Their Own “Caddy Shack”: Pfaff Brothers Remember 50 Years Ago to the Grounds Crew at Indian Hill Country Club

Chris and Jamie Pfaff mug for the camera c. 1970.

By Holly Marihugh

It’s summertime in Kenilworth Gardens, 50 years ago. At 5:30 a.m., teenage brothers Chris and Jamie Pfaff turn off the alarm clock, chow down bacon and eggs, and then saunter over to Indian Hill Country Club where they both work the grounds crew. The club is only three blocks away from home, and they clock in daily at 6 a.m. because golf greens are waiting to be mowed. Once they arrive, the daily drama unfolds.

In a recent interview, the brothers described a cast of characters involved in capers around the golf course that rival the movie, “Caddy Shack.” From a sneaky muskrat to a die-hard Neil Diamond fan. From the blaring horn of a Buick to the fake news of the “National Enquirer.” From the dreaded petunia duty to a snaking, sparking downed power line. All of that was part of the Pfaff brothers’ summers from 1968 to 1973.

“The head superintendent was a man…who liked being called, Chief, and the Chief drove around all day in his green Buick that had a white vinyl roof,” Chris said. 

“He was a hardcore Chicago Cubs fan,” Jamie says. “If the Cubs won or his hero, Ron Santo, hit a home run, the Chief would start honking his horn and just sit on it. Most other times, he would drive around and wave while we pretended to be working,” Jamie says.

The superintendent’s son, Billy Jr., doled out most of the daily work orders. As the man in charge, Billy Jr., had a personal radar system for monitoring everyone and everything on the course.

“There was a muskrat that lived in the pond by the 16th hole,” Chris says. “Billy Jr. hated that muskrat and was always trying to scheme a way to get it. One evening, right about dusk, Billy goes over to the pond, takes a shotgun, and tapes it above the headlight on a Cushman vehicle.”

Billy Jr. then flashed the headlight, waiting for the muskrat to stick its head up. “Then he blasted it with the shotgun,” Chris continues, “Of course, he didn’t hit it.”

Instead, he alarmed the neighbors. The minute the shotgun fired, lights circling Indian Hill Road flipped on. “All the residents heard gunfire and thought something horrible was happening,” Chris says.

Like the lucky gopher in “Caddy Shack,” the muskrat continued to live happily on the golf course and managed to dodge Billy Jr.’s shenanigans.

Jamie remembers a singing Irishman with an accent that sounded like he just stepped off the boat from Dublin. “There was this really sweet kid named Francis,” Jamie says. “He never swore, probably went to church every Sunday and was nice to his mother. Francis was an enormous Neil Diamond fan.

He would cut his greens singing, ‘Sweet Caroline,’ at the top of his lungs.”

The brothers remember another crewmember named Hank, who was in his 60s and managed to walk all the way from east Wilmette daily. Most mornings, Hank arrived with the ‘”National Enquirer” tucked under his arm. “He believed every single story he read, and he’d really want to tell you about them,” Chris says. Since Hank frequently raked the bunkers, the crew nicknamed him, “Hank the Rake.”

In “Caddy Shack,” Comedian Bill Murray’s character plays out a scene called the Cinderella Story where he takes a club and whacks off the heads of chrysanthemums while imagining out loud that he’s winning the Augusta Masters.

Jamie remembers feeling the same urge to chop off the heads on the abundance of petunias at Indian Hill. “The bane of our existence was the flower beds,” Jamie says. “We would get sent to plant and weed petunias. There was always a snide dislike of the flowerbeds because we thought we were supposed to be cutting grass, raking traps, and doing real work on the golf course.”

In the early 1970s, Dutch Elm disease was destroying many of the trees at Indian Hill, and the grounds crew was responsible for cutting trees down and hauling away the logs.

“As a teenager, I got to operate some fairly sophisticated machinery,” Chris says. He remembers guiding a hydraulic lift with a big bucket full of elm logs, which he was about to empty into a dump truck.

“All of a sudden the line on my bucket ruptures,” Chris says, “There’s hydraulic fluid going everywhere, and the bucket drops and hits a power line. The power line then hits the ground, sending sparks everywhere. I watched the power go out in three or four nearby homes right in a row. I’m thinking, the Chief is not going to be happy with me.”

Chris sent out an SOS, and local police blocked off Indian Hill Road while the electrical line was repaired. He breathed a sigh of relief when the Chief said he understood the equipment had malfunctioned, and that the accident wasn’t due to negligence.

Jamie reflects back that their summers on the grounds crew were in a completely different era. “Nowadays, grounds management seems a lot more professional and scientific,” he says. “The people are trained at Purdue and are really interested in the agronomy. In our day, we were having a good time while the Chief was listening to the Cubs game.”

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4 Responses to “Their Own “Caddy Shack”: Pfaff Brothers Remember 50 Years Ago to the Grounds Crew at Indian Hill Country Club”

  1. July 19, 2020 at 8:28 PM #

    I was a “caddy” during the era. The caddy master was a fellow named Nick. There were two classes of Caddies, one group that commuted from Chicago and had a real attitude towards the locals. The other was local Northshore kids. The differences were shown in the movie.

    • Bruce Decker December 6, 2022 at 12:04 AM #

      I used to Loop there. Nick was my caddy master and yes there were the Chi-Town guys and the local kids. Nick was a total character. That was where I learned to smoke and blow smoke rings and watch the Chi-Towners hustle the local caddies at poker. I knew to stay away from that, but liked watching those guys. My first year I chased carts and tried to get 2 loops in a day. I became of favorite of Mr. Ellis, an old-time member with his own cart. He went out several times a week. I actually got to drive his cart at times, which was a no-no. Mr. Ellis treated me like a son. He always requested me and I always made time for him. Sometimes the shack was full of loopers and you had to wait your turn for a twosome. If Mr. Ellis requested me, I would skip the line and get to go right away. Nice. He went early, so I had a good chance of getting another loop in. He tipped me in spite of club rules forbidding tipping. Guests could tip, so you always hoped for a guest.
      I do not remember Bill Murray caddying there. Maybe he caddied there before I did. I loved Caddyshack. It kinda takes me back.
      I caddied for 3-4 years. I graduated to carrying doubles. Those were the days when players had bags the size of elephants. That was to hold like 2 dozen balls and martini shakers and all kinds of other shit. Sam Bernardi was the Pro. I caddied for him sometimes and his clients when they were having a lesson.
      One more story. The 10th hole was a par 3 and had a big pond in front of the green. It was also right by the caddy shack. One day a guy hit his first shot into the pond. Then hit his 2nd and 3rd shots in the pond. He was so mad that he broke the club over his knee and grabbed the bag and threw the entire thing into the pond and walked off. It was a huge real alligator bag and had the best clubs at the time. Thousands of $$. Then he stormed off. His foursome was sort of in shock, but were laughing.
      Mondays the course was closed, but the staff could play the course. We used to try and get at least 3 rounds of golf in on Mondays. I used to shoot in the low 80’s as a teenager. After caddying, I never took up golf again. I’m turning 70 in a few months. Would love to connect with anyone that caddied then, including Bill Murray.

  2. August 1, 2023 at 1:56 PM #

    This story has a couple of inaccuracies. “Chief” was my grandfather, and nobody ever called him Billy. My father was called Billy then (and really hated being called Billy). He was not a Vietnam veteran. He also was definitely the man in charge who kept that course always looking spectacular despite not being trained at Purdue.

    • August 1, 2023 at 2:06 PM #

      Thank you so much for pointing this out. We will update the article.

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