An old caddie writes about golf

Matt Trowbridge

Tom Warren writes about being a caddie. And attending a once-glamorous and now-defunct golf tournament. Making annual pilgrimages to one of Wisconsin’s best courses. Golfing in Scotland and becoming close friends with a member of the British Parliament. His love for the Masters. Getting to know Tiger Woods and his late father.

“But if there’s one focal point, it would be Rockford,” Warren, a Beloit College professor, said of his new book.

“The best chance it has of going seriously beyond Rockford is if people realize this is a story about a city that really has something going. The Tiger Woods part is interesting. The caddie part, hopefully, is interesting. But the story of Rockford is where it has the best chance of going beyond Rockford, which might sound ironic.”

Warren, who played on Rockford East’s sixth state championship golf team in 1957, calls his book: “An Old Caddie Looks Back,” subtitled “Reflections from a Town That Loves Golf ... and Tiger.” A publication launch party for the 285-page book is from 5:30 to 7:30 tonight at Aldeen.

Warren was inducted into the Rockford Area Golf Hall of Fame two years ago for his instrumental role in bringing Tiger Woods to Ingersoll for one of his clinics in 2001. Warren met Woods when Tiger was 13 through Rockford native Bill Stark, a close friend of both Warren and Tiger’s father, Earl Woods. Knowing Tiger was the impetus for Warren’s writing, but, perhaps because so much has already been written of Tiger, the portions of the book about Woods are the least interesting.

Far more interesting was reading about Warren getting his start in golf from his mailman, Bob Frithiof. Warren caddied for Frithiof when he finished second to Rockford Hall of Famer Ken Scott in the 1955 Men’s City tournament. Or about his graduating from riding his bike to golf at Sinnissippi to riding with his 12-year-old friend, who drove his father’s 1950 Dodge, to Ingersoll and Sandy Hollow.

Or of how he and his Augustana golf teammates were almost arrested his first day in college because they sneaked on the team golf course before it opened, a practice routinely allowed in Rockford to this day.

It’s Rockford that makes Warren’s golf story.

“He’s been working on the personal part of this book for so long,” said his wife, Mim. “He had such new energy when he started to relate it to Rockford. All of a sudden, he was so stimulated. He had such good interviews with people and it brought such a good dimension to the story.”

Two chapters on Scotland sound out of place, but actually fit in well in Warren’s story.

The author knows why. “I have been saying for decades that Rockford is like Scottish golf. There is an assumption that everyone can play there for minimal cost,” Warren said.

Warren writes about Rockford golf history, from its courses to its best players, from Ken Scott, Alex Welsh and Dean Lind in the 1950s to seven-time Men’s City champ Jamie Hogan today.

“It’s the first in-depth Rockford golf story,” Warren said. “I really like that characterization, because it’s not a history. It’s a memoir. Other people would tell it differently.

“Golf,” Warren added, “is unqualifiably excellent in Rockford. It’s a story that other communities can learn from.”

Not that Rockford has perfected golf. Warren detailed officials in the 1960s removing moguls at Sandy Hollow that used to frame so many of the bunkers there, ostensibly to speed up play.

“That infuriated me,” Warren said. “I still get mad about that. What idiocy!

“I guess even a town as good at golf as Rockford has to have some significant flaw.”

Assistant sports editor Matt Trowbridge can be reached at 815-987-1383 or mtrowbridge@rrstar.com. For more golf coverage visit our golf guide.