06/18/12 - posted by jb
More for nostalgia than any real interest in golf, I watched the US Open on Sunday from the rarefied vantage point of my easy chair and 50 years from when I ventured down Skyline and through the hallowed gates of the Olympic Club towards my first job as a caddy. Yes, I remember it like yesterday when Steve Green and I woke up at 5am to get there on time. A short walk since we both lived on Northgate and our back yards bordered the 8th hole of the Ocean course. And while we grew up playing in the rough and tree-lined fairways, this was different...this was business.

We may have been the first ones there since the caddy shack didn't open until 6:00 or 6:30 when other caddies ranging in age from 10-50 slowly appeared through the fog of dawn's early light. wounded souls and soldiers, many shaking off the night's sins and shadows like chimney sweeps, coughing up dried memories which they inhaled, over and over again, from a wrinkled pack of Lucky Strikes and shattered hope. Winos, perverts and kids, layered together like jello mold on Thanksgiving all hoping to get a loop and pocket a few bucks for cokes, comic books or a bottle of muscatel and a warm, dry place to enjoy them. The loop was seemingly endless; you only needed to show up.

One hundred yards separated the Village of the Damned from Valhalla, and once you were called to the bag room, every step forward down the road was filled with hope and excitement. Yes, the next 5 hours would be grueling work, especially for a skinny kid with no shoulders and flat feet; yet, there was an exhalation to now be in the company of gentlemen who clearly knew how the world operated and always drove in the front gate, tossing a quarter to some lucky kid for taking their bag from car to clubrest. Everything shined once apart from the shadows of the caddy shack and for the price of a sore back one could view this specticle vicariously and dream of what regal delights dwelled within the confines of the guarded clubhouse. To this day, I've yet to see the inside.

What really touched me about watching the US Open was not the mere memories of my first job: It was the fog. As the day pressed on, you could see it roll in and thicken, taking with it all the color of the course. And it brought with it the image of almost every day of my childhood in Daly City, reminding me that carrying a 40-lb bag was the least of my early burdens. This fog is cold and haunting and I could feel it through the warm comforter and aging cat now draped across my lap, as I sipped a pour of Johnny Walker Blue.

Yes, I have moved a far cry in 50 years yet there is something in that dreary fog that remains ghost-like in its presence, running through those Lakeside cypress trees like the headless horseman and I am haunted by its image. To play golf in it poses a formidable challenge: To live in it, day in and day out is...well, you all know.

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