“In the water! In the water!” young Scottie Walker chants quietly to himself as a golfer tees off on the 173-yard par-three hole five at the South Shore Golf Course.
“When the ball goes in the drink, I’m makin’ money,” Walker explains. He’s been coming out to the golf course at 71st Street and Lake Michigan all summer, following a tip from a friend who said he could make as much as $5 a day fetching golf balls out of the hole-five pond and then selling them to wayward-hitting golfers.
Dressed in a black mesh tank top, black sweatpants, and black British Knights sneakers (“You can’t touch these”), Scottie sits in a tattered green vinyl chair on a recent sunny weekday afternoon, waiting for balls to land in the oval pond about 120 yards away. The algae-filled pond has a huge white golf ball on a pedestal as a centerpiece.
“I wait until after the players go, and then their balls are mine,” he says.
Scottie, a slightly built five-footer, is 11 years old. He tries to get 50 cents for each ball he retrieves, but he’ll sell two balls for 75 cents just to move some product. On this day it’s 2 PM, and he’s made $2.50 in six hours’ work.
“He doesn’t bother anybody,” says Park District worker Rufus Koonce. “He’s the kid that’s trying. He’s not out stealing.”
What does he do with his money?
“I play video games,” Scottie says. “And I buy gifts for my girlfriends. I got five of ’em. Judy’s my favorite. She’s the best kisser. She’s got long hair, and she dress nice. I bought her a remote-control Jeep. I might have to dump Angel. She’s getting fat. I like ’em nice ‘n’ skinny.”
What does he want to be when he grows up?
“I want to be president of Nike,” he says. “I want to own it. I want to get paid.”
What if Nike says no?
“Then I’ll play basketball–or be a boxer like Mike Tyson.”
Just then Scottie is unceremoniously shooed out of his chair. “Get out of that chair,” Butler Foster, who’s 66, says. “This chair is for golfers, not caddies.” Scottie doesn’t argue.
Foster’s threesome, upon learning that Walker is a businessman, not a caddy, pay him due respect.
“He’s a nice little hustler,” says Earl Hill, who’s 69. “He might make it to Nike. They’re opening the door for him right now.”
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Barnaby Dinges.