Tall Dr. Jim, A PhD In Business, And The Golf Want To Be
By R.J. Smiley
Back in my college days I earned a double major: BS in Business Administration and a Doctoral Degree in Golf, with a minor in finding and cleaning the “fish.”
The owner of the college bookstore was a golfer. With no golf scholarships available in the D-II school, the golf coach arranged for me to play golf with the bookstore owner. The round was really an informal job interview. I beat Burt, the owner, out of $2 and I started working at the campus bookstore the summer before my freshman year. It was tough some mornings, but I opened the bookstore at 7:00 AM each morning for four years. Afternoons were reserved for golf.
My first day on the job, before summer classes started, Burt said, “RJ lock the door and put the sign in the window, we are going to Little Willie’s for coffee.” Little Willie’s was a coffee, donut and sandwich shop next door. The sign read Back at 9:30.
We walked out the back door and into the back door of Little Willie’s. The small sign on the backdoor said Private. We walked into a small room with one high, small window and a round, wooden table holding several ashtrays. A few extra folding chairs were stacked in the corner. Already seated were the assistant dean of the business school and two professors. Little Willie poked his head in with a cigarette hanging from his lips, a three or four-day beard, bloodshot eyes and a dirty apron around his waist. “Willie this is RJ, he is working for me. Do you drink coffee RJ?” Burt coughed as he fired up a Camel
“No, but I will have a Pepsi and a donut.”
Burt introduced me to those already seated and others who trickled in. Little Willie knew which pastry each ate with their coffee. He also kept their cups full.
Two of the professors were especially interested in my golf experience and seemed eager to play a round with me.
I did not realize that on that day both my income and my education into the REAL fundamentals of business were supplemented. I also learned about finding the “fish.” In golf terms, “fish” are those golfers who want to play with the good players and are willing to lose a lot of money just to brag about it.
I met Tall Dr. Jim (my first “fish”) that first morning. We scheduled a golf game for Sunday morning. It was TDJ’s second year as a professor of economics and business. He was a nice guy, but a golf want-to-be. We played for $1 a hole. I beat TDJ out of $9. He paid me with a check. Working for $1.25 per hour at the bookstore, that was a lot of money. We played again on Tuesday with nearly the same result; another check. The following Sunday TDJ brought another faculty member from the Speech Department. With my pockets already bulging, I played their best ball a $2 Nassau. With their press on the back nine I won $16. Another check from TDJ.
The Speech Department professor learned quickly and showed up only occasionally. But TDJ just could not get enough.
During my freshman year, TDJ got married to his beautiful girlfriend who was a grad student. She was very nice, but was good at spending TDJ’s money. The summer before my sophomore year, TDJ started paying me with checks that were post dated until his next paycheck arrived. I have often wondered how a professor in a university business department could continue to make bad business decisions. Betting in a golf game he could not win, while paying with funds that he did not have was definitely bad business. Sometime during my sophomore year I somehow obtained a $100 bill. I carried that bill in my pocket for over a year. Thanks to TDJ.
Follow up on Little Willie’s: Little Willie had a drinking problem. He spent the mornings sipping on a half-pint bottle hidden under the cooking counter. By mid-afternoon the back room at Little Willie’s became the Cheers Bar for campus big shots – without a liquor license. The faculty would drop by for a few bumps, smokes and a lot of campus gossip. No Little Willie’s did not have a liquor license, but he did have a nice little after hour’s business where he could drink and smoke with the well educated (book wise) faculty and the bookstore owner.