Monday, September 14, 2015

Caddying For A Man Who Never Shot Par


Al Capone and his Chicago killers may have had deadly aim elsewhere, but out on a golf course they were hit and miss. Some recollections of those sporting days with Scarface
(This article first appeared in the Nov. 6, 1972, issue of Sports Illustrated.)

"Kid, I need a good caddie," said Capone. " Think you can carry all those clubs?" He pointed to a golf bag as tall as I was, leaning against the wall. I told him sure I could. "Let's go then," and he marched out to the first tee, followed by the gang. They made up a foursome—Capone and McGurn against Burke and Guzik, with a bet of $500 a hole. Capone teed off first. He fetched the ball a whack that would have sent it clear down the fairway, only he hooked it and it curved way off to the left into a clump of trees. I scrambled around on all fours for about 10 minutes trying to find it, scared to death Al would lose his temper and hit me or maybe shoot me, but all he did was grin, pat me on the head and call me Kid. "It's O.K., Kid," he said. "So we lose a stroke, that's all. Just gimme another ball." And I thought: "He can't be as mean and rough as he's cracked up to be."

A slew of bodyguards followed along the sidelines and after them all the other kids, staring open-mouthed at Al and jealous of me. Was I proud and awed! I could hardly believe it—me, Tim Sullivan, caddying for the Big Fellow. Every now and then he would spot a soda-pop stand just off the course and stop to buy us each a bottle.
                                                                                                                                         
He played a terrible game. I don't think he broke 60 for the nine holes. He could drive the ball half a mile, but he always hooked it, and he couldn't putt for beans. Guzik was worse and Burke didn't play much better. Only McGurn shot a pretty fair score, around 40. >
(There were Machine Gun Jack McGurn, an Italian in spite of his name, good-looking in a dark, snaky kind of way, a snappy dresser and smooth dancer—the girls were crazy for him—and Fred (Killer)Burke, who lived right behind our house for a while. A huge bear of a man with thick eyebrows and a bushy mustache, he seemed a friendly sort until you looked at his eyes. They were small and black and mean. Five years later McGurn and Burke took part in the St.Valentine's Day massacre ordered by Capone.)

In addition to the regular $500 a hole, they kept making side bets and Al lost most of them. About $10,000 changed hands that day.

When it was over Al gave me a $20 bill, more money than I'd ever held in my hand before. "All this?" I said, dumfounded. He nodded. "Sure, why not? You earned it." And then he asked me how would I like to be his regular caddie.

Al came out to Burnham twice a week on the average. I always caddied for him and he always tipped me $20 or more. It made a tremendous difference to the family budget. After a while even Mom, who worried herself sick at first about my associating with gangsters, didn't talk about it any more. Al's game never improved, not even after he took the club pro, Freddie Pelcher, down to Miami with him for the winter so he could get a golf lesson whenever he wanted. He paid him $100 a day, I was told, treated him to all the best whiskey he could drink and invited him along on the parties. I felt so bad about Al losing his ball so often I began cheating for him. I would keep a couple of extra balls in my pants pocket, drop one near the spot where his disappeared, and pretend I'd found it. He caught on pretty quick, but he just laughed and said, "You're O.K., Kid."

HERE'S THE 1972  DOUBLE PAGE SPREAD IN SPORTS ILLUSTRATED