Golf

Carole Jo Skala left a lasting impression on her young caddie

Carole Jo Skala smiles as she holds the trophy and check after winning the Wheeling Ladies Classic on July 28, 1974, in Wheeling, W.Va.
Carole Jo Skala smiles as she holds the trophy and check after winning the Wheeling Ladies Classic on July 28, 1974, in Wheeling, W.Va. Associated Press file

Last week’s story about the passing of Carole Jo Whitted prompted a call from Mike Jick, the then 17-year-old El Camino High School senior she pulled from the crowd – “because he looks like a nice young man” – to caddie for her during her victory in the 1974 Sacramento Union Ladies Classic at Cameron Park.

She was Carole Jo Skala then, and her intended caddie showed up drunk before the first round of the LPGA Tour event.

“She mishit one shot in the last 45 holes,” Jick said. “She hit a thin 4-iron on No. 5, I think it was. It was playing as a par-5. It still went to the front of the green and she two-putted for a birdie.”

Jick, a scratch player who went on to become a golf course administrator, said he caddied for Skala a dozen times over the next three years. He has high praise for her loyalty, generosity and quality of play, even if she could be demanding.

Their time together was short, but he has stories that could fill a five-hour round.

Here are three:

▪ With the Sacramento tournament on the line and JoAnne Carner and Jane Blaylock, her nearest challengers in the final threesome having already hit into the water on their second shots on the par-5 18th, Skala could have hit wedge, wedge to win.

Instead, standing over the ball with a 4-wood in hand and 235 yards to the hole on her second shot, Skala uttered, “Don’t top it, Carole Jo.”

Jick may have still been fuzzy faced, but he knew enough to step in, throwing the massive tour bag next to the ball. “I’m going to need a little better mental picture than that,” he said he told her. “I need the money.”

Skala hit it within a foot and finished with an eagle, the hometown crowd on the surrounding hillside erupting in cheers.

“What a great pressure player she was,” Jick said.

▪ Skala had a habit of taking a few steps off the tee box, Jick said, and without saying a word or looking back, she would thrust her hand backward wanting something. Now.

“She could want a pen, a pencil, a yardage book, lipstick, lip gloss, a visor, a Coke,” Jick said. “There were about 12 things she could possible want, but you had better get it right. I took a shot. I figure I had a 1 in 12 chance.”

▪ She insisted that her caddie arrive at the course two hours and 45 minutes before her tee time. It didn’t matter if it was dark, the pro shop hadn’t yet opened or that she wasn’t there.

“She would call the pro shop when it opened and ask to speak to Mike Jick,” he said. “You had better be there to take that call.”

Steve Pajak: 916-326-5526, @Steve_Pajak

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