One afternoon last week a foursome headed briskly up the slope that leads to the green of the water-hazarded 18th hole at Cherry Hills Country Club in Englewood, just outside of Denver. Off in the majestic distance were the tripledecked Rockies, with their fleeting suggestion of a mammoth Yankee Stadium with a wrinkled roof. Watching, in just about utter silence, were a half dozen club members, a couple of club officials and a peppering of U.S. Secret Service men trying their darndest to act like golf ball salesmen on a busman's holiday.
A CADDY WITH A COWBOY LOOK
A few yards short of the green a sizable man with military bearing and a very slight paunch got out of one of those $950 electric auto-ettes which practically eliminate walking for the golfer. He wore a white cap, a light-gray polo shirt and pale tan slacks. Waiting for him was a blue-jeaned caddy with a real cowboy look.
September 27, 1954
The caddy cocked his ear as the man spoke, then pulled out an iron from the huge black-and-gray bag slung over his shoulder. The man took it, flicked the grass tops with a practice swing and chipped neatly on to the green.
"The Boss had the touch that time," said Buster Core, assistant pro at the club. One of the Secret Service men nodded.
President Dwight David Eisenhower sank his putt on the final hole, and as he handed the delicate weapon to the caddy he said something private to him and laughed. The caddy smiled back, said nothing, and departed quickly to go about his business—taking the big black-and-gray bag out back of the pro shop to wash and wipe the grass-stained irons of the President after another round of golf was over.
The caddy's name is John Mollard, 15, a high school junior. He lives in Englewood, about 10 miles outside of Denver and he's caddied at Cherry Hills five years counting this one. But this one really shouldn't count. Because he got promoted to a job in the pro shop and now he only caddies for one particular golfer: The Boss, the name by which President Eisenhower is constantly referred to around Cherry Hills.
John never calls him The Boss, though. He always calls him "Mister President" when speaking of him, and always "Sir" to his face. He was taken by complete surprise when this plum of a job was handed to him. He had no idea what was up until two weeks before the President's arrival in Denver. Then, one morning when he walked into the pro shop to go to work, he was called aside by Buster Core.
"The President's coming," Buster said, "and you're going to be his caddy."
John didn't swallow any gum because he didn't happen to be chewing any at the moment. But he took a pretty big gulp of air and to this day he can't remember if he said anything at all or just stood there looking stunned.
He never knew it (and still doesn't unless he reads this) but he won the job only after a careful pro shop screening of half a dozen topflight caddies. He won it on the basis of what he'd shown in four years on the fairways. It was Buster Core who made the final choice, after powwows with Rip Arnold, the head pro.
"ONE OF THOSE RARE KIDS"
"John got it," Buster says, "because he's one of those rare kids who's on the ball all the way. He's a real clean character, besides being just about as conscientious as the President himself. And full of ambition too. Believe me, we did a whole lot of thinking around this shop before we picked the guy for this job."
As for the President's opinion of John, it turned out to be short, sweet and quick. Right after the first outing of these two (during which John admits he had a stomach full of butterflies) the President said to Buster and Rip: "John is not only a good caddy, he's a fine boy." Later on, as the President and John began to feel more at home with each other, the "John" sometimes turned into a famililar "Johnny."
HE LIKES THE GUY
On the other side of the fence, John has by now taken a long, close-up look at the No. 1 man in the country and—without showing the least trace of awe at The Boss's current job, or getting soupy about it—he really likes the guy.
"Mister President," Johnny says, "plays a nice, fast game—something any caddy appreciates. When he's on his game, he's a really solid golfer. Take today, on that 10th hole—it's 386 yards, par 4. Well, Mister President banged one almost straight down the middle for better than 225, and he was on the green in two with an 8 iron. That's shooting."
John, of course, might be prejudiced in The Boss's favor by the fact that he's never yet been bawled out by him. But on the other hand, trying to be honest, he can't remember having made any real blunders either. The biggest charge he gets in caddying for his guy is when The Boss asks advice on the selection of an iron for a vital shot.
"What do you think, Johnny?" the President will sometimes inquire earnestly. "A No. 7? A No. 8 maybe?"
John thinks pretty furiously when something like this comes up, and always gives a very definite opinion. When the President follows his advice and makes a good shot in so doing, he makes John feel like just about the biggest brain that's come along since Einstein.
The two main points that Rip Arnold made clear to John before he tackled this job were that he should talk to The Boss as little as possible and never make him wait on a shot. To ease John's early tension, Rip was around the first time they went out together and that sort of helped.
John is a fair golfer himself, though he doesn't get a chance to play much now that he works in the pro shop. He shoots in the low 90's and thinks he could do a lot better if he put in more time at it, although he's bad with the woods.
With the President's clubs disposed of, he went inside the shop to go back to work on the regular job. A twosome was waiting to tee off. John fetched their clubs and took them out back to the yard where the caddies waited. As John handed them over, four cars in a tightly knit caravan headed out of the Cherry Hills driveway. There were three small sedans and a big, black limousine in front.
"There he goes," John said, with a little rise of excitement in his voice. "He sure is one of those golfers it's easy to caddy for. You don't bump into them too often."
Probably not, though caddies no doubt bump into them a little more often than they bump into Presidents.
OUT OF CHARACTER
THE GRAND SLAMMER
Even now a lot of people recognize this fellow on a golf course. He retired from competitive golf 24 years ago after winning the four top titles open to amateurs. A frail child who gained health on the fairway, he was plagued by a nervous stomach in tournaments. But he explained, "I had to be nervous and jittery or I would not play well." So well did he play that it is generally agreed the greatest amateur golfer of all time was: Bobby Jones