I watched Ryan eating salad in the break room with a cigarette in his mouth and a beer in his hand. It was a healthy unhealthy paradox that didn’t make sense until you knew him. It was all free. “Don’t miss out on the tournament buffet in the lobby,” he said.
I was going to play golf and the prospect of eating a salad already grazed on by golfers did not sit well with my stomach.
I entered the pro shop. “Can you get me out there?” I asked.
“Well… do you still work here?”
“Wait a second,” the head pro said. “I got a guy here, eccentric if you ask me, but richer than Croesus. He wants a caddie. I told him we don’t have caddies because this is a city golf course, but he still thinks he can get one. Would you like the job?”
I really wanted to play golf, but I noticed the Lamborghini parked outside. “Sure!” I said. A middle-aged man, in his late 30s, set his clubs in front of the pro shop and walked in. He paid with a 100-dollar bill. “Give me a golf glove, balls, tees, everything I need.”
The head pro put a 5th of whiskey on the counter. “How often do you play?”
“About once a year.”
“Then you’ll need this,” he said.
“I’ll take your word for it. The eccentric popped the top and took a swig right there. Where’s my caddie?”
He looked at me, not very impressed. “Boy, take my clubs. This should get you started for the first hole.” He handed me a 50. The man wore knickerbockers and a sweater vest out of the 1950s. Is this guy for real? I thought. But he was paying me and that’s all I cared about.
“The McCandless single,” the announcer drawled.
“What club will it be?” I asked.
“I’ll take the big stick.” It had a wooden shaft and he clubbed it so hard, his ball went passed the group in front of us. “FOUR!”
He struck their golf cart, drawing angry looks. I wasn’t sure I was going to survive. Something was off; the air pressure made my ears numb.
“You want a drink?” McCandless asked.
“No thanks,” I said
And he chipped his ball within a foot of the hole, tapping it in for a birdie. I was playing with a very lucky man or a pro or someone I didn’t quite understand.
“Can you believe this? These guys are slower than slugs and they have power carts!” McCandless yelled. “What are you trying to do with your life?”
“I’m going to community college.”
“Waste of time,” he said. “Employees are slaves. I’ll tell you what, every hole I birdie, I’ll give you 100 dollars.”
“That’s fine with me,” I said.
He swung his wedge with graceful motion and his ball landed within three feet of the hole. “You’ll be rich by the end of the day. Here’s the 100 I owe you.”
By the time we got to the 3rd hole, I had 250 dollars. McCandless did it again. I thought I was dealing with a savant who didn’t turn pro because he could make more money in business.
We were near the 3rd green and a golfer collapsed.
“Someone call 911; he’s having a heart attack!”
McCandless jumped on him like a lion and performed CPR. It was instinct. Suddenly, the golfer breathed again. Everyone cheered.
“It’s not every day you save a man’s life!” McCandless rejoiced.
How can we repay you?”
“Give to my caddie’s college fund. He seems intent on going.”
The group wrote me a check and the next semester was covered.