Sunday, August 23, 2015

Chick's Book -- An Autobiography By Charles Evans, Jr.

You don't need to travel to the Library of Congress to read it. It is online. It is complete. That is none other than the "Chick Evans Golf Book," immodestly subtitled "The Story of the Sporting Battles of the Greatest of all Amateur Golfers," written by Charles "Chick" Evans Jr., published in 1921. The book was written when Bobby Jones, now universally recognized as the most successful amateur golfer of all time, was still a young man and had yet to win the first of his 13 major championships.

The book confirms things we thought we knew about Chick -- he dearly loved his mom, and he thought the world of caddies and the caddie experience.

Chick paid tribute to his mom in the book's dedication.

He further recognized her prominent role by including her in the "Double Crown" photo of his cherished United States Amateur and United States Open golf trophies.

While more careful copy editing might have been in order (in the photo above, the trophies were said to be won in 1920, while the picture is copyrighted in 1917, the year after Chick won both championships), the book is a remarkable, contemporary insight into the life and times of a golf legend.

Chick Evans was one of the top amateurs of the early 20th century. In 1916, Evans became the first player to win the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur in the same year. He later won a second Amateur title in 1920, and was runner-up three times. He competed in 50 U.S. Amateurs in a very long career, and played on the Walker Cup teams of 1922, 1924, and 1928. Evans was also the first amateur to win the Western Open, in 1910, and he was an eight-time champion at the Western Amateur.
Chick Evans is best known in modern times for having founded the Evans Scholar caddie scholarship program, which in the last 80 years has put approximately 10,000 caddies through college, including the author of this blog. The story goes that Chick received a $5,000 stipend for producing a golf instructional record, and faced with the prospect of being declared a professional if he accepted it, channeled the proceeds to the Western Golf Association, to begin the Evans Scholarship program. The details on the program's founding may differ depending on who is doing the describing, but the commitment to caddies is always same.

In my hometown of Morton Grove, Illinois, Chick is namesake of Chick Evans Golf Course, a Cook County Forest Preserve tract, forming the northerly border of the eastern section of the village, between Beckwith and Golf roads.

Satellite view of Chick Evans Golf Course and the north side of Morton Grove.

Chick grew up in Rogers Park on the north side of Chicago and began caddying at Edgewater Club at the tender age of eight. I feel relatively like a piker, having gotten into the caddy business six decades later at the advanced age of ten. Chick's book describes his first loop (a round of golf is referred to as a loop because course designs invariably loop back so the finishing green is near the club house and the first tee box) at Edgewater Club. Chick recalled:
I was, however, really too young for caddying, even my brother was rather young — boys of twelve and four- teen being preferred — but there is one quality that I possess in abundance, and that is persistence, and from that first day I simply haunted that caddie yard, confident in the belief that sometime I would be allowed to carry the bag that was taller than I.
One day when only ladies were playing my long-looked-for opportunity arrived. It happened that there were few boys out, the older ones, I fancy, having been drawn to a football game of their own, and a caddie was needed. The lady who accepted my services, such as they were, was Miss Amy Jones, daughter of G. I. Jones, one of the five founders of the Edgewater Golf Club, and unless I am mistaken, she, herself, was at the time the woman champion of the club. 
I was about two inches shorter than the bag, and the strap adjusted to the last notch was still much too large for me. In consequence the bag just bumped along with each alternating step. Luckily for me Miss Jones was very kind and made allowances for the little freckle- faced boy who was caddying for the first time, and exceedingly anxious to do well at it.  
Of course, burdened by the bag, I could not keep up with Miss Jones, but she would walk back to get the club needed for the next shot, and if there was a short cut for the caddie she showed it to me, and took two clubs if she were in doubt as to the one to be used, because she knew that the little youngster could never be up to the ball in time.
I had the pleasure of caddying for Chick Evans from time to time at Glen View Club in the 1960s. Then a septuagenarian, Chick could not follow the flight of a golf ball to save his soul, but it made little difference as every shot was dead center in the fairway, 180 yards for his drives, and right on line with his approached shots, chips and putts once we got his stance and club face properly aligned.

One of my most viewed blog posts is the story of the our caddie strike at Glen View Club. We did not know it at the time, but some sixty years earlier Chick Evans was involved in caddie strikes of his own.
We had strikes and rumors of strikes down in the Edgewater Golf Club caddie yard. It is astonishing how human nature exerts itself even at an early age and it was not long after the club was started before one of the kids, with a gift for leadership, started a walkout. He was Abe Freeman. To our suburban imaginations the ten cents for nine holes, sweetened by many a tip from generous men like Mr. Weaver and Mr. Taylor, was fine pay, but Abe had bigger ideas, and he soon got the other caddies to his way of thinking. When this happened I was too small to be considered, but I learned that Leonard Larson told Mr. Koehler about it, and as he happened to be a director he soon had it arranged to give the boys fifteen cents for nine holes. Soon afterwards Freeman went away, and I have never heard of him since. We learned later that the reason that he wanted the extra nickel a round was because he was giving the caddie master that amount for the good jobs. 
Our [later] strikes were never for money, but for playing privileges, and to get rid of hated officials. 62 Chick Evans* Golf Book I was not much of a participant in the second strike for I was still considered too young. Its object was to get rid of the caddie master, and the complaints against him were that he was brutal to the boys, held out their money, played favorites, and was generally incompetent. The strike did not go far. A spokesman called the attention of the proper members to the grievances, and the caddie master disappeared and all was well.
The last strike was really my own. We had been allowed to play on the course every morning until 8 o'clock, and on Mondays until 9. We had a putting course in the caddie yard where we practiced during our spare time. We were also accustomed while caddying to put our clubs in the members' bags so that we could swing them between the tees. Sometimes we forgot and swung the members' clubs instead of our own. As I look back upon it now I think that no club was ever more easy going in granting playing privileges, and no crowd of caddies ever swung golf clubs under pleasanter con- ditions. Suddenly all this was changed. With one deadly blow the hopes of all the prospective young golf champions were blasted. Even when we played late at night, at the farthest edges of the course, we were chased away.
The drastic change was soul-crushing, for much as we liked the money we made, the real lure that held us to the course was the privilege of playing. I said that I started the strike, for playing was beginning to be the breath of life to me, but soon the big boys took it out of my hands and carried it to a successful conclusion. I can see the boys now, each with his club, hanging around the outskirts of the grounds, hunting balls and picketing the course. Any boy who attempted to get back onto the grounds and carry double was taken care of quietly and thoroughly.
Mr. Silsbee brought one of his daughters out to caddy for him and that presented a delicate problem which we did not solve. The club members did not exactly like the idea of our appearing to dictate to them and so the strike continued through the week to the busy Saturday afternoon but it could be seen that the club members were uncomfortable carrying their bags, and some were going around with a single club. Saturday arrived, bringing beautiful weather.
Many members came out, asked for caddies, were told we were on a strike, complained mildly — although some were amused and others angry — and went along. We must have made an amusing spectacle — a bunch of deter- mined kids, lustily yelling "Strike," as we were perched on a high fence so that the members could get a good view of us. When we were chased off, which was often, we appeared on another sector.
About the middle of the afternoon J. M. Moulding, always our friend, and Feno Smith, the club secretary, came over towards the fence just back of the ninth green. We were about to duck when we heard Mr. Moulding say, "Wait a minute, boys." Some of the kids had already jumped down on the other side, but they came back when Mr. Moulding said that he and Mr. Smith wanted to talk to the spokesman. When the committee of big boys jumped down into the yard I followed, and standing at the edge of the little crowd I heard Mr. Moulding reason it out with them. It was agreed to let us play Monday and Thursday mornings until 10 o'clock, if we would go to work immediately.
Chick drove in style because the bar for maintaining amateur standing was lower than today. He received this "beautiful little roadster" from the membership at Edgewater Club as a token of appreciation in honor of winning the 1920 United States Amateur championship. 

Chick met the young Bobby Jones in a number of matches and thought highly of Jones' golf game, long before Bob became a legend.

Chick's book includes a chapter on the setup, grip and golf swing, and another on shot making.

"Chick Evans Golf Book" is a wonderful reference on a truly great man.

1 comment:

  1. I also caddied for Chick, several times in the early 60s. Swell guy!