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JT & Ski hit the mother load

Hopefully life can be filled with many great passions. My 1st such passion (before college, wife, career and kids) was work and golf at Pawtucket Country Club. We’d see our best friends every day to talk about anything and everything before, during and after our caddy assignment (loop). Quite often we’d return in the evening to play golf and to experience 1st hand the problems associated with under aged drinking.

We try to stay in touch and I enjoy running into my fellow loopers today. We talk about the times when a good day’s worked netted $8 and we (at least me) are surprised to see how successful most of us have become. We will meet again to reminisce and to honor long time caddy master Jim Tanner, who remains a fixture at PCC today like he was in 40 years ago! Jim is the same great guy, forced to focus on getting a job done but at the same time looking out for us to make sure our youth didn’t get in the way.

Perhaps my best Jim Tanner memory comes off the golf course. Jim, 2 PCC friends and I decided to cool off on a hot day and attempt to see if we might have success digging quahogs. After a brief time with no luck we hit the “mother load”. Every dive below the surf yielded one or two large quahogs. It couldn’t have been better! A storm began to move in and lightening became visible. Should we stay and risk injury or leave this ‘once in a lifetime’ spot? The decision was not easy, but the fact that I lived to tell this story suggests we took no risks and left. Later Jim commented on how our tough decision was saying “even if we had been hit by lightening and died, it would have still been worth it”.

It has not all been fun as we’ve lost some of our very best friends, but honoring Jim helps us honor their memory as well, which is why this week-end is so special.

David Kalafarski (Ski)
Pawtucket Times
June 2008

“Take this one and this one”

The relationship between Jim“JT”Tanner, my brother Malcolm and I dates back over 40 years to when the two of us caddied for JT at the Pawtucket Country Club. For the good part of our teenage years we spent nearly every summer’s day caddying, playing golf and doing a few other things that will remain caddy secrets. By all accounts our training under Jim was a huge success. It resulted in us developing a strong work ethic, learning to play and respect the game, establishing wonderful friendships, receiving Burke Caddy Scholarships and, most importantly, gaining a lifetime of learning experiences. Regrettably, my brother left the world too soon. But, of the many bonds the two of us shared, the game of golf and everything associated with it still lives with us today. A day doesn’t go by when I stop and think how Mal and I laughed uncontrollably during conversations based solely on one- liners learned from JT.

On a more serious note, JT possesses leadership skills that many public and private leaders (CEOs) would envy in today’s business world. He excelled in satisfying the requirements of a very diverse constituency (members) by motivating a bunch of teenagers (caddies)to tote bags around a golf course. More importantly, with the vision of a great leader, he exposed us to any number of valuable lessons that we carry with us today in our own world. Admittedly, we often created havoc for the man who somehow balanced being a loyal employee with leading countless teenagers and quite a few not-so-fortunate men whose sole income and survival was based on whether they “got out.” Throughout it all he kept everyone focused and ensured that our performance met the members’ expectations.

The only sad part to this story is how the golf cart killed the world we knew growing up. No longer are there young men waiting in caddy yards for a loop or to learn golf the right way. Throughout my travels I encounter many former caddies and some professional caddies and immediately there is a bond that ties us and a level of respect that is almost unmatched. Aside from sharing stories the conversation usually turns to the influence their caddy master had on them as JT did with all the PCC loopers.

My brother won’t be joining us at the second annual JT tournament, but everyone knows he’ll be looking down from heaven with a very big smile. If we could hear him, I sure the conversation would include our most favorite JT saying…”take this one and this one.”

Mark Najarian
Las Colinas, Texas


Pawtucket Times June 2008

Tanner’s career elicits memories


On Monday, July 6, 2009, the Pawtucket Country Club rightfully plays host to the Third Annual Jim Tanner Caddy Classic. The tournament honors long-time Pawtucket caddy master, Jim Tanner (“JT”), and the proceeds will be used to endow permanently a John P. Burke Caddy Scholarship in JT’s name. I recently sat down with JT to learn more about this true Pawtucket icon.

James K. Tanner was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on July 18, 1938. He moved to Pawtucket at age 6 and followed a classic Darlington educational track, namely, Potters, Goff and Pawtucket East High School, graduating in 1956. At Pawtucket East, JT was on the golf team with Harold “Senator” Miller, Skip Brown and Bobby Dale. While his team never won a state championship, the team was extremely competitive with JT playing at number one.

JT’s first job was at age 10 as a Pawtucket Evening Times paper boy. While the money was steady, JT’s uncle encouraged JT to try out caddying at the Pawtucket Country Club where JT’s uncle also caddied. Les Kennedy was then the head pro at Pawtucket and he, along with then caddy master Arnold Nightingale, gave JT his first loop in 1949. Walter Cook was the Club president. In addition to caddying, JT worked in the golf shop and also on the greens crew. After a short stint in the Navy, JT returned to Pawtucket Country Club and continued to caddy. In 1968, when George Gay was Club President, Les Kennedy was Club pro and Al McQueen was the last caddy master, JT assumed the position of Pawtucket Country Club caddy master and has occupied that position continuously for over 40 years. In total, JT has been associated with the Pawtucket Country Club for over 60 years.

JT’s first loop earned him just over $1.00. In the late 40s and 50s, a Class A caddy could expect to make $1.60 per bag. As a sign of the times, it is not uncommon today for a caddy to make anywhere between $50.00 and $100.00 a bag. Unfortunately, with carts costing much less than caddies, there are no caddies currently at Pawtucket and most other golf courses in Rhode Island.

The decision to become caddy master back in 1968 was an easy one for JT. He was married to the former Doris Lemonde, living in Pawtucket and starting a family and caddy master paid the most. However, at that time, the job was essentially 24 hours, 7 days a week. JT had no assistants and had to be there from sun up through sun down just about every day of the year. JT’s wife, Doris, was especially accommodating and while JT did take her golfing once, golfing was nothing that she aspired to. JT and Doris have three children, namely, Timmy, James and Jennifer. Timmy and James also caddied at Pawtucket during the late 70s and early 80s.

JT mentioned that it was not uncommon for Pawtucket to have over 100 caddies at various times of the day and week. Many of them were adults (some with families) who considered caddying their full-time job. Actually, many of these adult caddies worked at Pawtucket during the spring, summer and fall and moved to Florida to caddy in the winter. This was their only source of income and as such, JT favored them over the younger caddies when it came time to assigning bags. One Pawtucket caddy, Paul English, made it all the way to the Ladies Professional Golf Tour, caddying for Joanne Carner and then later Jane Blalock.

Asked about his personal achievements, JT’s lowest score at Pawtucket is 67, two under par. His greatest loop was when he caddied for the late, great Sam Snead. As for the greatest golf round he ever witnessed, JT immediately recalled the 2008 score of 65 shot by long-time Pawtucket member, Frank Rampone, who shot that score at age 77.

While JT himself was a great golfer when he was young, having reached the finals of the Rhode Island State Juniors in 1956 losing to Tom Cunningham at Rhode Island Country Club. JT’s golf game was put on hold when he became caddy master. Again, he had no help and had to work all the time. It was not until the last decade or so, when Pawtucket saw a need to get JT some help, that he resumed playing. Thankfully, the additional help in the bag room and the generosity of Pawtucket Country Club and its members have allowed JT to play again the game he so much loves. Even though it has been over 50 years since he played number one at East, he is still striking it solidly and is typically number one on his team in the A Train.

As a former caddy myself in the 1970s and 80s, I learned a lot about golf and life from JT. JT reconfirmed the most important qualification of being a caddy when I asked him what it took for him to hand a bag to someone. JT stated, “I selected caddies based on ability and a willingness to work.” Clearly, these requirements summarize what it takes in today’s world to succeed. Work hard, perform your job well and be reliable and respectful and you will succeed in life.

On behalf of all current and former caddies, we thank you, JT, for life’s greatest lessons and wish you and your family all the best. Many thanks to Doris and the entire Tanner family for sharing JT with us at Pawtucket Country Club for over 60 years.

Pawtucket Times – June 19, 2009

Tim O’Neill recalls caddy career

It’s true “home is where the heart is” and for me….home is where the cart is – the golf cart, that is. The Pawtucket CC was a big part of my life growing up in Pawtucket, R.I. In fact, I have never stopped working on a golf course since those days as a young caddie and member of the grounds staff. After 28 years as the golf course superintendent at the Country Club of Darien in Darien, Connecticut, I can look back and appreciate my time on the links as being a life-shaping experience. Coming home to attend the “JT Classic” sparks memories and gives me a chance to renew the many friendships from my youth. I became hooked on the golf course life first as a “looper” under the tutelage of caddie master, Jim Tanner (JT) and then as a member of the grounds crew when then Superintendent, Les Kennedy, took me under his wing and mentored me toward a lifetime career as a golf course superintendent. Coming home to Pawtucket also gives me a chance to visit family. All my brothers, my father and many uncles caddied at Pawtucket as well. In all, three generations of O’Neills have participated in the looping experience and numerous nephews have and continued to work at PCC. As for so many others, the Pawtucket CC experience engendered in me a love for the game of golf that continues today.

In the early days of looping, it was not uncommon to find 40 -50 young and old caddies ready to carry a bag or two. The competition was always stiff, but JT always seemed to reward those who worked hard, were dependable and had some kind of talent for the jobs of a caddie. Back then, the “A” train group of players were notorious for playing quickly which is always appreciated by a caddie. Once I became a regular “A” train caddie, I knew I had made the big time. The train would always play on Saturday and Sunday mornings and Wednesday and Friday afternoons. Although JT organized the caddies and golf carts for the players, it was the then Pawtucket Chief of Police, Joe Roy, who was in charge of the players. In fact, it seemed like the “chief” was in charge of most things back then. It would be safe to say that he didn’t have the most pleasant attitude for others — probably this demeanor came with being the chief of police.

Often times a regular caddie had to be patient while waiting for the call from JT. That time was usually spent playing cards (I became a skilled gin and hi-lo-jack player), pitching cards and coins or listening to the tales from the older caddies. Back then, JT was famous for bestowing nicknames on many of the caddies. It seemed like half the guys had the same nickname “Fly Trap” but there was “Bowling Ball” and “Bowling Pin”. There was one kid they called “Super Shack” because he didn’t mind working at the practice tee and another was just called “No Days”. There was “Harold the Hawk”, “Cautious Claude”, “Reno”, “The Colorful One” and too many others to remember. For sure, each was a character who had a story to match his unique name.

The JT Classic appropriately honors Jim Tanner (JT) for his lifetime of work and mentoring so many young men at Pawtucket. Those of us who were fortunate enough to learn from JT will undoubtedly flock to the course on July 6th to show our appreciation. I count myself as lucky to attend the JT Classic, a not-to-be-missed event celebrating a Pawtucket Country Club icon.

Tim O’Neill
www.pawtuckettimes.com June 16, 2009

Former PCC Caddy recalls his career on the bag

Fifty years ago this month I went to Pawtucket Country Club in search of a job as a caddy. I was told to return at 5:00 PM a few nights later so I could attend a “caddy school”. That was the first time I met JT (Jim Tanner). He took several of us out on the back nine and let us take turns carrying the bag, tending pins, raking traps, replacing divots and showing us the proper place to stand when the player is selecting a club and hitting a shot. That evening I graduated as an official “fly trap”. The next several days I sat patiently waiting on the bench hoping to get a “loop” while observing the cast of characters around me. After about two days the “finger” was pointed in my direction with the words “yes, you”. My caddy career had begun! After several weeks I was on my way to becoming a “looper”.

It is amazing how fast you get to learn what players like and dislike and when to talk and when to keep quiet. You also learn how to deal with the different personalities of the members. Some members were difficult but the majority were really great people to be around and I have many memories of each.

I remember caddies would hate to “shag” balls for Lester P’s lessons. They thought it was a waste of time – sometimes 2 or 3 lessons in a row – and you were paid 50 cents per lesson. I thought it was a good way to make money rather than sitting on the bench. After several days of chasing individual balls during lessons, Lester P said “Johnnie old boy, stay here and watch what’s going on“. At the end of the lesson I would pick-up the balls. I was getting free instructions from a great ball striker and getting paid.

As I progressed up the ranks as a caddy, I would rake the traps in the morning and was given playing privileges after 5 PM. This meant I no longer had to sneak on the course each night as a member of the “Newman Avenue Seven” (playing holes 11 thru 17). Another benefit of being a seasoned “looper” was I would caddy for the “A” train – mainly for Lester P., Norm, Tony, Greg, Lenny, Clem, the Chief, Aimee, etc. Many times when the “A” train made a trip to another course they would take me with them. A ride in a Cadillac, free food and getting paid – what a life experience!

While I have thousands of memories from my caddy years (1959-1964), one that stands out is how JT always treated me and my fellow caddies. He was a quiet but firm individual who always made you feel comfortable and even after years of absence he remembered your name and gave you a pleasant greeting.

By John Markley
Pawtucket Times & Woonsocket Call June 15, 2009

“Who is the Caddy Master @ Pawtucket CC?”

The donations keep pouring in. This week we received gift certificates from “The Call” (formerly Archie’s) and The Capital Grille. Mike Gelinas donated a laser link yardage finder. We now have 16 donated foursomes from many of the finest golf courses in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts.

Tommy Orchel was vacationing in Cocoa Beach, Florida this winter and met a former caddy and junior member at Pawtucket CC. Tommy was skeptical that Glen Montour actually caddied at PCC, so asked, “Who is the Caddy Master at Pawtucket?” Glen said, “JT of course!”

We have 72 players that have signed up and sent their money into Judi Volpe at the club.

Official Flag

Jim Noonan recalls match with Nicklaus

In the spring of 1954, I shot a 72 in Boston and won the New England
Junior Qualifying for the National Juniors to be held at the Los
Angeles Country in mid August. At 17, I hadn’t been out of New
England and wasn’t going to get to L.A. (for lack of money for the trip
expenses) ) until a fund raiser was started for me by members of the
Pawtucket Country Club, called “The Jimmy Noonan Booster Club”.
Over 100 members gave $5 each, and I was on my way. Travel was
quite different then! It took two days to get to California–prop planes
from Providence to LaGuardia, then to Chicago; overnight there and
then a seven hour flight to L.A. What fun!
I met my roomie, Lou Graham, from Nashville, Tennessee, who had
taken a Greyhound bus all the way to L.A., and later won the U.S.
Open at Medina, and one hundred and twenty seven other guys like
Dave Hill. Dean Beman, Tommy Aaron, Phil Rodgers, and Al Geiberger.
Others, like my first round opponent, Jack Nicklaus, were also trying
to win the “big one”. Most of us stayed at the Black Fox Military
Academy, so I got to know a lot of them.
Jack beat me 4 and 3, but we’ve been friends ever since, and while
living in Columbus, Ohio in 1960 – 1962 I got to know him and his
father Charlie, even better. Charlie was rooting for me to take Jack to
extra holes so he wouldn’t get too overconfident. As you may know,
Jack has won two U.S. Opens at my club, Baltusrol, and there is a
monument honoring him at the 18th Lower Course tee.

Back to L.A. in 1954, I got some satisfaction, as I came in second in a
consolation round at Bel Air Country Club, and met many movie stars
such as Clark Gable and Randolph Scott, as I got invited to play there
for three more days along with dinner, etc.
Pretty soon I was back to reality; on a plane back to Rhode Island,
and caddying at Pawtucket Country Club for my favorite foursome,
Ralph Holmes, Jack Riley, Ed Murray, and Les Kennedy, before I
started at Brown University that September.
Again, my thanks go to over one hundred of the members at
Pawtucket who sent me to L.A., and I still treasure the signed poster
(framed and hanging in my office at home) as one of my prized
possessions. I still remember every one of them from Bill Cat Low to
Bill Harty, Jr. and Sr.