Dick McAuliffe, who died earlier this week in Farmington, CT, was a tough baseball player who had a zero tolerance policy for pitchers who threw fastballs near his head. Tommy John learned that during the 1968 season when McAuliffe charged the mound and separated John's shoulder. The shortstop was suspended for five games, all of which the Tigers lost. The pitcher missed the rest of the season. Those who weren't his teammates thought McAuliffe was mean, as well as tough. His nickname was "Mad Dog."
The meanness part wasn't deserved, at least by the Dick McAuliffe with whom I played a competitive round of golf in 1986. More than a decade past his retirement from baseball and now in the dry cleaning business near his native Hartford, CT, McAuliffe maintained a handicap of three, and had a reputation for competitive toughness at our club, Hop Meadow Country Club in Simsbury. He was inventive as well. Long before top PGA tour professionals started using the cross-handed putting grip, McAuliffe used it -- for all his shots, including drives off the tee box. If you recall his batting stance -- wide open in the extreme -- you know he wasn't afraid of bucking convention in the name of competitiveness.
In 1986, during a three-day member/member tournament at Hop Meadow, my partner and I were in third place; McAuliffe and his partner were in first, and we faced them in the pivotal seventh match of the weekend event. Our match with them was tied going to the final hole, the
McAuliffe must have realized what he had done because he pretty much shanked his five-footer. We won the match, the flight, and about $500 each, jumping from third place to first in just one putt. McAuliffe's team went from first to third. We all shook hands on the green, as golfers and gentleman do, but inside I was gloating, feeling as if my team had won the World Series. The setup, though, was an act of supreme generosity that some might consider an error of judgment. I don't.
Rest in peace, Dick.