AUTHOR : ELDRIDGE MILES
Affectionately, known as "Big E," Eldridge Miles has spent more than 50 years as a PGA professional in Dallas. He's been the head professional at Dallas County Club, Bent Tree Country Club and Gleneagles Country Club. In 1978, he was the first recipient of the PGA of America/Sports Illustrated Merchandiser of the Year.
A personal friend and playing partner of Ben Hogan for 20 years, Big E has given golf lessons to the likes of Tom Landry, Roger Staubach, Don Meredith, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Dan Reeves and Yogi Berra.
In the winter of 1957, I was in Miami working on my golf game. Since I was so close to Cuba and had never been there, I decided to spend a couple days in Havana.
I had heard about how many of the Las Vegas casinos had moved there and the strip was something to see.
I got there safely and I checked into a hotel downtown. It turns out I was only two blocks from the mansion of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.
After I got settled in my room I went down to the hotel bar. I had a drink, then returned to my room. When I got there, I saw that my clothes were spread all over the bed and the lining of my suitcase had been cut out. This was my wakeup call that the rumors about Fidel Castro attempting to remove Batista from power were real.
Nothing was taken from my suitcase, but it told me that I was under surveillance. I was alarmed, but I wasn't about to complain about this to the hotel staff! I knew they were watching me (and probably everyone else there, too).
That afternoon, I took a nap before I planned to visit the Las Vegas-like strip, which was beautiful and wide open for gambling. I wasn't asleep long before I awoke to machine gun fire and bombs bursting outside. My room had a nice balcony, and I stood there and watched as Castro's guerillas attacked Batista's mansion.
Two yellow school buses of guerilla warriors had crashed through the mansion's fence. They charged the mansion with machine guns and hand grenades in hand. But Batista's men had the mansion surrounded with men on the roofs, balconies and everywhere. Batista's men just mowed down all of the guerillas.
None of them survived, and the overthrow was unsuccessful.
Even though I was close by and could see everything that happened, I never felt in danger. No one was shooting at my hotel. Everything was directed at Batista's mansion. I did have to stay two extra days in Havana because, after the attempted coup, the airport was shut down.
Eventually, I returned home safely.
Two years later, Batista realized that Castro had the forces and the backing of the Cuban people to overthrow him. In the middle of the night, Batista, his family and staff escaped Cuba via private airplane.
My short trip to Havana has been on my mind lately. Just last month Castro turned over the Cuban government to his brother, Raul. Castro has been in poor health and, after 59 years in power, he finally stepped down and allowed his brother to take over.
I'm sure the next 50 years in Cuba will be very interesting, especially if I could be on the balcony of my hotel room on La Prada Avenue. I wonder what the view looks like right now.