The Ryder Cup, Medinah and a Maniac

By Robert Keller

In return for slave caddy labor at a Medinah Country Club we’d get a free hot dog lunch at the turn, plus the membership let us play Course #1 on Mondays if we hard-cussin’ caddies behaved ourselves the week before. That summer, we played once.

Then for 20 years I gave up golf, but in 1990s, because the other desk jockeys around me got fat, we exercised by playing lunchtime disc golf. Our festive noontime foursomes reminded me of the camaraderie and vexations of playing real golf, so I bought a set of forged Mizunos on eBay.

The auction site eBay is a smorgasbord. As one of its earliest sellers 13 years ago, I’ve bought and sold hundreds of consumables, commodities and Medinah collectables.

After playing OC courses twice a week for a year, about the time Medinah hosted the 1999 PGA Championship, I wanted to play Course #3. Tiger and Sergio played four rounds, so why not me? Certainly they’d let a former caddies play, right? Though I’d already moved to Orange County, I began a long-distance obsession.

I called the Medinah pro shop. They chuckled.

I faxed a request to the club president. He ignored me.

So during a business trip to Chicago/Medinah that winter, Keller-the-Maniac hopped Course #3’s barbed-wire fence and strolled the snow-dusted fairways of holes six through ten.

Hole No.10 (right), from Gorjus George’s yardage book, is a long, green Twinkie. George packed 572 yards of tasty goodness onto two pages and had to omit the tee box and hundreds of fairway yards. I nostalgically sauntered the half mile up and down No. 10 that frosty afternoon. I was skinny and fourteen again.

While hopping back over the fence back, I concocted a new plan: eBay.

Back home, I bid and won a 1943 caddy badge, mailed the seller a money order with the address of Medinah and wrote, “send badge to Wally Hund, Chairman of the MCC Heritage Committee.” The next week, I won two old ticket stubs to their 1975 US Open, with the same instructions. Over the next six weeks, I anonymously sent Mr. Hund nearly a dozen Medinah artifacts.

Then I got the call.

“Are you Robert Keller?” the voice on the phone asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“You’ve been sending me the Medinah items, right? We’ve put them in our club house display case.”

“Wally, I gotta level with you. I wanna play Course #3, just once,” I pleaded.

“Of course, Robert, when can you fly to Chicago?”

Wally and I became fast friends. Though I wasn’t a member of the Club, he allowed me to join his beloved Heritage Committee, a position I still hold. For many more years he and I played many more rounds on all three Medinah courses, and he never balked when I imposed two of my wide-eyed California friends. In 2003, he won the $3,200 prize when he bounced in an ace into hole No. 14 on Course #1, where I first learned to play many years before.

I still bid on and donate eBay artifacts to the Club. This week I’m sending the Committee two photographs from the ’60s. But my friend Wally won’t see them because he’ll be too busy watching the Ryder Cup from his armchair in the sky.

Robert Keller is a former caddie at Medinah Country Club, site of this year’s Ryder Cup.

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