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The Man With The Clubs

Kelli Grant, Senior Consumer REporter for SmartMoney.com, talks back-to-school savings.
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It appeared to be a typical late summer morning for pro golf caddie Pete McCann. Six or seven days a week, he treks from Harlem to New Jersey in his spotless 19-year-old car.

It's a Cadillac. That's right: a Caddy.

"I keep going just like this car keeps going... Isn't it a beauty?" says McCann.

He leaves enough time to pick up breakfast along the way to work at the Alpine Country Club - about a 13-mile trip.

"This might be my lucky day," said McCann.

It wasn't just going to be another day for McCann, who turned 78 last month.

At a ceremony at St. Augustine's World Golf Village, the founder of the Professional Caddie Assocation, Dennis Cone, rewarded McCann for a career spanning more than 60 years.

"Is this Pete McCann?" asked Cone.

"Yes, this is he... what's left of him," replied McCann.

"On behalf of the PCA worldwide caddie headquarters and our 3,500 members... the foundation, board of trustees, we want to congratulate you to be inducted this year into the 2002 Caddie Hall of Fame," announced Cone.

It was a day McCann had waited for and his eyes filled with tears of happiness.

"Okay, thank you... this is such good news... give my love to everybody who voted me in," said McCann. "The tears, I couldn't keep them away because it's such a great feeling. All the years I've been out here and driving 500 and 600 miles a day after a tournament to the next site... cars that might not make it."

McCann says he was only late once, and he's been walking 18-hole loops since he was 12 years old.

At Alpine, everybody knows McCann. "I've had some of the best playing rounds I've ever had in my life when Pete's been caddying for me," said Alpine member Alex Colman. "He reads them like a genius." Colman appreciates McCann skills and longevity so much that he nominated the veteran for the Caddies' Hall of Fame.

"He's a great caddy," said Alpine club pro, Bob Menne. "His caddying skills are much better than my playing skills at the moment, so he hasn't lost a step... Oh, I'll tell ya, he's magic."

The magic rubbed off on Sam Snead, who won the first of his three Masters titles with McCann carrying his bags in 1949. This year, McCann worked the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage for Spike McCroy. Only a few weeks later, McCroy won his first professional title. Most of golf's modern greats have crossed McCann's path.

"It would take me a half a year to name all the pros that I've worked for," said McCann.

He caddied for golfing greats including Arnold Palmer, Lionel Hebert, Doug Ford and Doug Sanders. He traveled with Kathy Whitworth. McCann even worked with a 14-year-old Tiger Woods. McCann even worked the celebrity circuit when he worked for stars like Joe Dimaggio, Jackie Gleason and Sammy Davis, Jr. He received gifts from many of them that he adds to his collection.

An unfailing passion is what keeps McCann going. It's his secret, which can keep golfers hitting straight - if only they would ask for his advice.

"That's the toughest moment ... when you see 'em hitting the wrong club, or putting on the wrong line," explained McCann. "Caddies who give volunteer information don't last too long. I usually wait 'till they ask me. If they try to do ... come close to doing what I tell them to do … they'll be successful."

Pete McCann's formal education lasted only through the eighth grade. He was one of the eight children and went out to the local golf courses in Albany, Georgia to help his mother support their family.

He knew 50 cents for 18 holes beat 50 cents for picking 100 pounds of cotton. Now, a regular round pays about $120 and working with the pros can earn a caddy thousands of dollars a week.

And McCann continues to work. "I never drank, never smoked. I go to bed early, I eat good and I get a lot of exercise because I've been on golf courses practically all my life and that keeps you young," said McCann.

The recent hall of fame inductee isn't the oldest working PCA caddie. That distinction belongs to an 83-year-old from Tijuana Country club in Mexico. So, McCann continues to caddy and give golfing advice to those who will listen.