The Hackers

December 7, 2010 at 5:19 am (Uncategorized)

Six months after I got out of the service, my pinhead friend Richie Vicario signed up the two of us to play in a golf tournament with the Spartans at the Peninsula Club in Massapequa. This was during the spring of 1966. In my usual respectful and understanding manner, I said to him, “You %$#@ moron! We’ve never played golf in our lives! What the &@%$ were you thinking?”

Richie just laughed. I could talk to him that way without hurting his feelings. Truth be told, he actually LIKED it. Richie was one of those guys who got insulted if he didn’t get insulted!

Anyway, we scrounged up golf clubs somewhere and drove out to Massapequa the following Sunday morning. Somehow we managed to play through an entire round without killing anybody, finishing the day dead last with a score of about 160, including mulligans, hand-mashies, foot-wedges and several other forms of cheating. But the die was cast. We had so much fun we decided to play again.

We quickly formed a foursome with my father and Uncle Dinnio Oliveri (Richie called him “Gunga Dinnio”). The next Sunday we headed back to the Peninsula Club, where Richie and I challenged Dad and Uncle Din to play for breakfast. Now my father was as bad, and probably worse than we were, but Uncle Din played a fairly decent game, so setting up a match was, in retrospect, a really dumb idea. By the time we finished nine holes and sat down to eat, Richie and I had lost by a good twenty strokes.

While Dad and Uncle Din gorged themselves on steak and eggs, washing it down with a glass of Grand Marnier, we two stooges sat silently and fumed. When the bill came, I thought Richie was going to have an apoplexy attack. This went on for the rest of the spring, and I don’t think my father and Uncle Din ever paid for breakfast.

Along about this time I invited my future father-in-law, Tom Ford, to play with us. Richie, Pop Tom and I matched our two best scores against Uncle Din and Dad, and this evened things out a bit. We even won occasionally, sometimes with the help of some creative math or just plain cheating, which made the whole experience a lot more enjoyable.

On Sunday mornings we’d start out at about 5:30 am. Often when we picked up Richie he’d still be asleep and I’d have to throw stones at his window to wake him up. Then when he finally came down, we’d all give him the business in the car on the way to the course. Come to think of it, we usually gave him the business even when he wasn’t late.

One Sunday I was standing to the side as Richie teed off for the second nine holes. I burst into raucous laughter as the ball went far to the right onto the next fairway and his club flew way out into the left rough. Turning back, I was astonished to see Richie writhing on the ground. Somehow he had dislocated his kneecap while swinging and now lay in agony on the tee box. Jimmy, the starter, sent for a doctor, who was out playing the fourth hole. While we waited for him to get back to the first tee, we alternated between feeling sorry for Richie and laughing rudely at him. In the meantime, he was blocking play, so Jimmy moved the tee markers up a couple of yards. Every Spartan who came by to tee off looked down at Richie, asked how he was doing, and then hit his drive. Hilarious.

Well, the doctor finally got there, took a look at Richie and said, “Oh, a displaced patella.” With one quick motion, he popped it back in, and Richie rose painfully to his feet. That was the end of golf for the day, because “Pinhead”, as we called Richie, was in no shape to continue, and the rest of us couldn’t stop laughing long enough to hit a ball anyway!

On another Sunday, we were teeing off on the first hole, and Uncle Albert Bevilacqua and his foursome were finishing up on the ninth hole. For those of you not familiar with the Peninsula Club, the two fairways are parallel, one going out and the other coming in. Uncle Albert was about fifty yards down the left rough and heading our way. As he lifted his arm to wave at us, Dad hit a wicked slice (he played left-handed) that headed straight for Uncle Albert’s head.

Richie roared, “Incoming!” and Uncle Al performed a magnificent swan-dive to the turf just as the ball whistled by a few inches above his prostrate form. When the sonic boom died away, poor Uncle Albert rose shakily to his feet. His face was white as a sheet. He just shook his head and continued on his way, keeping a wary eye on us until we passed safely by, still struggling mightily to conceal our near-explosive laughter. I don’t know if Uncle Albert quit for the day after that, but if so, who could blame him? He wasn’t the only one we sent racing for cover!

Things got so bad that Dad started wearing a hard hat on the course. Of course, we gave him the business about that. “The way you play, WE should be the ones wearing hard hats, not you!” Once as we were teeing off, I stealthily switched his ball with an exploding one while Richie distracted him. He swung and sliced the ball onto the next fairway, producing a huge stream of purple smoke. Several startled Spartans yelped in surprise and scattered as we – you guessed it – laughed ourselves silly! Frank Capobianco said to us afterward, only half-kidding, “I thought a plane landed on the fairway!”

At some point during that summer, Dad took to carrying a three foot long black plastic “Batman” horn in his golf bag. Instead of merely shouting “Fore!” to warn other golfers when we teed off, he often gave a blast on the horn to announce our presence. Now everyone on the course knew exactly where we were at any given moment, which allowed them to take the necessary safety precautions! I still chuckle at the thought of Andy Renzullo, Pete Stamile, Fred Mollo, Gene Panariello, Mike Vignola, Pete Napolitano, Mike Perrone and many other Spartans cringing at the sound of that ridiculous horn.

We may have been the worst golfers on the course, but nobody had more fun than we did. Richie was the world’s premier agitator – bar none. He delighted in getting under everyone’s skin, but Pop Tom was his favorite patsy. One of Richie’s most effective ploys was to whisper something outrageous just loud enough for us to hear as we were teeing off. This always upset my father-in-law. Once when he hit his drive, Richie kept quiet. Pop hooked the ball into the trees, and then sent his club sailing after it. Turning to Richie, he bellowed, “Why didn’t you say something???”, and stormed off the course. By then we had collapsed in helpless and uproarious laughter – again. Uncle Din was by far the worst. Once he started cackling, you had to kill him in order to make him stop. This earned him another nickname from Richie – “The Hyena”.

I must admit that I occasionally took advantage of the situation to pull off some mean practical jokes for which Richie got blamed. For instance, one time I wired two firecrackers into Uncle Dinnio’s golf bag so that they exploded when he pulled out his driver. Then I stood smugly aside and snickered as my godfather harangued poor Richie with a blistering tirade! That particular stunt was one of my all-time favorites.

Dad and I were somewhat immune to Richie’s gibes. We already stunk so bad as players that there was little he could say to insult us further. Uncle Dinnio pretended that Richie didn’t bother him, but you could always tell when the byplay was beginning to touch a nerve because he would start to sweat. Poor Uncle Din did a lot of perspiring that summer.

Richie wasn’t immune to harassment either. With his skinny frame, over-sized nose and balding head, he resembled a buzzard and was a convenient target for abuse. Whenever he hit a bad shot, which was pretty often, Richie would swear a blue streak, throw clubs, give the “Italian Salute” and kick anything within reach. Of course, we capitalized on those moments to egg him on further. Uncle Din would exclaim, “PEE-LAH-MOD-AWN!” in a disbelieving tone that always riled up Richie to an even greater extent. The more we needled him, the wilder he became.

The topper came one morning when we were playing the ninth hole, which runs directly alongside the street. Richie stubbornly kept slicing shot after shot over the fence and out onto the road. All in all, he lost a dozen golf balls on that hole alone. Each time one disappeared out of bounds, we would laugh uncontrollably while smoke poured from Richie’s ears as he teed up another ball. His last shot bounced off a stop sign, a car bumper, and finally the metal guard on a telephone pole. The resulting “bing-bong-CLAANNG” sent us and the next foursome to the ground in hysterics. Naturally, that was the end of play for the day – again. Just as well, because Richie was out of golf balls anyway. We must have had some reputation at that course!

Keeping score often resulted in some savagely profane arguments. “What did you get on that hole?” “Six.” “SIX??? You’re full of %$#@! You took five %&$# shots just in the trap alone!” “Get the %$#@ out of here! You must be %$#@ blind!” “No wonder you always win, you lying %$#@!” And so on and so on. Once Richie accused me of dropping a ball to replace one I couldn’t find (which I HAD done). In one of his more serious moments, Uncle Din said, “Jimmy would never cheat.” Meanwhile, I was standing on HIS ball!

About halfway through the season, I began carrying a Super-8 camera in my golf bag to film our hilarious antics. At the end of the year I edited all the film onto one reel, titled it “The Hackers”, and showed it at the Spartans Installation. Not surprisingly, it brought down the house. The image of Uncle John Mollo bent over with laughter and slapping his knee as he watched our ridiculous escapades is still vivid in my memory.

That film is one of my most prized possessions, especially since I’m now the only surviving member of our fivesome. Thinking about that sometimes brings a touch of sadness to my day. That season of golf was probably the most fun I ever had in my life. Thankfully, much of it still exists on film rather than just in the recesses of my mind. When I get to the point where I can no longer remember all the details of our great golfing days, “The Hackers” will still be there to remind me of those wonderful walks in the sun (and sometimes rain). I’m planning to transfer it to a video disc eventually, so if you’d like to see it, please let me know. I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed!

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5 Comments

  1. cliff55 said,

    I haven’t seen that movie since I was a kid. It makes “Caddyshack” seem like a drama! One of the scenes that stands out most in my mind is when someone hits a ball over a hill and it cuts to an army charging back in retaliation. I would love to see that again.

  2. Yulanda Hehir said,

    I like this post, enjoyed this one thanks for posting .

  3. Bonnie Caporale said,

    Jim,
    That was great..did you know that my Dad (Al) was part owner of Peninsula? This was before we even moved to Massapequa…in fact, I believe that’s why we did move there! He and his friends would leave Brooklyn many Sunday mornings and golf there. Somehow, when it became available, the group bought it. Anyway, it was nice to hear of your adventure and how you came into contact with Big Al…although, I can’t believe he didn’t curse you out for almost killing him!!!

    • yeeditor said,

      Bonnie, I did know that Uncle Al was a part owner of the Peninsula Club. And it wasn’t ME that almost killed him but my Dad! By the way, I’m sending you a video that was taken of “The Hackers” in 1968. Hope you get a few laughs out of it! Best regards! Cousin Jim.

  4. Al BEVILACQUA said,

    Jim,

    The memories are “flushing” in my head knowing more stories of when I was a kid. For years, every Sunday after church both my brother & I would go with our Dad and caddy for our relatives and friends.

    Frank Mazza would always tell my mother when he picked up Dad in Brooklyn when it was raining that it never rains in Massapequa.

    One Sunday she came with us to see her sister in Massapequa. One time she walked a few blocks where there was a new model home. She put a down payment on the house and 1 year later we moved out to Massapequa.

    Al

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