I pretty much grew up on the golf course in my home town. My father was the golf pro. I was born on a Tuesday and made my first visit to the golf shop on Thursday. My mom would drop me off at the golf shop on a regular basis, and then it was up to my dad, and his people to keep me out of trouble.
Typically younger kids would start off as caddies. After a couple years as a caddie, the best and brightest would be pulled to work outside the shop. Duties were pulling golf clubs out of storage for members, setting them up with electric carts, pull carts, or caddies. When they returned from play they would clean the clubs and store them in the back of the shop again.
One of my dad's employees went by the nickname - Rubbers. This was because he wore his Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers all the time, even if there was three feet of fresh snow. Well Rubbers was supposed to watch and keep me out of trouble, so he put me to work washing the golf clubs. If I cleaned the whole rack of 20 sets he would buy me a soda. When finished, he would just get the 20 cents from my dad. This was the beginnings of me working at the club for my dad.
When I wasn't helping Rubbers, I would hang down by the slab (an old piece of concrete slab) with the caddies. I learned street language and jokes a few years ahead of what should have been normal for my age due to hanging out by the slab). My dad noticed this and started to put me to work more, to keep me away from the foul mouthed caddies.
My earliest duties started when my dad would have me go all around the immediate grounds and pick up all of the old pop-tab rings. When I finished he would buy me a bag of chips that would only make me thirsty. Then he'd have me pick up all the cigarette butts to earn a soda. His other big thing to pick up, was the golf pencils and tees. Lord knows how many golf cart tires were flattened by them. To this day at any course I play, I still am conditioned to pick up and pencils or tees in the parking lot.
Soon after I was sweeping the cart room and washing down the dirty carts. This led to me washing clubs on the busy days, and working more and more in and around the shop. In elementary school, when I got detention, I was in more trouble for being late to work that I was for being bad at school.
By middle school I had been doing a lot of simple club repair tasks, like applying fresh polyurethane and hosel whipping to wood clubs. I was doing a lot of golf grip replacement. I started to step up my game and started a club repair side business while in middle school. I had all of the club my dad was at, and started to pick up other golf courses and my skills were spread around town.
I learned how to reshalf clubs the right way, but I could still do reshaftings for guys making the turn (getting beers between the front and back nines) using cheaper 10 minute epoxy. When one member complained I used the inferior glue, I guaranteed it to last longer than the shaft. He busted that shaft over his knee two weeks later.
One member ran a nearby course, but his thing was to only use ultra cheap putters, and he busted them after the round every Thursday (men's day). One day he found out one of his buddies was collecting them, and paying me to fix them so he could sell them. He only started breaking them in bigger and more creative ways, and threw the pieces into the pond after.
Old wooden clubs needed hosel whipping to prevent the hosel from cracking. I also kept a few wheels of this special string around. My dad had me perform this as a complementary service to anyone who used his storage service for clubs at the shop. I was working for tips when I did this. When a non-member walked in from off the street I could charge whatever I could get. I had a reputation for doing these jobs on the spot, no matter how busy I was, so people came to me from the whole county.
We had several members at the club with interesting stories to tell. Despite the hassles some of these people put me through with their demands and needs I truly liked most of these people. I still ask my dad about them from time to time. He keeps me posted on the lives, births, and deaths of folks I haven't seen in great time.
Dr. Jesus Sierra is the name I'll use for the subject of the rest of this story. He was a fairly famous orthopedic surgeon around town, hospitals called him day and night from the whole state for consultations and x-ray readings. He was busy, but had a deep seeded desire to play golf daily, even when on call.
One winter Dr. Sierra got a hold of a Ralph Maltby catalog, then read his book over the winter. Ralph Maltby was the author of the book "Golf Club Design, Fitting, Alteration & Repair." It was the gold standard of golf club repair books. Maltby also had his company, The Golf Works, that still sells golf club repair tools and supplies as well as parts to build clubs from scratch.
Dr. Sierra changed grips for his pals for a lot less money than I charged. People paid for my experience to get them them on straight, and my guarantee. A few members brought the newly gripped clubs in to show off, others brought theirs in for regripping the correct way. Somehow Dr. Sierra mixed up many of his grips that looked similar, but had many subtle differences. This created sets of clubs that did not feel consistent like a set. His alignment of grips was usually off as well, though it improved over time.
This never cut into my business, as they were cheaper members who didn't use my services anyways. The next summer Dr. Sierra tried the next step - golf club manufacturing. We took to calling him a Glue Specialist, because he just ordered stuff and glued them together and called himself a professional. He didn't necessarily custom fit the clubs to the people or match the shafts and heads properly, but his circle of friends couldn't wait for a custom set of Sierra Specials.
I started to worry my dad was losing business. He told me not to worry, K-Mart was losing more business to Dr. Sierra than he was. A few people had trouble with these Sierra Specials, and for one reason or another they would bring them into me. They presented me with busted expoxy bonds and misaligned grips frequently. The answer to this was a new service schedule. If you bought the clubs from my dad or another PGA professional you received one rate, Sierra Specials received the other rate.
Getting a set of Sierra Specials was a case where you had to weigh how close of a friend you were to him. The goal was to use them long enough to make him happy, then buy a new set of Pings. Dr. Sierra could not procure parts or grips for Pings.
If you remember Caddyshack you should remember the doctor that was always getting paged with the giant tall pager. Dr. Sierra had one of those - somewhere. I'm not sure where he kept it, but it wasn't on his person - EVER.
He never brought his pager with him. He would call the hospital paging service and tell them where he was. When he showed up to the club while on-call he'd call in and tell them he was at the country club. I always believed this was so I would have to take a cart and go get him off the course, then return him to his group after he finished his call. This was before cellphones were as ubiquitous as they are today, they cost tons of money back then. This happened several times each week, it was a joke. He never tipped anybody for all of this extra service, and it usually placed us behind schedule and we had to stay and work later to finish our duties.
I heard your better to skip the movie if you see him in line. He would call the hospital and give them the phone number. WHEN he was paged the hospital would claim an emergency and demand the theater to send an usher looking for him with a flashlight disturbing everybody. This would happen a couple times per movie.
One day I was alone at the shop when I got the call from the hospital. It was the hospital paging service telling me I had to go out and retrieve Dr. Sierra again. I told the hospital I couldn't run out there and get him because I was all alone at the shop. They told me it I HAD to go get Dr. Sierra.
Telling me I HAD to do something set me off, so I replied;
"I don't HAVE to do anything. I don't have to stop for red lights. Now, I'm the only one at the shop right now and I cannot leave my station."
To which they replied again I needed to go pull him off the course because it was an emergency.
"Did Dr. Sierra know he was on call today?"
The hospital replied, "yes."
"Then why didn't Dr. Sierra bring his pager today?"
The hospital replied, "He must have left it at home today."
"Dr. Sierra never seems to carry his pager, because we have to go shag him off the course several times a week. He must not take his job very seriously. I take mine seriously, and I'm not going to leave my post. I have work to do, so maybe you should send somebody from the hospital to come out here and look for him on the course so he call in. I'll allow you the use of a cart."
By now the lady at the hospital answering service was starting to get flustered with me. For some reason she felt telling me over and over that I HAD to go get Dr. Sierra would change my mind. If anything it made me stand my ground even more.
"I don't have to go get Dr. Sierra, and I won't. I have an entire golf shop open for business, about 100 sets of clubs outside the bag room, and a dozen carts out. I could take the time to put everything inside and secure them it'll be over an hour. Then while I go get Dr. Sierra and bring him in for a 2 minute call what happens to the member who drops his clubs off and has them stolen? Will you take responsibity then? If while I'm gallivanting around the course looking for Dr. Sierra what happens to the carts from the course that are brought in as members finish their rounds, what happens if a cart is stolen and a child is injured? While I'm out what happens to members that want to get their clubs to play golf, they didn't sign up to become a member to play golf only when it doesn't interfere with Dr. Sierra's duties or when he forgets to bring his pager now did they?"
The hospital kept reiterating the same thing only more frustrated as time wore on. She finally told me I was responsible for the health and well being for the patient! What was this poor patient going to do?
"First of all, I DO NOT work for the hospital, and I do not appreciated being threatened by you and the hospital. I have been more than patient with you, but now I'm done. Perhaps the patient should get a doctor or another hospital that takes medicine seriously enough to use the pagers they are assigned?
"Dr. Sierra is not carrying his pager at the moment."
"That seem like YOUR problem, because your employee isn't using the pager you assigned him. I will allow a member of your hospital staff the use a golf cart to find him and bring him off the course. So, if this is a true emergency sent an ambulance right out onto the golf course to go shag him off the course. We'll send the bill for any damage done to your hospital. Oh, hold on a sec.. I've got to go now, I've got customers."So I hung up.
A few minutes later a guy from the clubhouse restaurant (a separate building) came down to get a cart to go out and get Dr. Sierra. Realizing I may have pushed the hospital too far I called my dad to let him in on what happened. He felt under the circumstance I was correct, and neither of us had any fiduciary duty to the hospital.
When the clubhouse guy brought Dr. Sierra in he made his 2 minute call. Then he wanted to head back out to the course to finish his round. I stopped him.
"Dr. Sierra was that indeed a true emergency?
"Not really, I just needed to OK something on a contingency."
I told him the interaction I had with the hospital, and he was slightly taken back. He went back out to finish his round.
Having the staff member from the clubhouse go out, on what turned out for to be a trivial call, put them in an awkward position as service suffered during a busy dinner service in the clubhouse. My dad talked to the clubhouse manager, and they brought this to the attention of the club's board of directors. A policy was drafted and a call was made to both local hospitals. The club was not responsible to shag doctors off the course. The hospitals then in turn had to draft policy to force all staff on call to wear pagers.
You'd think that would be the end of the silly calls for Dr. Sierra, but you'd be mistaken. His children would call on Fridays during couples golf and want to know which hole they were on. Dr. Sierra's daughter was a whore, and the son was a major pot player in the neighborhood. Somehow they felt it was our duty to keep them abreast on how long they had left to fornicate or blaze up.
The plan was to tell the daughter her parents had just gotten on the course. They were late because he had to return a few pages. She bought it.
Dr. Sierra and his wife were almost done. I told them they were needed home right away. They went home and caught some guy pushing her across the rug like a dog in heat. Somehow the guy made it out alive, despite the fury of Dr. Sierra. The daughter knew I wasn't playing her stupid games anymore, so she found a new place to act out against her parents and fornicate. We did something similar to the son.
Somewhere out in Arizona today is a orthopedic surgeon building golf clubs.