They reveled in the insult that became their name. In the early years, they tried to live up to it. They never thought it would last this long. For 50 years, they have called themselves Cruds, and for 50 years, they have gone to Myrtle Beach to play golf twice a year, spring and fall.
A group of eight Hope Valley Country Club members went to Myrtle Beach to play golf in February 1967. That fall, they wanted to go again and went looking for newcomers. One prospective recruit was cut short by his wife, who found out who was going and said, “My husband is not going off with that bunch of cruds.” He never did go.
Russell Barringer did. He couldn’t make the first trip but went on the second and hasn’t missed one since. This weekend, he’ll make his 99th trip to Myrtle Beach with the Cruds, the group’s 100th. The next-closest member has gone 80 times. The youngest current member is 61 years old.
“We’re more of a legend in our own minds than anything else,” Barringer said. “We’re certainly well known in Myrtle Beach, that’s for sure.”
Forty-four different men have been Cruds. Many have taken their final trip and resigned. Eleven are deceased, although six of the original eight are still alive. They have played 292 rounds on 20 different courses, 228 of them at the Dunes Club, their home away from home for the past 30 years. (The Dunes Club will be closed this weekend to clean up trees downed by Hurricane Matthew. The Cruds can have their banquet there, but will have to play elsewhere.) Twenty-one plan to make this milestone trip.
There may be some other group somewhere that has made more golf trips together, but no one has ever claimed the title – not twice a year, every year, for 50 years – despite some modicum of fame over the years. They have been featured in Golf Digest and, this weekend, Golf Channel cameras will follow them around for a day or two.
“They’re committed, no doubt about it,” said Dennis Nicholl, the golf pro at the Dunes Club for the past 10 years.
Over the years, membership expanded beyond Hope Valley, beyond Durham, but never too far. It included businessmen, stockbrokers, lawyers, doctors, dentists, a mayor and a former North Carolina basketball player. They have closets full of Cruds golf shirts commemorating anniversary trips (Barringer ordered shirts and hats for the 100th trip), rarely worn in public.
Barringer became the group’s organizer, and still has the ledger pages tracking attendance and payment on the first 10 trips in a desk drawer bulging with 50 years of correspondence. He still handles arrangements, finances and bookkeeping – an easier task now than when everything had to be handled by mail and checks. In 1974, he bought a house and then a condo at the Dunes Club, getting them out of the old motel where they’d done enough damage over the years.
“It had been going on for a few years before I joined up,” said Jim Rouse, a retired pediatrician who became a Crud in 1974. “Most everybody in Durham knew about the Cruds. In the early years, they were sort of infamous.”
After 50 years, the stories go flying like divots. The Crud, who after a compromising photo was taken, insisted he had been in San Francisco the entire weekend. The over served Crud who slipped on a bathroom floor, smashed his head on the urinal and claimed he was attacked. (His partners let him bleed in the cart; they still had four holes to play.) Another went on a famous motel rampage, doing $365 worth of damage, no small amount in the late ’60s. They used to be able to hit 6-irons out the open doors of the motel’s party room, across the highway and into the ocean. There are condos there now.
Myrtle Beach has changed over the years, and so have the Cruds. They were all single-digit handicaps once. One or two still are. Some can barely play. Two of the original eight will attend this weekend, although neither will swing a club. One had a stroke, the other is on dialysis. Of the 21 going on trip No. 100, most are making a final, token centenary appearance.
“The days of chasing around bars in Myrtle Beach are pretty much over,” Rouse said. “We play golf, we go out to eat, we sit around Russell’s house, we reminisce for a few hours, we go to bed. For most of us who have been at it a long time, it’s sort of burned itself out. In truth, we’ve stayed in it this long because we knew 100 was coming up. That is kind of special.”
Saturday night, after the cameras are gone, at what will be for many Cruds their final dinner with the group, they will set 11 places for their deceased compatriots, as they always do. Next spring, a handful will return, as they always have.
For the first time, Barringer will break with protocol and invite his oldest son and a few other Sons of Cruds to join. They’re not exactly the flower of youth – Barringer’s son is 58 – but Barringer insists there be a 101st trip. After that, the new generation of Cruds will be on their own.
Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock