Thursday morning from 8 until 11 am is Ladies’ Day at the golf course. Only women can play during those hours.
There is one token female member at the club, Mrs. Nickel, who coincidentally enough refuses to play on Ladies’ Day and prefers to play with the men on the weekends. The women who play on Ladies’ Day are wives of the members.
Many caddies arrive to the club on Thursday mornings forgetting what day it is and then shudder, sigh or swear when they hear they’ve been assigned to a Mrs.
Even Lorena Manzano complains about it and says, “I hate lady golfers,” after being assigned the lady bag she always inevitably receives and despite being a female golfer herself.
For many caddies, the member’s wife belongs to that category of incompetent golfer, which includes the very old and the very young, and is the type of golfer that plays slowly, becomes frequently confused, cannot reach the green of a par-four without using a fairway wood multiple times, and, therefore, does not deserve to play prestigious golf courses and most certainly does not deserve a caddie’s careful considerations.
Ladies’ Guest Day occurs in early August. It’s an eighteen hole, best ball tournament, with each foursome consisting of a member’s wife (Mrs. Nickel never participates), and three female guests.
Though no one wants to admit it, for the caddies, for the assistant pros, for Lou the Pro, Ladies’ Guest Day is the most tedious day of the year.
Last year on Ladies’ Guest Day, there was a low turnout and as the assignments were being read, it became obvious that only half the caddies would have work.
After all the names were called—including mine—the caddies who weren’t assigned to Ladies’ Guest Day at first looked at one another with surprise and relief, unsure of what to make of such good fortune.
A couple of caddies remarked in wonder, “Yes! We did it! We’re free!” and then others began high-fiving, fist-pumping, and then still others began happily hugging one another and whooping and hooting, and then soon a chant began of, “U.S.A! U.S.A!” and then, “We’re number one! We’re number one!”
Sandy Fields came out of the bag room and yelled across the parking lot, “Hey! Shut the hell up!”
We caddies who had received lady bags lowered our heads and dolefully walked up to the bag room to be issued our smocks and our evaluation cards.
I was assigned to caddie with Big Tom Wrigley. We were both carrying doubles in Mrs. Bruce’s foursome. Mrs. Bruce is the best golfing wife at the club. She’s in her early forties, fit and muscular, and can drive the ball 240 yards.
Her guests were all of the same age, fit, and long-driving suburban mothers who were also all married to men who were either lawyers or investment bankers who belonged to the Indian Hill Club of Winnetka.
Tom and I took our bags to the first tee. The women were down at the driving range.
“This is going to be a death march,” I said to Tom, grimly and joylessly. I was feeling salty and had no desire to be cheered up.
The ladies came back from the range, introduced themselves with delicate and antiseptic handshakes, and gave us their clubs to wipe and clean and place back into their golf bags. Mrs. Bruce was delighted to see that Tom was caddying for her.
“Girls, this is Tom Wrigley! He’s my favorite, favorite, favorite caddie. You’re such a gentleman. Aren’t you, Tom?”
Tom blushed and said, “It’s hard not to be a gentleman around such a lady like you, Mrs. Bruce.”
The ladies fawned but then looked a little uncomfortable. They took their putters and walked to the practice green.
Tom nudged me and showed me the clubs that Mrs. Bruce had handed him.
“Look!” he said, bringing the two irons near my face.
I looked at Tom and shook my head. “What?” I asked.
“Don’t you see? Look at the clubs she gave me! The six-iron and the nine-iron. Just like that, with the numbers facing me. Sixty-nine, my friend. Sixty-nine!” Tom said.
He turned and looked back at the practice green. “She wants it,” he said.
I laughed and could feel my mood lightening up. “Halfway house?” I asked.
“That could work. Or the grassy knoll on eight.”
“What about the other ones?”
“They can come, too,” Tom said.
The round began and it was a hot, slow, sweaty afternoon. On the fore-caddie mound on number seven, Tom asked me, “How about a caddie Playgirl? You know, we could pose in the sand traps with the rakes.”
“At the ball washer,” I said.
“Yup. Or bending over to read a putt.”
“Think they would read it?” I asked, looking back towards the ladies on the tee box.
One of Tom’s golfers swung and drove her ball into the prairie grass on the left. Tom sprinted for the ball and leaped into the grass, and then daintily dropped his cap onto the ball to mark it.
Mrs. Bruce then swung and also drove her golf ball right towards Tom. The women all yelled “Fore!” Tom yelled like an outfielder, “I got it! I got it!” but then did a cartwheel to the right to dodge the ball.
He got up, walked to where the ball landed, then took off his caddie bib and dropped his shirt near the ball to mark it. He then put his caddie bib over his bare chest and jogged back to the golf bags and the fore-caddie mound, picking straw out of his hair.
Mrs. Bruce yelled from the tee, “Oh Tom, you’re such a goof! Put your shirt back on!”
Tom waved at the ladies and asked me, “How about caddying naked? Or you take Viagra first and hang your towel on your…”
At the halfway house, the ladies sat out front while Tom and I were in the kitchen eating crackers and cheese and drinking Gatorade. My jaw was becoming sore from smiling and laughing so hard. Both of us had gotten the giggles.
“So when are you going to make the move?” I asked.
“It’ll happen,” he said.
One of the ladies walked into the kitchen and then asked us where the restroom was.
“Oh, it’s just out back and to the right, ma’am,” Tom said enthusiastically. He looked at me and winked and nodded. “Just let me know if you need any more assistance!” he shouted as she opened the bathroom door.
On the twelfth hole, as Tom and I were walking down the fairway, safely ahead of the ladies, he asked, “So which one would you rather do? I like magenta visor. I could really wax her ass. Plaid skirt’s not bad looking either though. You think any are lesbians?”
“Hey, look what I found on ten,” Tom said. He had a ball in his hand called a “Pearl.” It was imprinted with pink lettering and had glitter baked into its synthetic plastic cover.
As we finished the hole, Tom placed the Pearl ball near the lip of the hole. “The next group will get up here and one of them will think it’s hers and go like, ‘Oh my god! I almost made it!’ And then they’ll just be very confused.”
On the fifteenth tee, a cell phone buzzed in one of the lady’s bags. She took it out and pressed a button and then put it back inside.
Tom leaned over to me and whispered into my ear, “Wouldn’t it be great if the clubhouse blew up when she pressed the button? Just, bbbbbrrrgggghhhhoooooo.”
The women glanced at Tom as he made his clubhouse explosion noise.
We finally got to the eighteenth hole. We reached the five-hour mark as the ladies were teeing off. I looked at the road along the club and saw several caddies who had shown up that morning but who didn’t get Ladies’ Guest Day bags riding their bikes with swim shorts on, goggles on their foreheads, and beach towels wrapped around their necks. Their hair was matted and they were heading home from the pool already. They rang their bells and waved as they saw me looking.
One of the ladies was distracted by the bell-ringing, stepped away from her ball, and restarted her very lengthy and elaborate pre-shot routine. Tom looked at me with furious, wide eyes and silently mouthed, “Why?”
We finished the round, cleaned our ladies’ clubs one more time, shook hands with everyone, and were then tipped very minimally by Mrs. Bruce.
I walked towards my bike and stopped by Tom where he sat in the driver’s seat of his car. He was packing a colorful pipe with marijuana. He looked at me, shook his head and said, “Man, I need to pay more attention to what day of the week it is.”
I asked him what he was up to. “I’m gonna go have a little powwow with Bruno here,” he said, referring to his pipe.
“See you tomorrow?” I asked.
“Bright and early, my man,” Tom said.
I got on my bike and rode behind Tom as he pulled out of the lot. He turned right, I continued straight, and he raised his hand up into the air in a restrained but fond wave of commiseration. I waved back and rode on toward home.