It’s been 40 years since I wrote about a high school golfer and and rec basketball player nicknamed Squiddly.
That wasn’t his real name but that’s how he was known at St. Petersburg’s Fossil Park among the pick-up basketball crowd. I was in that crowd many evenings, shooting and passing and running and listening to Squiddly.
Rifling through a box of old clips in a spare room recently I found a clipping from the April 27, 1979 St. Petersburg Evening Evening Independent sports section.
It remains one of my favorite stories from a very long career, one about a kid who was mocked and wasn’t rich but persevered in a rich kid’s game.
This was the column headline:
“Squidly’s The Name,
Golf Is His Game.”
And here is the column that ran on that Friday 40 years ago:
Most know him only as Squiddly. His real name and unreal talents are unknown to most.
The inelegant nickname doesn’t belong to a golfer. It belongs to a tirelessly exuberant playground basketball player. On the macadam basketball court at Fossil Park, Squiddly is a legend, known for his intense style. Some call it a non-style. Others call it something else altogether.
He was dubbed Squiddly because a friend said he plays as if he has eight legs. Squiddly plays an undisciplined and wild game of half-court, spinning and throwing up unorthodox 360-degree spins shots from anywhere this side of half court. To dozens of northeast St. Petersburg basketball players, this is the only Squiddly.
He has told them he is a near scratch handicap golfer. But to them all that is the ravings of frustrated basketball player. They don’t know the other Squiddly.
Away from that slab of macadam a hundred yards east of Ninth Street N., there’s another Squiddly. His name is Mark West and he’s a Northeast High freshman.
Those doubting dozens at Fossil may be stunned to hear that West is, indeed, as good a golfer as he claims. Thursday afternoon, on Bardmoor Country Club’s North Course, known as The Bully because of its toughness, West shot a five over par 77 to win the district high school title.
He finished two strokes ahead of Clearwater’s Steve Hudson. West’s 77 helped Northeast to win the team title. …
… His peers were still stunned by his victory. As they gathered around the scoreboard, rumors of West’s 77 began circulating. Some were surprised. Some said nasty things about the Northeast freshman.
“They just say I’m a hacker,” West admitted.
“A lot of people don’t like him because he talks a lot,” said teammate Kenny Betz.
Golf tournaments aren’t won on popularity. They’re won on the course. That’s where West won it, surprising not only his peers, but himself.
“My dad’s going to flip. Everybody at Fossil;’s going to flip,” West said as he rode back to the course to check on the progress of a couple of teammates. “Nobody’s going to believe me.”
The day didn’t start good or the 1979 district champ. He double-bogeyed the second hole. “I thought I never had a chance,” West said.
West overcame the shaky start as he’s overcome other problems. Two years ago he had a 28 handicap. Last June it was down to 14. Last August, it was down to seven. Now, it’s a three.
“I said to myself I was going to quit if I played bad today,” West said, displaying some of the pride which has driven him to work at his game.
Mark West won’t be quitting for a longtime. With Thursday’s victory he’s making himself a name. And the name won’t be Squiddly.
I have no idea whatever became of Mark West, AKA Squiddly.
I recall some of the other young basketball players at Fossil Park mocked him. I never did, before or after he became a district golf champ.
I Googled Mark West and didn’t found any trace of him. Admittedly, it was a cursory search.
I hope he is doing well.
In the 1970s I loved playing pick-up basketball. I know Squiddly did as well.
That kid is now in his mid-50s and I doubt he would play basketball as if has eight legs.
Congrats again, Mark, on winning that 1979 district title.