By Anne Marie Tobin
They don’t make ’em like Reedy Meadow’s Bobby Baker anymore.
Baker, in his 68th season as a self-described jack-of-all-trades at the Lynnfield golf course, is a throwback to the glory days of golf when the workday began at dawn and wound down at dusk.
Baker and his wife, Toni, loved every minute of it. They live in a house that borders the 9-hole course on Summer Street.
“I never called it work, because it wasn’t work at all, it was my passion and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way,” said Baker, who celebrated his 80th birthday last August. “I lived at the course, first in the ‘cottage’ and then in this house, and I never felt I couldn’t get away from my work, because it wasn’t work, it was love, pure and simple.”
Baker’s love affair with Reedy Meadow (then known as Lynnfield Center Golf Club) began in 1950, shortly after the course had reopened after being closed since 1941. He started as a shag boy and caddie.
“What I first remember about Lynnfield Center is it was a sod farm during World War II until about 1950,” Baker said. “I was 12 or 13 when I started to work here. I helped roll the sod, and I shagged balls and caddied for guys like the golf pro, Rollie Wormstead, Ross Coon, Bob Hawkes, Freddie Best and Bob Davis. I also worked with the superintendent changing the cups. It was different in those days, when there were no golf carts so you had to walk everywhere. We had dirt tees and no tractors, just hand mowers.
“We finally got golf carts in 1960,” Baker said. “We got them for $1,800 each from Musinsky’s in Lynn; they were 3-wheelers. We had two at first, then started adding a couple or so after that every year.”
Born in Lynn, Baker moved to Lynnfield in 1949. He attended the old Center School and South schools before graduating from Wakefield High. “Back then, there was no high school in Lynnfield, so we all went to Wakefield.”
After a 3-year stint in the Marines, Baker returned home to work in his father’s business, Edgewood Oil, while continuing to work part-time at Lynnfield Center.
After his father sold the business, Baker landed a full-time job at the golf course for the Cox family, taking over as manager in 1965. He served in that role until 2005, when the town purchased the course.
1965 was a milestone year for Baker for another reason: He got married. Baker jokingly refers to his wife Tony as “the other half of the Baker tag team.”
Tony worked 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the pro shop after as the Baker family grew. Bobby and Pam were born when the family lived in the nearby cottage; Kevin was born when they resided in the Summer Street house. “They used to go duck hunting all the time. It was great place to grow up,” said Baker.
The children found the golf course was also a great place to raise goats, chickens, rabbits and even horses.
“People used to say, ‘This isn’t a golf course, it’s a zoo.’ When the goats escaped from their pen, they would jump all over the golf carts, sometimes even the people,” Baker said. “Chickens used to roost on the roof of the pro shop, waiting for doughnut crumbs. Once a goat got loose and started eating an old-timer’s cigar, the goat whacked him, then came after me. The old guy asked whose dog that was, (he thought the goat was a dog), and I just said the guy that lives next door. He didn’t know I lived next door.
“Back then, the course and the Danforth House nursing home were still going strong. The kids used to bring the animals there, so the old people who were out sunning themselves could play with them. It was a beautiful place back then, with lilacs and roses and beautiful gardens.”
Baker also worked winters in the early 1960s at Thomson Club in North Reading .
“I worked for Frank Merchel, their first superintendent, repairing all of their equipment that would get destroyed because of all the rocks. That course just destroyed your irons and, if I remember it right, the members used to carry ‘rock irons’ in their bags to use so they wouldn’t wreck their good clubs. They used to have rock parties there, when the members would go out and pick up rocks like they were potato picking.”
Baker has remained a fixture at the golf course since the town bought it 13 years ago. These days, Baker’s role at Reedy Meadow has been cut back due to health issues
“Bobby Baker is why this place is relevant, why people want to come here to play,” said current PGA golf professional Donnie Lyons. “This golf course isn’t the best, it isn’t the best-conditioned compared to some other courses, but people are here because of the way Bobby Baker treated them. He’s one of a kind.”
Editor’s Note: Bobby Baker passed away June 1, just as this edition of North Shore Golf went to press.