Hometown

The Bellhop

Summer days that weren’t so lazy

By Bill Fields

Mid Pines Club — known now as Mid Pines Inn and Golf Club — wasn’t open during the summer for its first half-century of operation. But when I consider this time of year, Mid Pines is always in my mind.

That’s because, by the mid-1970s, Mid Pines had a new owner and was open year-round. For a golf-loving local teenager (me) who needed a summer job, this was a wonderful development. Some of the club’s longtime staff still migrated north that time of year, to Nantucket, Fire Island or other spots, which created some positions between spring and fall.

I worked a handful of summers at Mid Pines, as a cart attendant during high school and two stints as a bellman while in college. I earned money for gas, golf balls, green fees (when I wasn’t playing at Mid Pines) and expenses going to UNC-Chapel Hill. To be able to get an employee discount on All-Star gloves, Pickering shirts and other pro shop items seemed almost better than a paycheck.

Making me the part-time cart guy was Mid Pines head professional Jim Boros’ generous way of helping along my golf game, for which I had more enthusiasm than skill, or certainly consistency. (I made six birdies at Mid Pines and shot 78.) The cart gig was just a couple of hours each evening, waiting for the later groups after the shop had closed. The fact that I could spend a lot of my time on the practice green when I wasn’t parking a cart or picking the range made it hardly seem like work.

Unless the course was busy with conventioneers, I usually would have played before my shift. Most evenings, after I’d cleaned and plugged in all the carts, I would rush out to join assistant pros Barry and Lloyd Matey — brothers from Connecticut — and Gary Dixon to play as many holes as possible before dark. When I recall that era of persimmon, polyester and possibility, the golden-hour spins around that fine course with those friends simply having fun are hard to beat.

There weren’t many teenage guests, but one girl whose name I can’t remember — and who probably tried to forget mine quickly, as you shall see — was up from Georgia for a short golf trip with her parents. We chatted and ended up going on a date, which took an embarrassing turn when I got sick before I could pull the car over. She was very kind, but I doubt anyone was ever happier when a date was over.

I had one more Mid Pines-related date, much more pleasant, in my bellhop days. Sue was a fellow UNC student, and I think she was impressed when I procured cheesecake from an unlocked kitchen refrigerator — the pastry chef was kind that way — to close the evening.

I was judicious about enjoying those complimentary sweets but probably didn’t need to be given the workouts from carrying suitcases up two or three flights every day. Combined with some running that I had started to do, along with some softball action with the Mid Pines team, I was probably in the best shape of my life. I also mastered driving a stick shift by using the club’s small Toyota pickup to go to the Golfotel near the fourth hole, the rental houses along Midland Road, or when taking the deposit to First Union downtown.

The bell shifts were either 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. You’d often work late then early, and one honeymooning couple was surprised when I helped them into their room late one night, then brought them room service eight hours later.

I misplaced some keys recently, and it got me thinking about the time that caused the most anxiety during my bellman days. I had gone with my parents to Cherry Grove for a weekend. Back home in Southern Pines, I couldn’t find the ring containing all the Mid Pines master keys. I searched all over the house without success and was just about ready to call the Mid Pines manager, Dick Davenport, to break the news. Then I looked in one more location, a drawer I never used but apparently thought a burglar wouldn’t ransack in our absence. Not long after, I found my first gray hair and believe it was related to this folly.

When Mom died last year, we had lunch after her service on the Mid Pines terrace. Everyone enjoyed the food and drink, but to me, the location meant everything.  PS

Southern Pines native Bill Fields, who writes about golf and other things, moved north in 1986 but hasn’t lost his accent. Bill can be reached at williamhfields@gmail.com.

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