Goodbye: Lost Ball Brings Back Memories of 'Hard Rock'
A recent Saturday was a sad day. It was the day that I said my final goodbye to a very dear friend, Robert "Hard Rock" Robinson.
Hard Rock, as many will recall, was one of the earliest caddies at the Pinehurst Resort, caddying regularly for the likes of Donald Ross, among many other notable (and not so notable) golfers.
After his retirement from caddying in the '80s, he worked with Marty and Susan McKenzie at Olde Towne Realty, opening the office every morning, among other very important tasks.
I first met Hard Rock in Pinehurst during the late '50s, when I was just taking up golf and he was a caddie at the Pinehurst Country Club. In all honesty, I probably did not think much about him again for 30 or more years thereafter.
I was blessed, however, when I became reacquainted with him in the spring of 1991, after returning to the Pinehurst area after an absence of nearly 30 years. We immediately became close friends.
Hard Rock was a proud, caring gentleman. He never failed to ask, "How's Mama?" after my mother, whom he had never met, took up residence in a nursing home. He often bragged about his wife's fried chicken.
He once told a friend and me that if we would buy the chicken, he would have his wife cook it the next night, and we could come over to his house in Taylortown for dinner.
We did, and she did, and I have to say it was special.
Unfortunately, he did not tell her about it until she returned home from work that day. I remember her saying, "He said I would, and I will, but -- ", the rest being said to Hard Rock, I'm sure, after we left.
Just before the Tour Championship in 1991, since Hard Rock had the "run of the grounds" at Pinehurst Resort, I asked him if he would get a tournament poster signed by some of the golfers for me.
When I mentioned that I might pay him $1 for each autograph, he quickly agreed.
A couple of days after the tournament, he presented me with the poster -- signed, I believe, by every golfer present (except the winner, Craig Stadler). The poster was rolled up, folded, torn and smudged, but it has been framed and hanging in my home ever since.
(A friend told me later that Hard Rock, with pen and poster in hand, was the hardest-working man on the practice tee.)
It was said that Hard Rock was the only person Pinehurst Resort would allow to walk the courses in search of "misplaced" golf balls.
It must have been true, as every week, he would have a plastic bag of clean, slightly used balls -- many stamped with the logos of companies from around the world. I bought my first bag for 75 cents a piece (he was asking 65).
From that point on, we would "negotiate" weekly, with him invariably giving in to my outrageous demands with a smile.
For the next three years, I accumulated golf balls from Hard Rock on a regular basis. (Let's see: If I bought an average of one dozen balls a week for 150 weeks, that would total -- well, you get the picture.)
Which brings me up to the recent Saturday.
Without anticipating the significance of what was about to happen, I shanked (can you shank a driver?) my drive deep into the yard of a home overlooking the ninth fairway (actually the tee box) of the Whispering Pines East course.
Because the ball ended up only about 25 yards out from the tee and 60 yards to the right, I was embarrassed to retrieve it, lest someone (who knew me, or might someday know me) see me. When I went to my bag to get another ball, I realized that I had just hit the last ball that I had purchased from Hard Rock. (It was a Titlest 2.)
Some grass must have gotten in my eye, as it took a minute to read the writing on the new ball that I removed from its sleeve.
So there it is. After 15 years (and four years after his passing), it was time to say my final goodbye. That last shot was not the one I would have chosen. However, I did remember the smile on his face when I told him about the hole-in-one I had the day before his 83rd birthday -- again with a Titlest 2 provided by him.
Goodbye again, old friend. You will always be remembered.
Ed Ormsby, a native of Southern Pines who returned to the area after a 30-year absence, is owner of Golf Capital Properties.
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