The Nighttime Pro (Practicing Medicine Without a License)

When I play golf these days, the scores I shoot are high, and one of my goals is to play well enough where none of the members of my foursome start trying to give me a lesson. It’s unconscionable to me how golfers think they can give people lessons just because they play and read golf magazines, or have taken a lesson themselves. If something they’ve read or heard is working for them, they tend to try and teach that particular aspect of the game, which golfers call “tips” to whomever they come in contact with. I witness the most heinous examples of “practicing medicine without a license”, which is a phrase my boss, Claude Harmon, often used. One of the things that was unique about The Boss, is that he was never intimidated by the members of the clubs where he taught, and he never hesitated to speak his mind. I can recall numerous times when we would be down on the practice tee, him giving a lesson, and me teeing up the balls and listening intently to exactly how he was going about his craft. He’d see one of the members, usually an alpha male, giving a son, daughter, or wife, a golf lesson. He’d walk over – close enough, but not too close- and ask the question, “Are you practicing medicine without a license?”

He would make eye contact but never get an answer. He would then follow up with this question, “How’d you like someone operating on your gallbladder but had never been to medical school?” He would then come back to where I was standing, and resume giving his lesson.

The Winged Foot Golf Club is located in Mamaroneck, New York, in the heart of Westchester County. It is 36 holes of the finest championship golf found in this country. There are some clubs who could argue they have one 18-hole course the equal of the WFGC west course, but no one could say they have two courses as good as the East and West course at Winged Foot.

There’s only one possible criticism of WFGC, and that’s the inadequate driving range. It is way too small, doesn’t have sufficient sunlight to grow grass, and what grass they do have, can’t withstand the constant pounding of balls done by the membership. Many of the members who want to practice in the evening after work go on the other side of the parking lot and behind the hedge where there’s a tee with pretty good turf, but you have to hit your own balls down the eighth fairway of the east course. There are a lot of places where you hit your own balls (shag balls), and they have caddies that will shag the balls, but at this time of day, you have to pick up your own balls. There was a member whose name was Don Edwards. He was a good player and had won the WFGC Men’s Championship in past – quite an accomplishment at a club filled with so many fine golfers. He was always working to improve his game, and was something of a golf maniac in his obsession to keep getting better. He was behind the hedge most evenings in the summer…The Boss called him, “The Nighttime Pro” because whoever else was there practicing would surely get a lesson from Don. One of the summers I was there, The Nighttime Pro was working to improve his shoulder turn, and would go through a series of bizarre and callisthenic-like movements in his pre-shot routine. When The Boss would have a lesson and see his student mimicking some of The Nighttime Pro’s movements, he would get a big smile on his face, and say, “Whooo whoo whoo” (his classic Jackie Gleason imitation).

“I see you’ve been to visit The Nighttime Pro.” He’d chuckle and look at me and say, “That Nighttime Pro keeps us in business. One session with The Nighttime Pro will take us five sessions to get back to even.”




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