners. He taught me how to be a competitor  and how to get going when the going gets tough. He taught me about the honor and traditions that are golf. He taught me to never kick an opponent when he is down and to love the game of golf for the solitude and self regulation it both demands and affords. Carmen Santorelli was that rare individual who was universally liked and admired.

The other great influence on  my life in the summer of 1956 was T. Philip Perkins, the golf professional at Highland Park Golf Course. He was the 1935 British Amateur Champion. Only a few days into my summer routine I entered the pro shop and saw a set of copper-faced MacGregor Tourney ladies irons on the used club rack. At 13 years of age, ladies clubs were the appropriate-sized clubs for me.

Now, I had a decent set of clubs which I had bought with my paper route money of years past,  however, MacGregor Tourney irons with the copper face were another matter. Without the cash from my paper route, all I had was the $1.50 a day I made from caddying for Carmen. How was I going to finesse this dilemma? It turned out no finessing was necessary.

The  next day T.  Philip Perkins took  me aside and told me he would  sell me those MacGregor Tourney copper- faced irons for $.50 cents per day until school began in the fall if I would sweep up the pro shop before I left each day. I was stunned by this act of generosity. This was the same man who gave me used golf balls to fill my practice bag. Consequently, many people throughout my life have benefitted from T. Philip Perkin’s  gift. Being the recipient of that act of giving, I have never forgotten the obligation to pay forward.

The acts of generosity and caring by both Carmen Santorelli and T. Philip Perkins had a direct effect on my life. To this day, when I am asked why I like golf so much, I fondly remember T. Philip Perkins and Carmen Santorelli. If I think I have an understanding and supportive audience, I will recount the story. Both of these men demonstated,  by example, the generosity of the human spirit and a positive model of behavior for a young man . They showed me with their actions the value of selflessness. They were both truly men of conscience. You could find a lot of  men and women like them in 1956.





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