‘Nice Guy’ Vern Maddock always had my back

‘Nice Guy’ Vern Maddock always had my back

I know this isn’t the first time somebody said this, but I never would have done it if it wasn’t for Vern Maddock.

At about 15 or 16 years old, I was playing golf late one summer evening with my buddy Chris Campbell. We were on hole No. 4 when the two twenty-something guys behind us, one who was really big, hit into us for the fourth straight hole.

A ball went bouncing past Chris and me just as we were crossing the ditch, which isn’t all that far from the tee box. It was clear that the hit, like it was the first three holes, was intentional, and we had to do something about it.

So, I walked up to the big guy’s ball, dropped my bag, took out my 7-iron and smacked the ball over the fence into the field by the old Longfellow school.

That, of course, didn’t sit well with the big guy who hit the ball past us.

Both guys were way bigger than me, and I was way bigger than Chris, so our odds in a fight weren’t looking very good. Plus, Chris wasn’t exactly thrilled that I put him in this situation in the first place.

Luckily for us, Vern and his group was coming down the fifth hole as the guy was racing up in his golf cart to beat the snot out of me. I gave Vern a quick heads up to what I did and why I did it.

“Nice Guy” Vern, as he referred to himself, gave me a laugh and nod of approval, and he assured me that he had my back.

“Hey you little punk,” the big guy said as he caught up to me near the green. “You’re going to climb the fence right now and get my ball.”

“Or what?” I asked, knowing something he did not know.

“Or I’ll beat the (expletive deleted) out of you.”

“Yeah,” I said pointing toward Vern. “If you’ve got a problem with me, you’ve got a problem with him.”

The guy turned his head and saw Vern, a medium-height stocky guy who often had a crazed look in his eye, staring back at him.

Vern had his left hand wrapped around the bottom part of his golf bag and his right hand extended way out and holding on to the head of his driver, which was about 3 feet longer than the average golf club.

One quick look at Vern was all the guy needed to decide it was in his best interest to drop the issue. He went back to where I hit his ball over the fence, dropped a new ball and waited for Chris and me to finish putting out before hitting his approach shot on No. 4.

He never hit into us the rest of the round.

I had never seen or even heard of Vern fighting, but I could tell by his confidence and his swagger that he wasn’t afraid of conflict. I knew it was a very good thing he was on our side that night, and really, every night.

Vern died after a long battle with cancer last week, and that story of the night he had my back was the first thing that popped into my mind when I heard the news.

Vern was one of my all-time favorite people for so many reasons. If you didn’t know better, you might think he was crazy. Actually, you might have thought that anyway, but it was a good kind of crazy.

Yes, a very good kind of crazy.

I can’t think of a better way to describe a guy who avoided getting into trouble for not doing his homework at his Catholic high school by jumping up, yelling that he left his stove on at his house and running right out of the school.

I can’t think of a better way to describe a guy who took the spikes out of his golf shoes so he could wear them to his mother’s funeral.

I can’t think of a better way to describe a guy who greeted me on my first day of my summer job at the phosphorous plant by chuckling manically and saying, “Welcome to hell.”

Really, there is no other way to describe a guy who would build himself a driver that was taller than he was.

It was just Vern. There are no other words for it.

Vern’s supersized driver was built based on the theory of him using a nice, slow swing. He would let the driver do the work to hit a long drive up the center of the fairway.

It wasn’t a theory embraced by most golfers, but Vern was sold on the idea. There was only one problem: Vern was completely incapable of swinging easy with a golf club in his hands.

Even with the long driver, Vern would swing so hard that you’d swear he was going to screw himself into the ground. Then he would unleash a comical tirade of obscenities as the ball bent toward the rough.

Nobody could swear better than Vern Maddock. Nobody.

But, somehow, he did it in a way that was endearing. Vern was the most charming foul-mouthed guy there ever was.

I knew Vern for about as long as I remember, and he always felt like he was closer than just a family friend. He felt like he was family.

He always made me laugh with his vocabulary, blunt honesty and his unique take on the world, and there was never one time that I wasn’t happy to see Vern.

He would have me giggling like a school girl from the time he said hello, and I got to see him nearly every day of the summer back when Jack Crowley’s Highland View Golf Course was the best place on Earth.

Vern was a big part of the reason the place was so great.

Jack, who died in 2010, retired after the 1996 season, and the Muni was never quite the Muni again. Likewise, now that Vern is gone, it seems like the world will never be the same.

I will truly miss him and that one-of-a-kind personality.

And now I’ll have to think twice the next time I feel like hitting somebody’s ball over the fence.

— Bill Foley, who really is a little punk, writes a column that appears on ButteSports.com on Tuesdays. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. 3 comments

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  • Vern maddock
    November 3, 2015, 7:53 am

    Bill,this write up was spot on and I could see everything you wrote in my mind’s eye. He was one of a kind and the world won’t be the same without him,he was my superman. Great work and I listen to u and Paul every morning…thanks again buddy. Have a great day

  • Bill Perusich
    November 3, 2015, 8:48 pm

    Great article Bill! Vern I am proud to say was my uncle, one crazy SOB he could leave you standing there laughing your ass off and wondering what the hell just happened he was truly off the wall and thought way outside off the box. He will be greatly missed.

  • Ted May
    November 3, 2015, 9:47 pm

    Vern was a guy you were afraid to drive with, afraid what he might call you if he was angry at you, afraid according to Bill if he didn’t have your back. Vern was also the guy you most wanted to drive with because of the thrill, most wanted to hear him mad at you yelling in curse words you’d swear he made up, and Vern always had your back, and you knew it!. Vern’ s dad was quoted in a 1975 article with Evel as being ” a helluva guy”, well that about describes his son “my Uncle Vern”!


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