Cart Jockeys. They’re called that, because most of the time they’re speeding around the property in golf carts, and they get so good at driving them, they look like true athletes. They’re unmistakable. Sweat-stained golf shirt, khaki shorts with a dirty towel hanging from them, one foot dangling out of the cart, accelerator on the floor, one hand on the wheel and the other on a walkie-talkie. It’s a tight-knit fraternity. At least at Barton Creek in the early ‘90’s it was. Twenty or thirty guys, the occasional girl, most in school at UT, ACC, or SWT. Cleaning golf clubs, storing and fetching golf bags, parking cars, washing and prepping golf carts and shagging range balls for the who’s-who of Central Texas. For a college kid hoping to break into the golf business and become a PGA Professional, it was a dream job. That is, if you’re not talking about money. Summertime pay was good, but when winter rolled around, you might take home less than $400 a month. My share of rent at the two-bedroom apartment where five of us lived was $210. Winter was tough. But we got to play the Fazio course, something even some the richest men in town couldn’t do. My pledge class included some who went on to become lawyers, publishers, doctors, PGA Tour players, drug dealers, millionaires and crack-addicts. We worked under the magic spell of one simply called Mule. Some of you know him. A great motivator and one of the finest PGA Professionals I’ve ever met, yet rarely recognized by the very association he served. Initially, we felt betrayed when Mule left us for bigger things, but we soon realized he was not unlike any of us. We all wanted bigger things.
MEETING BEN (originally published in Austin Golf magazine, April 2003)
As I swung open the back door of the shiny black Range Rover in the parking lot of the Crenshaw Course at Barton Creek Resort, I knew this would be a good job. Inside was a big black Buick golf bag with the name Ben Crenshaw stitched proudly upon it. The feeling of multiple epiphany when it’s almost too much to take? Seeing the bag was enough for me, but as the driver door swung open, I realized what was about to happen. I was seconds away from meeting the one person who made me want to be a golf pro. I’d grown up watching Ben, idolizing his game and his putting. I thought to myself… What are you going to say? Don’t drop his golf bag. Don’t pick up his putter and start swinging it around like a madman. Don’t say something stupid. Don’t slam his fingers in the door.
As he came around back, he gave me a genuine smile, handshake and “G’Mornin, pods. You’re new here, aren’t you? I’m Ben.” I felt like a schoolgirl. Did he actually think he had to introduce himself? I shook his hand and said, “Yes I am. First day. It’s an honor to meet you, Mr. Crenshaw.” He replied, “Call me Ben, uh …….”. I realized I hadn’t told him my name. (Imagine Chris Farley interviewing a guest. (Stupid, stupid!!!) I told him my name, laughed, and finished my job of setting up his golf cart, all without injuring anyone or breaking anything. He waved and drove off toward the first tee.
I saw him several times during and after my stint as a cart jockey, but his kind, genuine demeanor that day is something I’ll always treasure. They say you remember where you were when big things happen. When Ben Crenshaw won The Masters in 1995, I was five longnecks deep in a smoky bar in Singer Island, Florida after missing another cut in a mini-tour event. I somehow felt connected to him when he sank the final putt. I cried with you, Ben.