Donnie Douglas
                                Contributing columnist

Donnie Douglas

Contributing columnist


I do not think I have ever used this space to promote a commercial endeavor. At least for anyone but myself.

Today marks a first, and I was swayed because it has a local if somewhat dated angle, it involves golf, and I have been promised a Budweiser in return.

Ward Clayton found me an easy mark, sending me this email a few weeks back. “Should you find a calling between now and Augusta to make a mention of this book in your award-winning prose, I would be forever grateful.”

He had me at “award-winning prose.”

But I also have a 40-year-old debt to settle with Ward.

If you are as old or almost as Jim Kirkland, aka “K-Land,” you might recognize Ward’s name. Ward was the sports editor of The Robesonian in 1984, and the genius who hired me, forever altering the history of Robeson County for better or worse and keeping me out of the line at the soup kitchen.

Ward overcame that shaky decision to forge quite a career in journalism, including a stint from 1991 to 2000 as sports editor of the Augusta Chronicle, time spent with another famous alumnus of The Robesonian, my late buddy John Fish.

Give me that good ol’ Pika spirit, it’s good enough for me.

The Masters, of course, is played each April in Augusta at Augusta National. The Augusta Chronicle, under the leadership of both Ward and John, did some robust and cutting-edge coverage of The Masters back then. Golf World magazine called it “the best coverage of a golf tournament of any newspaper in the world.”

Not bad.

Ward, who lives in Jacksonville, Florida, later became director of Editorial Services for the PGA Tour, and he now owns Clayton Communications.

It was at the Augusta Chronicle that Ward developed a soft spot for the caddies at Augusta, guys with nicknames such as Stovepipe, Burnt Biscuits, Skillet, Skinny, and Marble Eye who for a long time were an integral part of the story written each year by the winners of that major.

They not only had to deal with the difficulty of reading greens for professional golfers with oversized egos, but also the mountain of racial injustices and barriers that were a part of being black and living in the heart of the Jim Crow South.

“I was intrigued that the winning caddies were mentioned occasionally but seldom with detail about their given names, just nicknames,” Ward told me. “That, plus there were numerous stories unearthed about the caddies’ influence in winning the tournament. Their story of becoming an iconic group of caddies was also intriguing, against long odds. Finally, the caddies’ role of being so close to the competition was unique.”

Those stories are found in Ward’s first book, “Men on the Bag,” which was published in 2004. That book led to the 80-minute documentary “Loopers: The Caddie’s Long Walk,” which did a few loops on the Golf Channel and is narrated by — how is this for a name drop? — none other than Bill Murray.

Ward has now updated the original book with the publication of “The Legendary Caddies of Augusta National,” which was recently released in advance of the 88th edition of The Masters, which begins play on Thursday.

It includes additional information on The Neighborhood, where most of these caddies grew up, more detail on the racial barriers they faced growing up, and new detail on current caddies who carry on the traditions of those who teed off first.

I just ordered my copy, and you can do so as well by clicking on this link — The cost is $19.95, and I will guarantee that the read is worth it, especially for you golf fans.

OK, Ward, you owe me a Budweiser or a few, although I prefer a Bud Light. You need to stop next time Interstate 95 sends you through your old stomping grounds and settle the debt.

I cannot wait 40 years.

Reach Donnie Douglas by email at [email protected].