Saturday, January 03, 2009

Al Capone the Golfer, Is that a Golf Driver or a Tommy Gun?

MOB boss Al Capone used Scottish caddies to improve his golf - and hid guns with his clubs.

The infamous gangster - known as Scarface - hired bagmen and professional players from the home of golf when he ruled the streets of Chicago in the 1920s and 30s.

Capone ran his criminal empire at a time when Scots were flooding America and pioneering the game there. And the mobster - whose racketeering during the Prohibition era involved illegal booze, gambling and prostitution - made sure some of them joined up to 20 henchmen on the course for the weekly rounds at "his" Chicago clubs.

A new book reveals that Capone and members of his outfit hid tommy guns and revolvers in the Scots' golf bags.

Billy KayThe Scottish World: A Journey Into the Scottish Diaspora, author of The Scottish World: A Journey Into the Scottish Diaspora, studied the role Scots played in US golfing history.

The historian said: "Scottish professionals profoundly influenced the development of American golf.

"During the boom period, nearly all the professionals and caddies at burgeoning clubs all over the States were Scots.

"Every city had gangsters but the country clubs were built and financed by the social elite and gangsters were not allowed near. "But Chicago was a unique set-up. Al Capone and his gang ran the golf clubs in Chicago.

"There, mobsters like Capone drew protection money from the country clubs and they had access to the golf courses.

"Capone would have thought of himself as part of the elite and used the Scots pros and caddies. He would have needed protection around him and they concealed their machine guns in their golf bags."

Bruce Oswald's dad Roland emigrated to Chicago as a golf pro in 1927. The Scot told how his father took mob money after finding it lying on a golf course.

Bruce explained: "One of the courses he worked at had some notorious members. "And their golf bags came equipped with more than clubs. Caddies were expected to carry around certain weapons.

"We are talking machine guns and other side arms. These were high rollers, people with a lot of cash.

"One morning, my father was out playing and he and the caddie looked down and found a huge wad of dollar bills in large denominations. The guy in the tractor had gone over it.

"He said, 'There wasn't anyone in front of us at the time, I didn't know whose it was and I knew if I told anybody that would be more trouble - so we split the bills'."

Capone was behind one of the most notorious gangland killings of the 20th century - the 1929 St Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago. Seven members of crime rival "Bugs" Moran's gang were slaughtered. And the guns and police uniforms used by Capone's thugs to dupe their rivals are said to have been buried at Burnham Woods Golf Course in Chicago.

Capone is said to have played there up to twice a week. His usual partner was Jack "Machine Gun" McGurn, the main architect of the St Valentine's Day massacre. He would also be joined by the hitman Sam "Golf Bag" Hunt, who liked to track victims with a shotgun in a golf bag.

Once, Capone is said to have taken a shot in the leg from a revolver hidden in a bag and was in hospital for a week.

Thanks to George Mair

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