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JFK’s Former Caddies Remember the President

Nov. 23, 1963 - What were just a couple of golf balls and a handful of tees are now relics. What were rare treats and thrilling experiences are now unforgettable memories. What were idle conversations are now never-to-be-forgotten words. That’s how the death of President Kennedy affected the boys who caddied for him at the Hyannisport Club this past summer. The caddies — with lumps in their throats and moisture in their youthful eyes — had little to say. But what words they did speak came from their hearts. “I was the first one to caddie for him last summer,” said 15-year-old John Kiernan. “He was a very nice man. He was very friendly. I’ll never forget him. He hadn’t played for three years when I caddied for him. But he played well. He was long off the tee. He hit great wood shots. I still can’t believe it. I hope to caddie again next summer, but it won’t be the same without him.” Chris Kennedy (no relation), a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Roxbury Latin School from Brookline, received a golf ball as a gift from the President. “I was pleased and honored when I caddied for Mr. Kennedy,” said Chris. “He asked me questions and wanted to know my future plans. He told me I had to study hard. I still have the golf ball he gave me. I feel very badly now. I wrote him a letter when I was 10. I wanted to be a page. President Kennedy answered my letter.” Bob Creech of Quincy, a 16-year-old junior at Boston College High, said: “He was always smiling. Even if he made a bad shot, he’d smile. I was happy and excited when I caddied for him. When he was through, he gave me a golf ball. That was the biggest thing that ever happened to me. I felt stunned when I heard he was dead. He was a nice man — easy to talk to.” Jim Flynn, a 16-year-old junior at Woburn High, caddied for him twice. “The first time we met, he asked me if I were a Democrat. I said, ‘Yes, Sir,’ and he smiled. He always seemed relaxed, although he always played in a hurry. I remember once on the 18th hole, he hit a great second shot just a foot from the pin. A lot of people were watching, and it pleased him. I still find it hard to believe that he’s gone.” Tom Brennan, a 15-year-old sophomore at Milton High, said: “The Cape will never be the same without him. The day I caddied for him his back was bothering him. He asked me to tee the ball up for him on each hole. He said, ‘You tee the ball up, and I’ll hit it good.’ And he did, too. I saved all the tees he used. I’m very sorry all this had to happen.” What’s left for the caddies? A couple of gold balls…a handful of tees…an unforgettable memory…never-to-be-forgotten words…an image of a great man.

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