He chose Pott over Arnie, never regretted it
The note came from out of the blue from someone I had never met. Dave Devendorf, a Michigan native who splits his time between Michigan and Florida, had read a piece I wrote about Hall of Famer Johnny Pott, the great golfer, on this website about this time last year.
Wrote Devendorf: “Caddied for Johnny Pott in two Buick Opens. ‘We’ finished tied for second to Phil Rodgers in 1966. Johnny made a great up and down on 72nd hole to tie Kermit Zarley. He paid me generously, and I used it to help pay for my first year of college. It was clear, even to an impressionable 16-year -old, that he was highly respected by his peers on the tour.”
I figured there might be more to the story and emailed Devendorf, got his phone number and gave him a call. There was more, much more.
As a teen, Devendorf caddied regularly at famed Warwick Hills in Grand Blanc, Mich., which hosted the now-defunct Buick Open, one of the most popular tournaments on the PGA Tour. This was before players hired their own professional caddies. Devendorf signed on to caddy in the Buick Open and in 1966 he was given first choice of players because of his seniority among the caddies.
“I was going to choose Arnold Palmer,” Devendorf says.
The pro at Warwick Hills suggested he choose Johnny Pott instead.
Devendorf did, and, as he put it, “I am forever grateful that I did.”
Johnny Pott instead of Arnold Palmer?
“Yeah, the pro was a big believer in horses for courses,” Devendorf said. “He said nobody played Warwick Hills better than Pott on a yearly basis. And he knew what kind of guy Johnny Pott was.”
The pro was right about Pott, who finished tied for second in the 1966 Buick Open behind Phil Rogers.
“His ball striking was so pure,” Devendorf said of Pott. “He wasn’t a great putter but from tee to green he was as good as it gets. He teed it low and hit bullets. His iron play was absolutely fabulous.”
But Pott’s golf wasn’t what impressed Devendorf most.
“He was such a gentlemen,” Devendorf said. “It was clear to me even at that age how much respect all the other golfers had for Johnny Pott. He was so genuine.”
And there was more…
“In one round Pott was paired with Tony Lema, and that day Lema shot the course record,” Devendorf said. “They obviously were good friends and both were playing well, and even though they were fiercely competitive, I could tell Johnny Pott was enjoying Lema’s round and pulling for him. When Tony sank his last putt, Johnny Pott was the first to congratulate him. I’ll never forget the look they gave each other.”
Champagne Tony Lema, one of the most popular players on the tour, would die later that same year in a plane crash.
Perhaps the best memory of all follows.
“Johnny Pott paid me 519 dollars for caddying for him and, remember, those were 519 1966 dollars,” Devendorf said. “I would have paid him for the experience but he paid me enough that it helped me to pay for college at the University of Michigan.”
Devendorf became a tax lawyer. In his spare time, he rates golf courses for the USGA. He says he often thinks about Johnny Pott’s influence on his life. Just recently, he googled Pott’s name and found my column from a year ago.
“It’s amazing what you remember. I was walking home from the golf course after the tournament with a check for 519 dollars in my pocket feeling like I had all the money in the world,” Devendorf said. “I still had on my caddie’s apron that had Johnny Pott’s name on it, and here came this big Buick flying by, full of golfers headed to the airport. Johnny Pott leaned out the window and waved at me. I’ll never forget.”