During the 1920s, before the incorporation of wheeled devices like the pull bag cart and mechanized golf cart, golfers either carried their clubs in a cloth bag or paid a caddy to tote the clubs around the course.

Just as the game of golf was introduced to the United States from European influence, the caddy was adopted as well. The word caddie derives from the French word cadet. Cadets were young page boys assisting those serving in the armed forces.

Caddie appears in the late 19th century Oxford English Dictionary as a person carrying golf clubs. In that sense, they were literally carrying clubs in bundles holding the clubs in their hands and arms.

During those early days, the clubs were not contained in a bag. The leather golf bag with a shoulder strap played an essential role in the development of the caddy profession.

Thirty years ago, Clair Goodwin, in his column, composed a story on Cecil James who was a former Schifferdecker caddie. James recalled taking up the trade as a caddy on weekdays after school and weekends. It was on Saturday and Sunday that James profited most, especially if he carried two rounds per day.

James stated that the caddies took turns. “Their names went on the caddie master’s list and then someone in the pro shop would bellow out the name of the caddie next in line to loop.” (Loop is a reference to walking around the golf course.)

“There were always six or seven caddies out there. That was in 1922, 1923 and 1924. I was 10 when I started. I think the peak number of caddies was somewhere around 14 to 16 at one time. Many players carried their own bags. But the better players and the gamblers always had caddies. Sometimes you carried double (meaning that a caddie would carry two bags in a foursome). And if you were high on the caddie master’s list you could easily carry two 18-holes rounds in a day.”

According to James the caddie fee was 35 cents for nine holes. The moment of truth at the end of a round was the amount of tip a caddy could receive if they performed their tasks well. Their grade was in the tip. Caddies knew the generous tippers and looked forward to looping for the them.

So many of the touring pros in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s were introduced to the game of golf as a caddy. All three of Joplin Oak Hill’s legendary pros Ed Dudley, Horton Smith and Ky Laffoon started out as caddies.

George Kirsch, in his book Golf in America, states, “African American caddies carried golf bags for white golfers throughout America at private clubs, resorts and municipal courses. In the Southern states children as young as eight or nine years of age shouldered one or at times two bags a round. They were often poorly fed, ill clad and sometimes barefoot. They were paid a pittance and in-most-instances sharing part of their earnings with the caddie master.”

Playing public golf courses applied only to whites. African Americans were not allowed to play at public municipal courses. However, there were a few black clubs and courses, but for the most part they were relegated to be golf caddies.

From the beginning the PGA of America was segregated. Article 3, Section 1 of the PGA constitution stated that members must be of the Caucasian race.

A national black golfers’ organization was established in the mid-1920s, named the United Golf Association (UGA) with headquarters in Stowe, Massachusetts. The UGA consisted of African American golfers who operated a separate series of professional golf tournaments for blacks during the era of racial segregation.

The UGA held a National Open annually. Howard Wheeler was one of the best, winning six UGA Championships.

White players competed on the black tour but blacks could only compete in two white-dominated tournaments before the 1940s the U. S. and Western Opens.

In 1896 John Shippen became the first African American to play in the U.S. Open. Shippen was allowed to play because the tournament was run by the United States Golf Association and not the PGA. Shippen tied for sixth and would play in five more U.S. Opens.

Ann Gregory was the first African American golfer to play in the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Althea Gibson became the first black to play on the LPGA Tour. Gibson was also an accomplished tennis player.

In 1961 the PGA lifted the ban on non-white players. Professional golf was one of the last major American sports to integrate. Pete Brown won the Waco-Turner Open in 1964. At age 13 Brown learned the game in Jackson, Mississippi, working as a caddie at the municipal golf course.

His first golf club was a rescued 5-iron that was tossed into a pond. Brown was a multiple winner on the UGA Tour.

In 1956 he was stricken by polio and bedridden for a year. His recovery was slow and painful. He finished the 1964 PGA Tour season in 29th place on the money list.

Charles Sifford became the first African American golfer to earn a PGA Tour card. Sifford’s first win came at the Hartford Open in 1967. He had been on the tour since 1948, but played infrequently because many events were subject to the PGA clause banning non-Caucasians. Sifford was enshrined into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2004.

World War II created a shortage of golf balls, equipment and caddies. The number of golf rounds were reduced and this effected the caddie ranks. Following the war, the hand pulled golf cart offered an alternative to paying a caddy fee.

During the war, to save on petroleum usage, electric golf carts were used to transport people. Three wheeled mechanical golf buggies were nothing new. There were several experimental versions dating back to the 1930s.

EZ-Go, Cushman and Club Car began manufacturing motorized golf caddies in the 1950s. They were designed to carry two players and their golf bags.

In the beginning the mechanically powered golf cart had its detractors. A host of concerns accompanied the new technology.

Many believed that the golf carts would be detrimental to the fairways. Clubs and courses were out the initial purchase of the carts as well as the continual maintenance and storage expenses.

Cart accidents from negligent drivers were also a perceived issue. Most of the golf carts at this time were three wheeled with one wheel in the front and two in the back. The three wheels were unstable which caused the carts to tip over from time to time.

The four-wheeled electric and gas-powered golf carts displaced the caddie. By the 1960s paved golf course highways meandering through the fairways were constructed to accommodate the new popular form of transportation.

Today the golf cart is as valuable as the bulky headed driver. Most importantly, it is a pack mule that carries for many a most precious commodity — the beer cooler.

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