Dutch Harrison

by

Jim Healey

Dutch to his caddie on the 9th hole at Riviera CC, "Can I get home from here?", to which the caddie responded; "Mr. Dutch, I don't even know where you live."

Dutch Harrison was one of those early champions whose colorful personality and brilliant game thrust him into the national limelight. While it was his play during the 40's and 50's that showed his greatness, it was perhaps, his time spent as a club pro in which Dutch made his most memorable impressions on those he touched. Like most Pro's of the day, Dutch made a living on and off the tour, as tournament purses rarely kept pace with the money that changed hands as a result of the calcuttas, individual, team and other bets that dominated play in those days. As a Club Pro at sites including Old Warson, Forest Hills and the Olympic Club, Dutch made friends everywhere, while teaching the uninitiated a thing or two about making a wager on the course. Born into a sharecropper family, he would later be honored by none other than Bob Hope as one of his best friends! In a book published in the early 90's "Mr. Dutch - The Arkansas Traveler" the story of the colorful Pro was told for all to marvel.

Thirty miles north of Little Rock sits the tiny town of Conway, Arkansas. It was here in 1910, that Ernest Joe, as he was christened, was welcomed into this world. Named for the two owners of the plantation his daddy sharecropped, Dutch grew up picking cotton in the fields for "fifty cents for a hundred pounds". Fortunately for the family, his father joined the Little Rock police force and the family moved from Conway. A rented farmhouse was home for the parents and six children where the family struggled during the Depression years.

With Little Rock CC just a stones throw from their home, Dutch qickly pickup up a little about golf. Beginning at age twelve Dutch used caddying as an alternative to other chores. "Caddyin' beat choppin' wood an' doin' the farm chores" Dutch would say, "besides, by caddyin' on Sunday, I could skip Sunday school." It was at Little Rock CC that Dutch met Herman "Hack" Hackbarth, head pro at the club. He would be the only teacher Dutch would ever have, and Dutch used to claim that he took only one lesson.

By age 14 Dutch had the traveling bug, and he first ventured to Texarkana with a friend, only to be arrested when they were mistaken for escaped convicts. A year later he began to travel the rails from Little Rock to Texarkana once again, this time befriended by hobo's who hid from the brakeman who would toss them, unceremoniously, from the trains. He traveled to Dallas, then Fort Worth and on to San Antonio. During the months he would pick up odd jobs, one of them caddying at local golf courses. Other times he was a cowhand, where he loaded hay, checked fences and listened as the cowhands spun their yarns of exploits on the range. He earned their respect and right before he left, they referred to him as "cowboy". He returned to Little Rock with some money in his pocket, new clothes and a brand new Stetson. But he had tasted the road, and it would forever be his siren.

Dutch competed in the early days of the PGA Tour, and his first Pro win was in 1939 (though he did win the Arkansas Amateur in 1929 and the Arkansas Open in 1937) at the Texas Open held at the Brackenridge Park GC in San Antonio. (Brackenridge would become famous a few years later when Mike Souchak would shoot a 27 for 9 holes in 1955 and go on to shoot a record 257 over 72 holes for a 27 under par total). Dutch's sole National Title came in 1949 at the Canadian Open at St. Georges G&CC in Toronto. In all he would take another 20 career victories, including the Western Open at the Original Bellerive CC in 1953 and the 1954 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach with partner Phil Harris.

Like most players of the day Dutch traveled with other pro's as they moved from site to site searching for wins, and more money to continue their adventure. Dutch and his wife traveled with Sam Snead, Bob Hamilton, Al Besselink and Herman Keiser, sharing expenses as well as their lives.

In 1937 Horton Smith, Springfield, MO native and two-time Masters champ, took Dutch under his wing and got him a job as an assistant in Chicago. This provided him some on-going income and allowed him to carry-on. During this period he won the Crosby and placed 4th at the LA Open.

A tribute to the level of his play was his selection to three Ryder Cup teams, 1947, 1949 and 1951 and would go undefeated in singles, winning both his matches (8&7 and 5&4), and falling only in the foursomes match in 1949 with Johnny Palmer. He was selected for the '53 team but did not compete, telling others that it was time for the youngsters to step up to the plate.

Dutch reached the Semifinals of the PGA in 1939 (when it was played at match play) where he lost to Horton Smith. His 18 all-time Tour victories place him in a tie for the 37th spot all-time. At a time when the tour was dominated by the likes of Nelson, Snead, Hogan, Demaret and Middlecoff, Dutch more than held his own. From 1939 to 1954 Dutch captured 18 events, while Hogan won 40, Snead 44, Middlecoff 15, Demaret 18 and Nelson 26. In 1954, despite winning only once, Dutch won the Vardon Trophy for the best stroke average on tour, 70.41. Perhaps Ben Hogan summed up Dutch's' career best, "He was a good friend who knew everybody. He was a very pleasant person. He was a heckuva good golfer, and I might say he didn't win as much as he should have. I thought he was a lot better player than his record showed. He should have won more of the major tournaments."

In 1952 Dutch took a head Pro job at Dornich Hills in Oklahoma where he met a young caddie named T.D. Morris. In 1955 when Old Warson was searching for a pro to open the new Robert Trent Jones layout, Dutch was lured to St. Louis by a group wanting someone with Dutch's stature. He hired a young protégé to work with, Doug Sanders. But as Dutch began to feel the grass grow under his feet, in 1960 he moved to Olympic Club in San Francisco. That same year he finished 3rd to Arnold Palmer at Cherry Hills in the US Open (and right behind second place Jack Nicklaus, competing as an amateur). Five years later he returned to St. Louis to open Forest Hills CC, where he remained head professional until a stroke in 1974 prevented him from playing much competitive golf. He remained Pro-Emeritus at the club until his death in 1982.

What separates players like Dutch from the young lions of todays tour was his era. With few amenities, even fewer yardage markers, he had to learn how to make his Wilson sticks perform magic. And Dutch was a master at it! He had what most of the great players have - soft hands - which translates into the ability to work the ball; to get the type of flight for the shot. Today it's common to describe a players ball flight. (Nicklaus is a fade, as is a Couples or Lietzke as was Hogan later in his career; while players like Bobby Licke, Tom Lehman and Tom Kite espouse the right-to-left approach) Dutch could hit any shot...at will. A turn of the wrist here, a lower move there or a slight change in ball position and the ball would bore low through the wind, or soar high as a kite; depending if he needed it to stop on a dime or hit and roll 20 yards. Once when a young pupil asked him what club he would use to hit a certain type of shot, Dutch took his 5-iron and hit shots that went from a soft 80 yards lob shot, to one which soared to a pin over 200 yards away!

Countless stories abound about Dutch. One of the favorites at Old Warson involved Al Hayes, President and a founder of the club. Al played with Dutch frequently -- forever handing over the contents of his wallet to him -- providing Dutch another afternoon at the track. One day Hayes is on the very back of the 18th green with the pin set in the front. Remarkably he rolls in the birdie putt to win the match. As they meet in the grill, Hayes is giddy with excitement and tells anyone who will listen about his victory. Dutch, growing a little impatient, walks over to settle-up (it was all of $20). As he pulled the $20 from his wallet, he asked Al what he was going to do with it. To which Hayes stated, "I'm going to frame this $20 and hang it over my mantle for everyone to see!", to which Dutch replied, "Can I give you a check?!"

When Dutch arrived at Forest Hills he immediately gave the club new stature. Here was a head professional who was an outstanding player, a three-time Ryder Cup Player, winner of 19 Tour Events and a friend of almost everyone on Tour. His stories might well begin with "...when Ben and I were standing on the 10th tee at Augusta..." and all ears in the clubhouse would perk-up to hear Dutch spin his yarn in such a manner as only someone born with the talent can! You can't teach someone how to tell these tales.

At Forest Hills he took an immediate liking to two individuals; Stan Grossman and Tim Crowley. By the early 70's, Stan, Tim and Dutch were crisscrossing the country competing in pro-am events, national club events and just about everything in-between. For the two amateurs, it was like a dream. For Dutch, it had two meanings; he had two lifelong friends, and he could continue his hustlin' ways with some pretty good players. Several times each week Stan, Tim and Dutch would take a bucket of balls and head not for the range, out on to the short course, over the hill by the 7th green. Here, out-of-sight for the clubhouse and most members, they would work to improve their game. Stan and Tim would hit wedge after wedge into the green, trying to match Dutch' shots. But Dutch would handicap himself with each shot; "This one has to fly over the flag and suck back to a foot", or "this one has to land left and spin right". And sure enough, the ball performed its magic as Stan and Tim watched in amazement.

Before Tim became a member, he used to caddy for Stan and their group. If only three showed up, he would beg to play. If no one could see Dutch around, they would let Tim tee it up. But Dutch usually sat in his cart near the 4th green, just out of sight from the tee. As they approached the green, Dutch would motion to Tim with his raised index finger, and he knew the "jig" was up. He meekly climbed into the cart next to Dutch, enduring the mild, fatherly scolding as they drove back to the clubhouse.

Many of the pro-am team events were played on, shall we say, less than honorable conditions. Tim Crowley, a legitimate 2-3 handicap, would show up and his would be listed as a 6. No one protested, though, as everyone hedged a bit. One time at Inverrary, Tim stood on the 18th tee with a huge lead, some 10 strokes over the three day event. Water ran down the entire left side. As Tim prepared to hit, Dutch whispered to him, "Mr. Tim, hit it in the water". Those of you who know Tim, can probably picture how he responded. Tim turned to Dutch and barked "you want me to do what". Dutch repeated his request. He told him "Mr. Tim, you only have to win this thing by 2 or 3 strokes, not by a dozen".

Roger Williams had been the head pro at Spring Hill CC in Quincy, IL for several years. He got to know Dutch when he came through town giving exhibitions. It was during one of these that Dutch took a liking to Roger. "Mr. Rog", as Dutch referred to the much younger Williams, (he always called everyone "Mister" or "Mrs.", according to some it was his southern upbringing, to others he had such a bad memory, it just became easier than trying to recall names!) "someday I'm going to get you a good job." Years later, as Dutch was planning his retirement from Forest Hills, he picked Roger's resume from his top desk and told the search committee, "...this is the guy you want to talk with." So it was that when he arrived at Forest Hills in 1974 to assume the head pro's job, the selection committee only had one very important question for him, how would he handle his position with Dutch around as Pro emeritus? A younger pro might have felt intimidated by Dutch, but to Roger it offered the opportunity of a lifetime; to learn from one of the games all-time bests.

Like most area professionals, Dutch and Roger continued to develop outstanding players by having a strong junior program. In 1976, for example, his junior, pictured here, included (seated r-l) Chris Price, Laurie Lambert and Susan Fromuth. Dutch is seen holding the club, while Roger looks down. Behind Roger (r-l) Scott Lambert, Dave Abel, Jeff Johnson, Dave Manes, Jim Sullivan, Mike Fromuth and Andy Frost. An overview of their golfing accomplishments includes; Susan Fromuth (Two District Junior titles; a Missouri Junior Girls title; Ass't Pro at Norwood Hills), Jeff Johnson (Missouri Junior Boys title; a District Title; a Normandie/Ping title ), Mike Fromuth (District Junior title; a St. Louis Publinx title; Ass't Pro at Westwood), Andy Frost (Three Missouri Cup Teams).

One of the first things you noticed about Dutch was his size; well over 6'3", but with a body that seemed out of proportion, "...a Babe Ruth type body", noted Grossman, "large chest and shoulders with tiny, pencil-thin legs and backside". Dutch used to say "I can sit on a dime and give you 9-cents change" and with his backside, he probably could. But it was when you shook hands with Dutch, that you immediately knew they were not the ordinary hands of a journeyman pro. Not the hard, calloused hands of many players, but like those of a magician, supple hands that allowed him to have tremendous feel with his implements. Dutch used to say that he would look at the way a player held his hands on the first tee. If they were clenched, Dutch knew he had him, "...'cause clenched hands mean your tight, and you can't play this game if you're tight."

Dutch's ability to hit any type of shot created for some great locker room stories. The stories are endless and while the names of the victims change -- depending on the audience -- the names of Trevino, Joe Jimenez and Palmer are mentioned frequently. Maybe they were all victims, or maybe it just made the stories better. It would go something like this. Dutch would look over a shot as he bantered with his caddy, well within earshot of his competitor. "How far, hmmm,183, looks like a 4 wood" And with his effortless swing, it would end up 5 or 6 feet from the pin. His opponent, at this point very unsure as to club selection, puts his 4 iron away and takes out a 2. He hits his shot and the ball is still rising as it passes over the flag! "Looks like the ball of yours sure has some zip in it" Dutch would state, as they'd walk toward the green, counting how much he'd won on that hole. He was the Master of the hustle, in an era of great hustlers.

A similar performance took place years earlier when Dutch and South African Bobby Locke, one of the games best putters, left their mark on Springfield, Joplin, Tulsa and Oklahoma City. After playing in the 1947 US Open at St. Louis CC, the two of them made their way down Route 66. Locke had finished 3rd and had picked up $900 in prize money. Dutch had finished tied for 13th and gathered in $140 for his efforts. (Winner Lew Worsham won $2,000, while Snead won $1,500 finishing 2nd) Locke was a very colorful character, and an outstanding player. When he got over here he bought an Oldsmobile and had them put the steering wheel on the right side, so he could take it back home. He and Dutch toured in that car, all the while making Dutch very nervous. "There was Mr. Bob, drivin' on the right side of the car with that moose milk sittin' between his legs, takin' a sip every mile". On this trip, Bobby would pick up $500 at each stop for his efforts while Dutch made $200. A tidy sum in itself, but it was the side bets where they made most of their money. One favorite of Locke's was to challenge the course record. If a 69 or 68 was the number to beat, he would put up $200 to $500 at 20-1, letting Dutch take 20% of the bet. Locke had a funny putting stroke -- he would fan it open on the backswing and then fan it closed on the follow through -- but the results were remarkable. He had this funny habit of playing with his cap as he hit the put. When he knew the putt was going in, and it might be anywhere from 10-20 feet from the hole, he would gracefully tip his cap, the signal that the putt was good. The two of them won bets on their first two stops, with Bobby easily breaking the course records. At the third stop in Tulsa, word of their previous wins had preceeded them. With the bet made, the greenkeeper ran out onto the course and moved every pin on the extreme right side of the green -- Locke played every shot with a big hook. On the final hole, they needed a birdie to win. Bobby eyed the 20-footer that had a huge break in the middle. As Dutch watched anxiously, Bobby made his stroke and then began to fidget with his hat. Dutch was quite nervous, waiting the familiar signal. Finally after the ball had rolled about 10 feet, off came the hat, and the ball rolled gently into the cup. The money was once again theirs.

When they arrived in Oklahoma City, Bobby asked the pro what the course record was. "A 62" was the response. Bobby shook his head, "...that was a hella'va round wasn't it". And they marched to the first tee. There would be no "course record" bet this day!

Another story, once again the names might vary depending on who tells it, involves a big money game at some club where a local club champion thought very highly of himself. They would challenge Dutch, or Porky Oliver or Al Besselink to a match several months in advance. Leaving nothing to chance, the pro's would set their plan in motion. One particular time it was a match in Kentucky. About 4-5 weeks ahead of the date, Dutch and Bob Hamilton, former PGA Champion, hatched a plan where Bob would go to the club and take a job as a caddy. When Dutch showed up for their match, rather than a one-on-one, he suggested a team bet. The local would pick his good buddy, while Dutch would say "...Oh, I'll just take one of your caddies. Line 'em up out here and I'll pick one". Of course he picked Bob Hamilton, overalls, tennis shoes and all. It wasn't even a contest. Dutch could pick up $8-10,000 in one of these matches and they would take place perhaps 4-5 weeks in a row at clubs throughout the country. The locals never really had a chance.

Despite his celebrity status, Dutch was not comfortable with his position in the spotlight. When he and Stan Grossman were at Pebble Beach for one of the three Crosby's they played in, it was not unusual for Nicklaus or Palmer or Hope or Crosby or Jim Garner or Phil Harris to stop by their table at breakfast to wish Dutch well. Thank you Mr. Bob, or Mr. Bing, or Mr. Jack was how Dutch answered their well-wishes.

Our own Bob Goalby was also close to Dutch. Once Stan was in the clubhouse and Dutch motioned him over, "wanna to stick around, Mr. Bob is comin' over for a lesson". To which Stan would ask "Who's Mr. Bob?". "Goalby. Don't you know who Mr. Bob is?" Now from his home in Belleville to Forest Hills is at least a 45 minute drive. Bob arrived, toting a large Spalding staff bag. Bob was at his peak and was one of the tours best players by this time. He loaded his bag onto a cart and drove over to the range. To those familiar with the layout today, the range in those days was where the tennis courts and parking lot are today. Dutch and Stan arrived and Dutch told Bob to hit a couple 5-irons. Bob smoothed the first one out about 180 yards with a nice draw at the end. He hit his second and it landed just a few feet from the first. "Looks good to me Mr. Bob" commented Dutch. "Everything looks OK" said Bob, looking for reassurance. "Yes, Mr. Bob, looks OK" said Dutch. "Thanks, Dutch" responded Bob. He put his clubs back into his truck and left. Drive 90 minutes, hit two 5-irons. Reassuring yourself that all is well. Sometimes that's what its all about.

One of the early players who Dutch took under his wing was a fledging young pro named Palmer. Arnie had competed in the Westborough round-robin in 1954, just before he turned pro. He was about to play in the Kansas City Open in May of 1955 and he came to St. Louis to stay with Dutch and take a lesson. Dutch was at Old Warson at the time and Arnold stayed at his home in Webster. Together they drove to KC for the tournament. Later that season Arnie would win his first pro event, the Canadian Open.

Despite his duties at Old Warson and Forest Hills, Dutch continued to play the tour on occasion, and compete in the Majors. He qualified for 25 US Opens, the last in 1971 at age 61. Despite never having won a Major Championship, he was elected to the PGA Hall of Fame in 1962, a tribute to the respect the players had for him. And then, just to cap off a great career, after just turning 50, he wins five US National Senior Opens from 1961-66, including four in a row!

Another tie-in with area pro's today is Jeff Hunter. Jeff was part of the junior program at Forest Hills, but was not considered one of the better players. But when Jeff returned after college, not only was he better than most, but he had qualified for the US Open, a feat most of us can only dream of.

At the 1965 Open at Bellerive, Dutch was among the oldest qualifiers at age 55. He qualified after a grueling 36 holes at Westwood CC, where he had to out-duel Joe Jiminez for the final spot. Stan remembers that day well. "When we got to the course, Dutch opened his trunk, I took out his clubs and there had to be three or four dozen Titleists in there. But instead of taking a box, Dutch just grabbed a sleeve. When I asked him why that was all he was taking he told me, 'I only need one for the morning round, one for the afternoon, and another just in case'. Sure enough, he used one in the morning, and a second in the afternoon. When we were finished Dutch handed me the ball. Both balls we used were like new, not a scuff on them. I just put them back into the sleeve."

Bodie Marx, a 14-year old Country Day freshman from Greenbriar, had his name drawn by Dutch as his looper for the week. The practice rounds were played with old friends, Doug Sanders, Al Besselink and Larry Ziegler. "All Doug and Al talked about with Dutch were the ponies and the ladies", Bodie noted recently. But perhaps the biggest thrill was to be paired with "The King" for the first two rounds, Arnold Palmer. But Bellerive wasn't especially kind to Arnie and his Army, while Dutch fared much better. While Arnie would miss the cut by a stroke, Dutch shot 78-72 to land one of the last spots. One of the highlights for Dutch and Bodie was his eagle on the par-4 seventh in the second round. Dutch hit his tee shot into the right rough. He pulled a seven-iron from his bag and the ball found its way to the bottom of the hole for the eagle, the only eagle of the tournament. "One of my main jobs for Dutch was to hold his cigar", noted Bodie, "and from the time he hit that shot, maneuvered our way through Arnies Army, and made our way towards the eighth tee, it had gotten smaller and smaller. We were both pretty excited about the eagle. Dutch knew it would probably enable him make the cut. When we got to the tee, Dutch took the cigar from me, took one puff and tossed it. But it was all pretty exciting stuff for a 14-year old." Dutch won all of $630 for his finish. Typically, a caddie got 10% of the earnings. Bodie got an extra ten as Dutch told him "Mr. Bodie, you did a pretty good job". Bodie went out the next day and bought a new set of clubs...Arnold Palmers, what else!

Dutch said he never met a stranger. To many of the members of Old Warson and Forest Hills, Dutch was like an uncle; to others a father figure. In 1977, hundreds of friends of Dutch, in particular Warren and Wilma Van Norman, arranged for a benefit at Old Warson to honor him, and provide some much needed financial assistance due to his failing health. Long-time friends, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby agreed to attend this gala affair. But just a week before the event, the death of Bing Crosby hit the news. Fearful that Hope might not be able to attend because of this, the planning committee prepared for the worst. But such was their friendship that Bob Hope arrived, as promised, and shared a cart with Dutch during the event. When Hope addressed the crowd he commented that there was an empty chair that evening set aside for Bing who was there with Dutch in spirit.

© Copyright Jim Healey 1998