At age six, I was diagnosed with ADHD and given Ritalin, a medication that evened out my behavior considerably. Yet I still found myself in the school principal's office nearly every day. School mattered little to me. However, around this time, I developed a consuming interest in an inanimate object that would eventually save my life — the ball.
After years of people complaining about my hyperactivity and unruly behavior, my mom and dad couldn't help but see my newfound fascination as constructive. So they got me involved with sports, specifically baseball, early on. My mom would tell you I could throw a ball before I could crawl. Baseball became my true love, the purpose for my young life.
By age 13, I was a Missouri Little League standout, already eyed by major league scouts. I ate, drank, and slept baseball. My parents were determined to let me become the best pitcher I could through hard work, great instruction, and serious competition.
However, during one game, in early summer, my pitch count neared one hundred (far too many for any pitcher), but the coaches — one of whom was my dad — did not call for a reliever. I was going for a no-hitter. As I threw that final pitch, the rotator cuff and ligaments in my arm popped, and I fell to the ground screaming. I had struck out the batter, pitching a complete no-hit shutout, but it was the last baseball game I would ever play.
Deep depression followed. What would I do with myself? I thought of two possible scenarios: mowing lawns, or going back to the small, white ball — this time, the golf ball. It looked like golf and caddying were the answer.
I located a course where I could learn to caddy, and I caught on quickly. After one summer caddying, I decided to try my luck at securing a bag at the annual Senior PGA Tour stop in Kansas City.
I signed on with the gentlemanly Freddie Haas. As I watched this old-schooler use both the toe and heel of his putter to putt, and blast drives all of 230 yards (in other words, not very far), I was sure last place was in sight. Five days and several bad scores later, I accepted a $50 check and a dozen used golf balls in payment for my week of toting the largest bag imaginable. (Did I mention, we finished dead last?) Although underpaid by hundreds of dollars, I was hooked.
I worked on my own game using the clubs available at the putting range. By the time I was 14, I was an up-and-coming golfer and caddy. Year after year, the PGA tour came through, and I worked for different pros, as I was needed. It was the first time I had ever been accepted by a large group of people, and I always got work, earning endearing nicknames along the way. Lee Trevino, for whom I first caddied at age 15, referred to me as the "Kansas City Kid" or "Kid" for short. Walter Zembriski called me "The Duke." Walter Morgan liked calling me "Vandross," after Luther Vandross. Fellow caddies called me anything from "Sky Kid" to "Skywalker."
As I got older, I yearned to go on the road and travel full time with the tour. The summer before my first year in college, my mom consented, and I traveled by car over 8,000 miles, pocketing more than $15,000.