At its core golf is a solitary game. You stand alone on a tee and rely on a swing of a club to determine your success or failure.
What's not solitary is the community that develops around the game where success is measured not by your scorecard, but by your character.
For the past 26 years one man has influenced generations of young people who have passed though the caddie shack at the Beverly Country Club. They met him as kids, said goodbye to him as adults and credit his quiet influence on the people they have become.
Tom Gorman, 74, stepped down as caddie master at the club after almost three decades. During those years he mentored generations of young people and played an important role in helping dozens earn scholarships to college.
On Nov. 27 hundreds of former caddies and club members gathered to send Gorms off in style.
"Everything I learned that was influential in life was in the caddie shack," said Ryan Griffin, who caddied under Gorman for nine years.
"I didn't go to my ten year high school reunion," Griffin said "But I made sure to come here tonight."
Many former caddies spoke of the community that Gorman created in those same terms. It was a family away from home. They started carrying bags as kids, and under Gorman's leadership they left as adults.
"Caddying was a fraternity, almost your first university and Tom was the dean of men as it were." said Steve Coates, a longtime club member.
During his years as caddie master, the Beverly Country Club boasted more Evans Scholars than any other club in the country. The college scholarship program sponsored by the Western Golf Association has sent hundreds of local students to college.
"No country club in the country has put more kids through college and no caddie master in the nation has touched more Evans scholars than Tom," Coates said.
Gorman is a man of few words, soft-spoken and direct. He spent years as an English teacher at St. Laurence High School and brought that approach with him to the caddie shack.
"I wish he would have taught me in high school, he's just that kind of a person," said Tom Harrigan, the former club manager.
Gorman was more than humbled to see the turnout of former caddies looking to wish him luck on retirement.
"I am dumbfounded," Gorman said. "I am just amazed to see everyone."
James Traut caddied from 1994 to 2003.
"It was like we had a second dad when we would come to work," Traut said. "He took care of you."
A few years after he had stopped caddying, Gorman called Traut in to help during the 2009 U.S. Senior Amateur.
"I got to loop again for four days," Traut said. "Working for him again for those four days was a pleasure, and it brought back a lot of great memories of my childhood growing up."
Griffin now works in business and credits lessons he learned as a caddie with much of his success.
"The best trait we learned was to know when to shut up," he said. "Of all the managers I ever had in life, and I never thought of him as a manager, he was by far the best. I can't sing his praises enough."
For his part, Gorman hopes he taught his caddies one lesson above all the others.
"Fairness, be fair to everybody," Gorman said.
Gorman says he plans to do a "whole lot of nothing" during his retirement. A fitting break for a man who almost single-handedly ran his own kind of summer school for 27 years.
Perhaps the club's head golf pro, John Varner, put it best in the straightforward and direct way Gorman would appreciate.
"We're going to miss you Gorms," he said.
Did you caddie at Beverly? Share your memories.
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