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When you were 10, what did you want to be when you grew up? What are you now? Are the two connected?
When I was 10 years old I was absolutely positive I wanted to be a professional golfer. I spent a few years caddying at our local country club and I loved to play golf. We used to caddie all day long and often times played golf until it was too dark to see the ball. We then hitchhiked the 3 miles back to town, slept and repeated the same process the next day. This was in the early 1950’s we made a few dollars a day for our caddying work but a few dollars in 1952 was a lot of money.
Ben Hogan was leading the PGA tour at that time. I wanted to be exactly like Bantam Ben Hogan. He was a short fella just like I was. In 1952 I qualified to play in the city golf tournament at the ripe old age of 12 years old. Some of the adults in the tournament acted like it would be a good idea to change the rules very quickly and have it for adults only. But they let me play in the tournament, it was a town of about 12,000 people and had a lot of good golfers playing. I ended up winning runner-up in the second flight of the tournament. I was quite proud of my accomplishment. The golf dream was sprouting.
I went into the United States Air Force in 1958 and became a jet aircraft mechanic. I was stationed at Misawa Air Base, Japan for two years. We had a beautiful golf course near the Air Force Base, so naturally I was back playing golf again. I was playing close to par golf. Being an enlisted man meant the squadron golf team was off limits to me. One day they were short one player, some of the officers requested that I play on the squadron golf team along with the officers. I found out I could put my toolbox away and go out and play golf when they needed someone to fill out the team. That was real darn good duty as far as I was concerned.
I qualified for the Commanders Cup Golf Tournament in 1961. Winning the Commanders Cup first flight trophy. After the tournament was over a fellow I knew real well came up and started talking to me. He said, “Leland didn’t you play a round of golf early this morning.” I said, “Yes I did.” He replied, “PGA rules do not allow you to play on the same course the day of a tournament.” I couldn’t believe my ears, played golf all my life but that rule didn’t enter my mind that morning. Chris Sanches was his name said, “I really don’t think anyone else knows about this, do what you want.” I said, you know.”
I went into the club hose and found the fellow who finished a few strokes behind me. “Captain, this trophy really belongs to you, I played a round of golf this morning, that was against the rules.” He told me to keep the trophy because I earned it. There was some type of a gift certificate that went with the trophy. I told him to keep that and thanked him for letting me have the trophy.
I had my back broken in a car accident in 1964, that ended my golfing days. Most of my life was spent being a truck driver, nothing to do with my golfing dream.
I am now retired and living with a potpourri of memories, starting with golf, of course.