My golf story ... without the 'privilege'

Eagle-Tribune sports editor Bill Burt gets ready to take some practice shots. He’s been playing since he was a youngster and does not consider himself “privileged.”Courtesy photo

Where do I begin?

I was 10 years old. My dad bought me a few dozen plastic golf balls. I burrowed a few golf holes in dirt as make-shift greens. And I would make up golf holes around the house. My favorite was over the roof.

I was Jack Nicklaus.

Oh yeah, one other thing, I lived in the government-funded projects in the Germantown section of Quincy.

Poor people galore.

Why do I bring this up? Why do I get into family finances?

Because I’ve had enough. A local politician I had been texting about golf being shut down in Massachusetts, texted me about golf being “inconsequential” considering we had not figured out how to make things safe for our front-line workers.

Several others reacted to a few of my tweets, shooting back that golf is for the “privileged” and “rich white guys.”

So I have to tell my golf story.

It really started in the 1960s when my dad, who lived in an East Lynn triple-decker, was a caddy at Happy Valley Golf Club in Lynn, a.k.a. Gannon Municipal Golf Course.

He caddied through high school and, like most caddies, learned the game the right way — respect others, nature and the sport.

The best part for caddies is that they play for free on Mondays. It’s been that way for about two centuries in Great Britain and one century-plus over here. A great perk.

He played football and basketball at Lynn Trade, where he was classmates with Paul Barkhouse, who was a New England PGA club pro for five decades.

My dad would bring me to the Mass. State Open championship every year and we would follow Barkhouse, who finally won one in 1976 at Worcester Country Club.

I will never forget that because he was awarded a wheel-barrel of 1,776 silver dollars as first prize.

My dad loved golf. He was the same age as Nicklaus. He gave the love to me and my brothers.

The Masters and U.S. Open were big weekends in our house. Still are.

Back to the Quincy projects.

We couldn’t afford to join a course, of course, but they needed caddies at Furnace Brook Golf Club in North Quincy. So my mom or dad would drop me off many weekend mornings and I’d caddy for the same guy, Mr. Foley.

He liked me. He said he grew up in some Boston projects, too.

Of course, the best part of caddying, even better than the cash, was free golf on Mondays.

There was one issue, a big one. The course was five miles from where I lived and my dad took our only car to work every day. There was no friend in the entire projects that I knew who played golf.

So we had to improvise.

I figured out that the bus could take me to Quincy Center station, which got me three-plus miles closer.

I had to walk the rest, about 1.6 miles (per Google directions). With my golf bag over my back.

I never even thought of complaining. I wanted to play golf. It was my decision. So I walked. Sometimes I had to walk back to the bus station. Other times, if I was there late enough, my dad would pick me up on the way home for work.

While I played every sport growing up, ending with basketball and baseball the longest in school sports, golf was a beloved hobby. I loved it. The golf kids were different than my buddies at home, too.

I caddied for about five years. I played probably 100 rounds at Furnace Brook for free.

The story gets better.

I am the oldest of seven kids (six boys). Four were, and really still are, passionate about golf. We play, as a foursome, about once a year if we’re lucky.

One brother, Keith, has been a golf pro for 30 years, most of the time in southeast Florida.

Keith forged a relationship with my only son, Max, who loves golf as much as my dad did, and they have played and talked golf hundreds of times.

Which brings me back to the premise: Golf is not for the privileged or rich or even white people. I take those comments personally. They are rubbish.

I interviewed several people the day courses opened on Thursday in Massachusetts. All are regular people.

Golf has helped raise millions upon millions of dollars over the last few decades for local charities, including the inner cities like Lawrence or Lynn. At Lazarus House, it was $1 million over 10 years. Didn’t hear any politicians complaining about those golfers, did we?

Governor Charlie Baker blew it while keeping Mass. courses closed without a good reason other than “we have bigger problems.”

He listened to the rubbish, that golf is an “elitist” sport and felt he had to appease those people.

I disagree. The only “elitists” are the people who say idiotic things about people they know nothing about.

This argument was turned into “Golf vs. Death,” and in reality it was about common sense. Plain and simple, social distancing is easier outside. 

If playing golf can put smiles on some peoples’ faces, some of whom are finally getting outside and a decent amount of exercise and social bantering, and do it safely, maybe “golfers” aren’t the real problem.

You can email Bill Burt at

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