Tuesday, June 19

Why President Obama Should Have Played Midlothian

By John Coyne
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF


Copyright © John Coyne. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

OVER FATHER’S DAY WEEKEND, PRESIDENT OBAMA went out of his home in Hyde Park to play golf at Beverly Country Club on the southside of Chicago. I’ve been to Beverly Country Club, not to play, but to caddie back when I was a kid caddie. We used to call Beverly “a ritzy club.” But, hey, I’ve been around Chicago! Well, at least as a caddie.

Now if I had been advising Obama on where to play golf, I would have suggested Midlothian Country Club, not only for sentimental reasons (my own) but also because it is a better course. And famous in ways that Beverly never has been, never will be. I’ll grant that Beverly has more political types and ex-cons as members, but Midlothian has history and pedigree.

Take history.

Midlothian Country Club was built in 1898; it is one of the oldest golf clubs in America. Members financed their own two-mile railroad from the Rock Island line to the golf course where they also built summer cottages. The first members were among the most wealthy in the Midwest. Also, the elegant club house was sited on one of the highest points in Cook Country (not that that is anything to brag about in Illinois).

Hagen, Evans, Ouimet, Locke and Casper

It was at Midlothian in 1914 that Walter Hagen defeated Chick Evans by one stroke to win his first U.S. Open and begin Hagen’s amazing professional career. Francis Ouimet defeated a Midlothian Club member (at Midlothian) in 1917 to win the Western Amateur. You remember the movie, The Greatest Game Ever Played; that Ouimet. South African Bobby Locke, in 1948, won the sixth and final Victory National Open at the club by sixteen strokes, still the widest margin of victory ever in a professional tournament. I was a little kid then and I followed Locke for four rounds. Next, Billy Casper won the 1969 and 1973 Western Opens at Midlothian.

My point is that the President would have been wiser to drive past Beverly and travel a few more miles south and play at Midlothian.

Political and Underworld Figures

The news reports said that Beverly is no stranger to political heavyweights. Judges and lawmakers play there. State Speaker of the House Mike Madigan and Aldermen Ed Burke are members. The other day they were seen having a drink in the men’s lounge. Also present was former Aldermen Ed Vrodylak, just released from federal prison, who was playing golf with friends and joking about his prison time.

However, Midlothian did have its own cast of characters. When I was a kid, off the eleventh fairway and back in the trees, was the retirement home of Al Capone’s chauffeur who once told my Dad that he slept with a pistol under his pillow.

We also had our own political types. John S. Boyle, States Attorney for Cook County and, later, Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, was a member. Boyle was politically notorious. The Chicago Council of Lawyers accused him of using the Chief Judge’s assignment power to place politically sensitive cases in the hands of judges who were responsive to the influence of the Cook County democratic machine.

Hey, it’s Chicago!

In my last years working at the club, the son of Antonino Leonardo Accardo, the famous “Joe Batters” (Al Capone nicknamed him that after he killed two men with a baseball bat) was a member. Young Tony wasn’t a bad golfer either. I’m just thinking that the next time Obama is back home, he should come play at Midothian.

And I’ll tell you what. I’ll caddie for the Prez. In my day, I was the No. 1 caddie at Midlothian! No small honor! And as any golfer knows, a good caddie is worth his (or her) weight in gold.

John Coyne is a bestselling author whose latest book is The Caddie Who Won the Masters. Learn more at John Coyne Books.

3 comments :

Anonymous said...

I think that he made the right decision. Midlothian is dated, the greens are all back to front sloping, and the membership is a bunch of a-holes. Beverly is one of the best courses in Chicago- very Skokie-esque.

Anonymous said...

I take offense - only 100 or so of us are a-holes. And you're right, all of our greens do slope from back to front, except for 7, 8, 9, 11, 13, 16, and 17. And our club is dated - except for the new clubhouse, new bunkers, and new pool complex. And Beverly is like Skokie (Yawn). Other than that your post was spot on.

Anonymous said...

I'm from oak forest and at 23 bought my first home in midlothian. ( jolly homes ). I loved it there. So did my daughter. Growing up we usto walk through there all the time and had friends that lived in the country clip as well as worked there. I agree the course is dated but its beautiful and has character.

Michele