From the Past: Robert Champion best among caddies

Special to the Parade

Rene Torres

Rene Torres

“I was skinny as a rail when I was eight, but I still got into the action at the club and played golf with the caddies. That’s where I got my killer instinct.” Those are the words of one of the most famous caddies that have come out of Texas, Lee Buck Treviño.

While the local courses of the past utilized caddies to carry the bags for those that could afford to play the game; today, the weekend duffer cruises the course in style. Caddies are a thing of the past – an era gone, but not forgotten.

For the many boys that made their way to the Brownsville Country Club (BCC) and who found a home at the caddie shed – it was an opportunity, like Lee Treviño had, to make money to put food on the table.

But it was not all work and no play, for at least once a year, clubs throughout the valley would stage a medal handicap caddy tournament.

It was in August 1929 that the “Shag bag” caddy tournament at the BCC took place. The event was played in two weekends, after the first round, Robert Champion (9 handicapper) rose to the leader board with a brilliant net score of 70—two under par.

Despite his excellent play, he was only one stroke ahead of Wm. Escalante (25 handicapper), who came in with a net 71, followed by F. Kowalski-net 76, Henry Bowman-net 80, Robert Ruff-net 81, Enrique Saldana, net 81, Louis Peckstein-net 81, Glenn Cherry-net 83, B. Bowman-net 84, Babe Harrison-net 87, and Herbert Thomas, Jr.-net 90.

By the end of the first weekend of play, Champion played the best gross golf, turning in a score card showing 79, his closest gross score rival was Kowalski, who turned in a 96.

Championship Round…

Robert Champion was described as a taciturn lad – but his actions spoke louder than words. Although he fought a nip-and tuck battle with William Escalante, Robert recovered from a faltering start to establish himself as champion of the BCC caddies.

Robert finished the tournament with a net score of 138, Escalante, who won second place, came in with a net of 144. Third place honors were carried off by F. Kowalski at 146.

The boys from BCC were highly enthusiastic over the tournament, so much that course officials made immediate plans to schedule the next event within weeks.

In September of the same year, the BCC golfing committee entered Robert in the Junior State Tournament in San Antonio. Playing consistent golf at the Willow Springs course, the local caddy made it to the semi-finals, where he lost to the Edinburg star golfer, Vernon Dixon. Vernon lost in the finals to Lorraine Young from San Antonio. In 1928, as a 16 year old, Robert won the second flight of the junior tournament which was held in Houston.

Much was accomplished by Robert and his colleagues with so much less. Keep in mind that they did not play on manicured courses like we have now, and/or used the scientifically manufactured equipment that golfers use today. How many young golfers of today would score a 77 with the equipment of then?

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