Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.


Email Patrick.

A caddie's choice in 1965: Tony Lema over Jack

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: August 3, 2014 - 12:48 PM

There was a column last Thursday on Mark Kinderwater and his experience as a novice caddie for Jack Nicklaus in the 1965 St. Paul Open. There was a player draft for potential young caddies based on their selling of tournament tickets.

Kinderwater had the third choice and wound up with Nicklaus after Arnold Palmer went first and Tony Lema went second. This brought up a question: Who took Lema over Nicklaus, who already had four majors at 25?

I received an e-mail from Cal Simmons, an acquaintance and a good local player, confessing that he was the ticket-selling caddie who went for Lema. That wasn’t really a surprise, since Tony had earned the nickname “Champagne Tony’’ and was considered to be the game’s reigning character.

Lema was a British Open champion, having won at St. Andrews in 1964. He died in a plane crash along with his wife and two others after flying from the PGA Championship at Firestone Country Club in 1966.

I asked Cal a few questions about his experiences caddying as a teenager for Lema and other touring pros in those days and here was his response:

“I was 16 as a caddie for Lema. I caddied in four St Paul Opens and one Minnesota Golf Classic, which was the follow to the St Paul Open.

“I was a caddie at the Wayzata Country Club.  Keller was a long trip in the early ‘60s, with no 394, 94 or improved Hwy. 36.  There were few caddies that wanted to make the long drive (or find someone to drive them), over to St Paul. For me, it was the thrill of my summer to caddie for tour players.

“At the time Arnold Palmer was the only person to be traveling with a caddie, Creme Caroline.  Creme was a character.  The St Paul Jaycees did not allow him to caddie, which he took in stride.

“There was a lot of media attention to the big names coming to St Paul that year.  When I learned that I was the No. 2 season-ticket seller, which was on Monday of the tournament, I had a tough decision: Tony Lema or Jack Nicklaus?

“I decided on Lema because he was the British Open champion and because he had a much bigger personality than the young Jack Nicklaus.  Certainly if I had won the selling contest I would have taken Arnold.


“Lema played OK but not great.  I distinctly remember shagging balls for him.  In those days every player had a shag bag of golf balls.  At Keller, the practice area was on the east side of the first hole.  Caddies would stand out in the range and pick up the balls as the player hit them. It was like being on a shooting range with guys with bad aim.

“With Tony Lema, there was no running to get the balls he hit, just stand next to the shag bag and pick them up as they rolled to the bag.  I remember he would hit 4-woods and drivers and I would take a step left or right, catch the ball on the bounce and drop it back into the bag.

“One day I was in the locker room when Nicklaus was there and had received some new Foot Joy shoes.  He took each shoe, bent each one backwards and sat on them to loosen them up – an oddity that a kid remembers when around the big guys.

“Champagne Tony was also popular at the time for the ‘Lema Rain Hat,’ which was no more than a common bucket hat that we know today.  I remember one of the first things I did after meeting him was digging around in his bag to find that rain hat.  It was kind of gray in color and all wrinkled up.  He used it later that week during a brief rain.

“I also remember his wife, who also died in the plane crash less that a year later.  To a kid of 16, she was a bombshell.  Red hair, beautiful.

“I was always one of the top sellers.  As a result I had great players to carry for.  British Open champion, Kel Nagel, Doug Sanders at his peak, and Billy Casper, who sadly withdrew from the tournament where was going to be his caddie.

“A great way to spend a week in the summer … caddying at the St. Paul Open.’’

--CAL

ADVERTISEMENT

Fla Southern 2 FINAL
Detroit 12
FIU 2 FINAL
Miami 7
Toronto 114 FINAL
Philadelphia 103
Golden State 108 FINAL
Brooklyn 110
Phoenix 98 FINAL
Miami 115
LA Clippers 110 FINAL
Minnesota 105
New Orleans 93 FINAL
Dallas 102
Nashville 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Carolina 2 FINAL
Chicago 5
Montreal 0 FINAL
San Jose 4
Virginia 59 FINAL
Syracuse 47
Baylor 59 FINAL
Texas 61
SE Louisiana 79 FINAL
Northwestern St 92
Central Arkansas 49 FINAL
Sam Houston St 76
Norfolk State 59 FINAL
Howard 61
Bethune-Cookman 50 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 75 FINAL
Delaware State 85
Lamar 69 FINAL
McNeese State 70
Nicholls 89 FINAL
New Orleans 79
Incarnate Word 62 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 83
NC Central 62 FINAL
Savannah State 49
Texas Southern 77 FINAL
Alabama A&M 75
Prairie View 67 FINAL
Alabama State 65
Oklahoma 70 FINAL
Iowa State 77
Grambling St 62 FINAL
Miss Valley St 66
Boston College 66 FINAL
Virginia Tech 59
Jackson State 62 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 64
Bethune-Cookman 55 FINAL
NC A&T 58
Hampton 78 FINAL
Delaware State 63
Norfolk State 63 FINAL
Howard 60
NC Central 54 FINAL
Savannah State 65
Texas Southern 83 FINAL
Alabama A&M 46
Prairie View 42 FINAL
Alabama State 60
Jackson State 78 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 74
Grambling 56 FINAL
Miss Valley St 61
Tulsa 71 FINAL
Cincinnati 58
(1) Connecticut 88 FINAL
South Florida 65
UCF 57 FINAL
East Carolina 67
Central Conn St 53 FINAL
Bryant 55
Wagner 66 FINAL
Robert Morris 60
Sacred Heart 75 FINAL
Fairleigh Dickinson 84
St Francis-NY 73 FINAL
Long Island 49
Mount St Marys 87 FINAL
St Francis-PA 90
Temple 56 FINAL
Houston 45
Texas Tech 65 FINAL
(6) Baylor 75
Iowa State 64 FINAL
Kansas 68
SMU 60 FINAL
Memphis 53
Oklahoma 66 FINAL
Oklahoma St 56
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT