Rolling Knolls, Part 2:

A Personal Reminiscence

by Dusty Helbling

The thing I remember most was Ladies Day at Rolling Knolls, as mother always played. I remember Lena Robbins, Mattie Price and Ed Dell Wortz.

Then, the old gentleman that was too slow for the men, was my favorite, Uncle "Alf" Williams." Uncle Alf could not hear much and had a little, white mustache and whiskers like the old Coke Santa Claus. He was always the best-dressed man around the club, and to me, was a class act. I found out in my golf research in Arkansas a few years ago that he won the first state amateur championship held at Little Rock Country Club in 1908. So, we know he was a top golfer in his prime. The ladies enjoyed this old gentleman as he certainly was a special person. I remember him sitting on the front porch of the clubhouse watching people teeing off on No. 1 and visiting as best he could. He was a jovial fellow and his laugh was a "Ho, ho, ho," which I remember well.

Some of the fathers brought their sons and started them playing golf: Ben Mosley, sons Bill and Lutie; Mr Basham and son King Basham; Clifford Moore and son; Steve Creekmore and Steve Creekmore Jr. I know there were others, but I can't remember their names.

Then the regulars I can remember would be my dad's good friend Richard Hobbs as they grew up together living in the same area near Fort Smith Country Club. Richard pumped gas at the family's Skelly station on 11th Street, now known as Midland Boulevard. From 10 until he retired around 70, he was well known for his honest auto service, doing a lot for the older people in Fort Smith.

Some others that were regulars were Carl Robbins, Herman Hoff, Terry and Rosemary Hill, Carroll Allison, John Laws, Howard Kelly, Jim Reynolds, Carl Wortz, Louis Wineberger, Ben I. Mayo, Fred Laddage, Lowell Perry and Lawrence Henderson.

Then, along came John D. Yutterman who was in the grocery business. After a few beers, John was ready to take on the best. Walter Moorman and Vincent Allison were the ones he was ready to take with some crazy betting. John D. was a gambler on anything. He won a lot of money and lost a lot. He was the last owner of Rolling Knolls Golf Course when it went out of business in the 1950s. I wish I could recall more whom my father used to talk about that were occasional players.

Some of the top local players were Vincent Allison, Walter Moorman, Curtis Collier, S.W. Creekmore, Leo Byrum, but I do not remember many of them now.

One special promotion was a mechanical driving machine. A golf ball maker set up at the club that was in a trailer with a paddle wheel on the side. This hit their band of balls around 400 yards. That drew a lot of attention.

Guinness Book of World Records
There are two events that took place at Rolling Knolls Country Club that are commemorated on the Walk of Champions at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Petersburg, Fla.

PGA Pro Henry Helbling is the only man to eagle the same hole in four consecutive rounds in one day. This was a par 4, 323 yards, which he drove the green the first three rounds and tapped in for two. On the fourth round, he missed the green but chipped in for a two.

The second event involved myself in September 1939. I was playing golf with two caddies late in the day after everyone had finished. Hole No. 3 was a 135-yard par 3 over a creek. I was using a wooden shaft brassie (2 wood) driving the ball on to the green and it rolled into the cup for a hole in one. I didn't realize what that meant at the time because people had holes in one now and then. However, they were not 5 years old. The importance of this did not register with me until in the 1990s a fellow in England's 5-year-old son had a hole in one. He was claiming this was a world record and he was trying to make money from it. I contacted the Guinness World Record people about this. They said they did not keep records of juveniles before 1975. As far as they knew, mine was the first, plus I was younger by three months, so I was 38 years ahead of the second 5-year-old. Then, if I remember correctly, in 2002, a 3-year-old was credited as being the youngest at 30 yards. (This is not a standard hole). They had the kid go 90 feet from a practice green hitting balls until one finally went in. I told the Guinness people that they need to have restrictions on what can be classified as a legal hole-in-one or next they'll be gettting claims from Putt-Putt golf. If they count the 3-year-old, I still held the record for 63 years. If not, I still hold the record, but what real value is that?

The caddies were a major part of golf up to the mid-1940s at most golf courses. After World War II, the pull carts had a strong grip on golfers because of the shortage of caddies. Then came the power golf carts and that pretty well finished off caddies except at a few special golf courses.

At Rolling Knolls, we had caddies ranging from around 10 to 40 years. The caddies hung out on the south side of the clubhouse. There were about four or five large cedar trees during the general's time. This was where outdoor socials were held. Lanterns were hung in the trees and musicians were brought in to entertain. However, the atmosphere was somewhat different with the caddies. This area was used for pitching pennies, dice, horseshoes and cards, etc. Nothing was worthwhile unless you could bet on it.

The other form of entertainment was finding ways to get me in trouble at which they became skilled. They found when I was 4 or 5 that they could bet me a nickel as to whether I would not do something and get me going. I had learned from them the value of money as they taught me how many nickels it would take to get a Butterfinger or a Coke. The old favorite of the caddies was was a Coke with a package of Tom's Peanuts poured into it.

When I was 5, they came up with a really bit bet. They bet me a quarter I would not smoke one of my Dad's cigars. He would toss a cigar out the window or door when he was finished with it. I knew this would be worth five candy bars or Cokes. I didn't have to think too long on this. So, the next one that came out the side window, I waited a little bit, then very cautiously went over, picked up the cigar butt, went around to the back of the clubhouse. I leaned up against the building where Mom wouldn't see me from the second floor. However, I had not counted on her opening the upstairs window and leaning out to see me puffing away. Upstairs I went for the spanking. The caddies were all laughing as they seemed to think that was well worth a quarter.

When I came back out, the caddies had a field day teasing me, then one of the caddies had a bright idea.

"Bet you ain't got the guts to do that again for another quarter." Then my bright mind took over, Mom would never think I would try that again, right? So, I tried it one more time, but this time I carried it out behind a big tree where she could not see me. Then, from the upstairs window, Mom started calling for me, so I dropped the cigar out of her sight. I thought I was going to be OK. However, one of the caddies hollered back at her, "He's over there behind the tree smoking a cigar." I guess he wanted me to earn that quarter so back upstairs.