By VINCE PELUSO
While to some golfers, it might be a distant memory, or to the younger generation, a non-existent memory, there was a time when players using a caddy was as common as a three-putt from an amateur.
Many of those caddies that occupied their posts at the then Ashtabula Country Club were members of the Harbor High School golf team, which had an incredibly successful run under coach Bill Walsuko from 1960-73 as he compiled a 173-30-5 record.
This summer, Harbor Golf Club will honor both the Harbor golf team and former caddies of the AAC with a weekend of events.
On Thursday, July 25, Jim Nyland, a former Harbor player and caddy, will host a HHS team reunion for players from 1955-77 at his house then the following day the former caddies will return to Harbor Golf Club at 10 a.m. for a round with a lunch provided at the Elks Club.
The cost for the reunion is $10 while the golf will be $20 and the lunch $20. Those at the lunch will receive a copy of “ACC History” written by HHS player and caddy, Mark Shaughnessy.
On Saturday, there will be the Ed Armstrong Scholarship Fund Golf Outing at Hickory Grove Golf Club. An HHS class reunion will be held at the Elks Club from 7-11 p.m. that day.
The weekend will conclude with a final HHS reunion dinner at the Crow’s Nest from 6-8 p.m. on Sunday.
“We’re excited about the golf team reunion on the 25th,” Nyland said. “Then the next day, we’ve got the caddie reunion. Anyone who caddied is welcome to come play. We’ve got so many great memories.”
Those memories were rekindled for Nyland when he began to reminisce with Shaughnessy at an HHS 50-year class reunion.
“We were talking about old times and the HHS teams were very strong in that era,” he said. “We went back and looked at copies of some of the golf teams in the HHS yearbook pictures and it’s surprising the phenomenal success we had.
“It was a pretty good program and a lot of good players went through it.”
While the HHS program was successful, Nyland said the experience he and his teammates gained caddying was important to that success.
“We had a ball caddying, we learned a lot of life lessons that we couldn’t get anywhere else,” he said. “Kids from all the high schools caddied at the country club then, but it was a little more Harbor-oriented. There’s just a lot of good memories, it was a great first job.
“I think the caddies learned to work hard and have fun. We just have a lot of fond memories.”
Nyland, who graduated from HHS in 1962, said his team set a lot of school records at the time, during the successful run under Walsuko.
“I played from 1960-62 and my sophomore year, the golf program was only six years old, but we were setting record, we set a record with a score of 156 that year,” he said. “My senior year in ’62, we were even better. We should’ve gone to state, but we missed it by one stroke. We had a talented player who shot a 33 on the front nine and a 47 on the back, and we missed by one stroke.
“That stuff really stays with you forever and Mark writing the book about the history of the ACC, mostly through the eyes of a caddy, but it pieces together a lot of that stuff.”
The 1960s were a particularly important time in the history of golf.
Arnold Palmer was in his prime, Jack Nicklaus was coming onto the scene and golf was beginning to be televised.
“Golf sort of came to age in the early ’60s,” he said. “They started televising major tournaments, Palmer was in his prime and Jack was evolving. It was really increasing in popularity and we were having a great time around here.”
Speaking of Nicklaus, there is an interesting connection between the “Golden Bear” and the HHS golf team.
In the 1950s, you didn’t have to qualify to play in the Ohio high school state golf tournament, you just had to be able to make it to the course to play in the event.
“The caddie master at the club was Jim Redmeyers, he was a 1955 graduate, at that time the state tournament was an open so if you could get a ride, you could play,” Nyland said. “So Jim goes down there and he’s paired with Jack Nicklaus. He gets there and Jack has his own caddy, an advisor. Jim joked that it was the slowest round of golf he’s ever played.
“There’s a lot of interesting, significant stuff like that that happened around here. I’m saying it’s saying significant because a lot of us have it stored in our memory bank. They were some pretty cool times and it’s certainly worth a reunion to reminisce.”
As far as expectations for the weekend, Nyland, who now lives in South Carolina, said he’s hoping for around 25 for the HHS reunion and 40 for the caddy reunion.
“We’ve got a lot of emails out, it’s hard to say what kind of turnout we’ll get, but I would guess the HHS will draw 25 and for the caddy reunion we’re hoping to get maybe 40,” he said. “We’re making contacts with brothers and sisters still in the area and working pretty hard on it.
“It’s been a lot of fun calling people and talking to them. Mark and I are doing most of the phone calls and it’s fun reconnecting with everyone. It’s gonna be a good deal for everyone.”
Those looking for more information or to reserve a spot at the reunion can call Nyland at (803) 788-0393 or email him at email@example.com. They can also contact Shaughnessy at (404) 435-0070 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.