Dick Mayer won the 1957 U.S. Open played at Inverness in an 18-hole playoff and Toledoan Jerry Urbanski was his caddie.
Caddies at Inverness Club in 1957 earned $2.50 for working an 18-hole round and, if they did a good job and their employers were in a generous mood, received a $1 tip.
Now, that might not sound like much.
But it wasn't bad money for a teenager a half-century ago.
Plus, there were a couple big fringe benefits.
First, most of the member- play back then occurred early in the day.
By 6 o'clock in the evening, head pro Lloyd Gullickson was locking up the golf shop and heading for home.
"We'd all turn in our tickets at the end of the day, just before 6, and get paid on the spot," recalled Dave Kasprzak, one of the lads who worked under caddie master Buddy Smith at Inverness in '57.
"And as soon as Mr. Gullickson left, we'd all run to the first tee and play until dark."
There was another added bonus in 1957.
The U.S. Open was staged at Inverness and, under the USGA rules of that era, competitors were required to use local caddies.
So, about 110 Inverness caddies had a bag in the national championship with caddies from a few other local clubs making up the balance.
Tomorrow, many of those caddies who used to sneak onto the course after member-play had ended for the day will tee it up at Inverness for the first time since.
The club will host a 50th reunion for the '57 Open, and in the true spirit of a place that has long set the national standard for youth caddie programs, it will be the caddies, forecaddies and standard-bearers from the '57 Open who will be the stars of this show.
Fifty-seven is the magic number for this affair.
For a $57 entry fee, the invitees will get a round of golf, lunch, dinner, and will be part of a ceremony dedicating the Inverness caddie shack in their honor. Kasprzak, one of the event's organizers, said exactly 57 former caddies had signed up to play in the scramble tournament.
"It has been a long time," said Jerry Urbanski, one of those long-ago Inverness caddies. "I quit caddying in '59 and I haven't played there since. That is why this will be quite an experience.
"I understand there have been a lot of changes, but there never was another course like it. Playing there kind of spoiled me for anywhere else."
Urbanski was 16 years old but already a four-year caddie veteran during the summer of '57. Still, when the draw was held for the Open, he stood by and saw his friends assigned to players like Ben Hogan, Jimmy Demaret, young sensation Arnold Palmer, defending champion Cary Middlecoff, Sam Snead, Julius Boros and other big names.
"They pulled my name and I got Dick Mayer," Urbanski recalled. "I thought, 'Who's he?' I'd never heard of him. But I guess it turned out all right."
Did it ever! Urbanski had to work an extra day, but Mayer prevailed in an 18-hole playoff against Middlecoff, to win the '57 Open championship.
"Mayer paid me $500 for the week, and that was sure a lot of money back then," Urbanski said. "But then I made a big mistake. He asked me to go with him to Chicago to caddie at the
Tam O'Shanter tournament the following week. I was just a young, naive kid who had never been away from home, so I told him I couldn't go. Of course, he won that one too."
The tournament at Tam O'Shanter was the World Championship of Golf, put on by a tycoon named George S. May. After earning $7,200 for his Open victory, Mayer cashed to the tune of $50,000 for his win in Chicago. Urbanski can only imagine what his caddie payday might have been.
"We clicked pretty well," Urbanski said. "We'd discuss all the yardages and club selections. He relied on me a lot. You know, Mayer didn't fly. He drove everywhere, so he didn't get to town until Wednesday and only got in one practice round. I was the one who knew the course. He played awfully well and kept the ball in the fairway and out of trouble."
Mayer's title bid almost ended before it began as he nearly missed his Friday tee time. Urbanski remembers that "he came flying out of the clubhouse on a dead run right as the third and final call was being made for our tee time. I was standing on the tee waiting with his clubs. He told me he thought his starting time was an hour later."
All's well that ends well, although Mayer had to survive a late bid by Middlecoff, who rallied from an eight-shot deficit with Saturday rounds of 68-68 [in those days, the Open closed with a 36-hole round on Saturday] and forced a playoff with a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th green. Mayer, however, prevailed by six strokes in the Sunday playoff round that followed.
"What Middlecoff did very well on Saturday, hitting fairways, he didn't do so well in the playoff," said Ray Grabel, then 16 years old and Middlecoff's caddie. "He sure put on quite a display of golf during the last 18 holes on Saturday to get in the playoff. As memory serves me, he birdied three of the last four holes.
"Middlecoff paid me $200. He said it would have been more if we'd won. But, hey, that was half the cost of the '49 Ford convertible I bought the next summer. That car was the cat's pajamas.
"I was 9 when I started caddying. The first time I ever went out the bag was taller than I was. I put the strap over my shoulder, bent at the knees, stood straight up and the bag was still on the ground. That was 1950, which is a lot of years ago. It's going to be great to go back and see all the guys and trade a lot of stories."
One of Mayer's sons is expected to be at Inverness tomorrow - his father died in 1989 and Middlecoff passed away in '98 - and a USGA representative will be on hand with the U.S. Open trophy, Mayer's putter, and other mementoes in tow. A couple '57 Open competitors are expected to attend. Inverness will also honor members John Kretzschmar and Bill Parker for their long involvement with the Western Golf Association and its Evans Scholar program, through which more than 150 Inverness caddies have earned college scholarships through the years.
But this affair is really about Buddy Smith, who also is expected to be on hand, and his boys from the caddie shack.
"They are a living testament of the history and traditions we cherish," said Inverness Club president Jim Schwarzkopf.
Only one tradition will change.
Nobody will have to sneak onto the course tomorrow.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.
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