Losing a good golfer and a better friend

James Carroll was a club maker at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland, and was recruited by Henry Fownes, founder of the Oakmont Country Club in Pittsburgh, to make clubs there.

Around 1950, a touring pro stopped by Oakmont and asked Carroll if he could play the course and did he have anyone who might want to accompany him?

Carroll had enough confidence in one of his teenage sons to volunteer him.  Chuck Carroll, who had learned to play golf from his father, accepted the offer.

Chuck walked 18 holes that day, and it was one of his many great golf memories and experiences. The touring pro was Ben Hogan.

Chuck Carroll, an excellent player and my best golfing buddy, died Oct. 17, 2011, at his home in Sarasota (Palm-Aire) after a two-year struggle with skin cancer.  He was 77.

Not many people could keep up with Chuck on the golf course. He hit it long and straight, and even when he was 75-years-old, he walked and carried his bag on a regular basis at Bobby Jones, The Meadows and Palm-Aire.

Those of us who played with him marveled how he could hit the greens consistently from well beyond 150 yards.

When he didn’t reach the greens as expected, he usually made a nice chip shot close enough for a tap-in par or birdie. We would compliment him.

 “Nice up, Chuck.”

It made him smile.

But his passion was playing links golf in Scotland and Ireland, and he hosted many trips there for his friends and family members. He played all the British Open rotation courses many times.

In 2005, my brother Frank and I were invited on one of those junkets to Ireland.  Without a doubt, it was the trip of a lifetime. 

On his 69th birthday, he shot his age at Royal St. George's Golf Club.  He had two holes-in-one in his life — both when he was beyond 70.  One was on the fourth hole of the American Course at Bobby Jones. I was one of the witnesses.

Off the course, Chuck’s life was in newspapers. He started delivering papers at age 8. He went on to become a sports writer, photographer and eventually a newspaper executive.  He was a self-made guy, having never spent one day in a college classroom.

He retired from the New York Times organization as operations director for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, and later from the Daily Mail of London, England, for which he was in charge of distribution in the United States.

One of his best golfing partners was Garry Grissom, regional manager for 
AbitibiBowater, pulp and paper manufacturer.  Grissom and Chuck had the same passion for links golf.

 “I remember a blustery day at Cruden Bay in August, 2001 with a cool North Sea wind blowing 25 mph sustained,” said Grissom, like Chuck, a low-handicap golfer.

 “There were showers in the forecast. However, it was sunny and beautiful when we arrived, so I opted to leave my rain suit in the car rather weigh down my bag.

 “As we are trudging slowly up the 40-foot hill to the 10th tee box, it begins to rain.  Chuck drops his golf bag off his shoulders and pulls two rain jackets from his golf bag's pocket, one for himself and one for me.

 “We continue our ascent to the top and I’m amazed, here is this "Scottish Warrior" 25 years my senior, carrying his golf bag with extra rain gear every day for two weeks straight in Scotland, while I rent a trolley for $3 and pull mine on wheels and complain about the extra weight of rain suit.  What a tough guy he was!”

But when cancer took over his body, Chuck’s days of making consistent pars and birdies were gone.  The radiation and chemo treatments sapped his strength. He complained of not being able to hit his 5-wood no more than 150 yards.

I said to him: “Welcome to the short-hitters club, Chuck. We will be happy to have you.”

It made him smile.

Chuck spent so much of his life golfing around the world that it shouldn't have been much of a surprise he would want his ashes scattered on a golf course in Scotland.

In talking with his father about it, his son, Ron Carroll, said he suggested putting them in a sand trap.

To which his father, completely serious, said: "Why would you put me there? I'm never in a sand trap."

He is survived by his wife of 35 years, Brenda Carroll, two sons, Bob and Ron, a daughter, Bonnie, two grandchildren, and a sister, Lottie Morrison. He was preceded in death by five brothers.

 

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