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SHOW OF WEEK

Nicknames Reflect Pasts of the Caddies

November 27, 1986|JERRY COHEN

Just as certainly as a hooked golf shot is going to find the rough, or worse yet land out-of-bounds, the old-time career caddy had a nickname. The players he worked for almost never knew his true name and often neither did other caddies.

Sometimes the source for the nicknames was obvious: Oakland Jack, because he came to Los Angeles from the Bay Area. Scotch Plains Red, from his hometown in New Jersey. Carolina, because he was born in North Carolina.

Personality Traits

Other times the names derived from a personality trait: the Snarler and Ferocious Frank, to name a couple.

"Very rarely do you know much of the background of these guys," said Chick Ruzic, who until retiring five years ago was the longtime caddy master at Wilshire Country Club. Ruzic has seen generations of caddies come and go. "So almost as soon as they show up at a course, they collect a nickname and it sticks with them."

Sometimes unfairly. Take Swacko Bill.

According to Ruzic, who has filed away caddy nicknames in his memory the way some people collect stamps, Swacko Bill drank but "very moderately." One day, however, he had the misfortune to become swacko, as the saying goes, in the presence of other caddies. Whereas he had been "Bill" to his acquaintances before, he became "Swacko Bill" to them and his clients forever more, despite his near-temperance.

Not so in the case of Staggering Haggerty, according to Eddie Gannon, present caddymaster at Lakeside Country Club. Staggering Haggerty was a man of insatiable thirst and came by his nickname fairly.

Here are some of Ruzic's other favorites beside Swacko Bill and what he remembers of them:

--Robin Hood. So named because, the first time he showed up at the golf course, he knew nothing about caddying. "He put the clubs in the bag and carried it the wrong way. The clubs looked like arrows in a sling. Even though he straightened out, the name stuck."

--Eddie the Actor. "There aren't many around anymore. A lot of aspiring actors used to caddy when they couldn't get parts. But Eddie the Actor was a professional caddy who belonged to the guild and occasionally got a few bit parts."

'Had a Temper'

--Ferocious Frank. "He had a temper this long." One day, he caddied for a duffer who kept hitting his ball in the water on the 10th hole at Bel-Air Country Club while ignoring the caddy's advice, according to Ruzic. "Finally, he got so mad, he threw the guy's bags off a bridge, and said, 'Now you can go down and get your damn ball--and your bag .' But the wildest thing I ever saw him do was when a guy stiffed him. He gets in, puts the guy's clubs in a vise and one by one he sawed them in two. He didn't last long wherever he caddied."

--The Snarler. "He was one of the few of the old-time caddies who actually became very wealthy. They called him the Snarler because he had a grrr, grrr disposition. But he saved his money. He was quite frugal. He listened to the conversations of members. There was a saying that he had 10 shares of every stock on the market."

--Looping Louie. So called because he tried to work as many rounds as possible every day from dawn to dusk. He received some type of pension check from the government but, Ruzic said, always had trouble cashing it because he carried no identification.

"One day a long while ago, he gets the check and can't find a place to cash it. He originally was from Phoenix. So he takes a taxicab to Phoenix because he knows a liquor store there that he can get the check cashed at. The cab fare was $180 and the check was for $190. So he wound up with $10."

--Burn 'em Up Bob. "The caddies when they're waiting to go out and when they're finished up are card players. Every card dealt, he'd raise. Regardless of what it was, he'd raise. And Eddie the Actor says, 'You're burning your money up, Bob.' So right away he got the name Burn 'em Up Bob."

Hyper but Frugal

--Bicycle Walt. A bachelor and a man as frantically hyper as Looping Louie, but, unlike Louie, another rare caddy who saved his money. "He rode all over with a bicycle. I mean, he'd ride from one club to another. He'd make the loop at Los Angeles (Country Club) in the morning and he'd hear there was something doing at Wilshire in the afternoon and he'd make a beeline for over there on his bicycle.

"He would work from dawn to dusk. He would work as long as anyone was near a golf course. He just went and grabbed everything in sight.

"This Bicycle Walt, he bought property. Bought apartments. The story goes that on the golf course one day they were talking. Some guy said, well, he had to go to the manager and have something done to his apartment in the building that he lived. Walt was listening closely because he was caddying for the player doing the complaining. One of the other players said, 'Walt is that one of your buildings?' And Walt said, 'Yes, sir. It is.'

"In other words, Bicycle Walt was caddying for a guy who rented an apartment from him in Bicycle Walt's building."

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