Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Match and "Caddie-Ass"

On Sunday, I made sure to come in at 7 am. I knew there would still be some people in front of me but at least there wouldn't be as many. Wait. Now I KNOW that crack I put in my milk this morning definitely jumpstarted my day, but I think it left something to be desired in the assumption department. Because I was definitely wrong. There were a crapload of people in front of me this morning. I was the 11th name on the list.

On this particular morning, however, the regular caddie-master was out of town and had somebody filling in for him. And for some reason, this fill-in really liked me. Not sure why. I certainly didn't offer him any of that crack. I had been selfish and just kept it all for myself.

So he hooked me up. He had me caddying in a member-member match. That meant there would be two caddies, and I would only have to carry ONE bag. Sweet.

But then I realized that BECAUSE it was a match and BECAUSE there were two caddies, the other caddie would NOT be reading any putts for me. I was on my own. So that sucked a little. But at the same time, I was really excited to be able to focus all of my energies on ONE player and help him win a match. I think today was the first day this season that I truly felt like I was on tour. I mean giving a player advice in a MATCH? It doesn't get any better than that.

First tee. Our opponent tees it up and hits a bullet down the center of the fairway. Alright, alright. We're not phased in the least little man.

Then MY player tees it up. A noble Englishman with an even-keeled personality and the wit of Oscar Wilde. I almost yelled out "You DA MAN!" when he teed off. I was so pumped. I'm ready to kick the shit out of the other team. Let's do it Mr. English. Yeah, that's right. Take your practice swing. You're awesome. Pretend our opponents' head is the ball and smash it.

Hold up. Better idea. Let's hook the tee-shot into the woods instead. No, really. I like that plan.

So maybe the first few holes didn't work out the way we would've liked. We were 2 down after 5. My caddying was flawless, of course. We weren't saying that much to each other, but I could tell he wanted me to say something to him soon because it looked like he was already losing some steam. My green reading had been dead-on thus far, but after he missed a 6-footer on the 5th to go 2 down he finally decided to let me in.

"We're two down partner. We need to do something here."

As I walked up the next fairway, I started thinking about what I might say to him. How could I get this guy to start playing better? Both of these player's were decent. At this point there were only mental hurdles that needed to be taken care of. So I took a step back and looked at the match as a whole. How was it playing out? Well, our opponent could make some good scores, but he was all over the place. He hasn't hit a fairway since the first hole and he's been hitting it into a lot of bunkers lately. My player, on the other hand, was fairly consistent. He was hitting all of the fairways and was at least getting it up NEAR the greens in regulation. He could putt too. So I started to formulate a pep talk for my man when he arrived at his tee-ball.

"So what do we have here Tom?"

"147 front, 159 pin."

Pause. I could sense this was the moment I had been waiting for.

"Mr. English, I've been thinking--"

"Yes?"

"When I was growing up I was always a consistent player. I never had a lot of really low rounds, but I never had a lot of high ones, either. Whenever I played in matches, I would drive my opponents crazy because I would be hitting every fairway and a lot of greens. I would just play my own game and they ended up making all of the mistakes."

Pause.

"Well, I only bring this up because you strike me as a pretty consistent player. Our opponent is not. He's not hitting any fairways today. I mean look at him now. He's in another bunker. Yes, we're two down right now--"

I love how quickly the caddie-player relationship turns into "we" under competitive circumstances. I almost feel like I'm the one hitting the shots.

"--but I say we kill him with consistency. I think it will break him in the long run."

"Alright, alright. Let's try it out."

And after he rolled in a 5-footer (after a STELLAR read on my part I might add), we had won the hole and were now only 1 down. MAN I love this.

On the 7th my player sliced it off the tee and left himself with a challenging punch-shot through the trees to get it back onto the fairway. So okay. Maybe he missed it when I mentioned the word "consistency."

"Sorry pard. I know you wanted me to hit the fairway."

You know what? That’s alright Mr. English.

And he hit a great punch-shot to bail us out. I mean sure, he ended up flubbing his third shot. But hey, we were on the green in four. The only problem was the other player. Our opponent was sitting pretty just off the green pin-high in the second cut. He was lying two.

Or was he?

Out of nowhere, he pulls a T.C. Chen and hits the ball twice with one swing. Now he was lying four, and his ball was still in the second cut.

My man ends up winning the 7th.

"Well I didn't know it was my birthday today."

Good. My man's gettin' in the opponents’ head a little.

That double-chip must've short-circuited a few synapses in our opponents' noggin' because he forgot how to play golf for a few holes. We ended up winning 8, 9, and 10.

We almost won 11 too to go 4-up, but Mr. English pulled his putt. But all was well. We were happy and I was talking trash to the other caddie.

“I’m tellin’ you Tom, all my player has to do is hit a fairway. You just watch. I just gave him a magic tee.”

Excuse me?

“Yeah. I told him on the tee (12th) that the tee I gave him was magical.”

You sonofabitch. Magic tees are illegal. Take it away from him before it’s too late.

But it WAS too late. Before I could say “chili-cheese fries” my opponents’ tee ball went straight down the middle of the fairway an flew a good 30 yards by ours.

Shit. Stupid magical tees.

Everything started falling apart. They won 12, 13, 14 and 15. On 14 my man looked to me again for help.

“You need to talk to me again. I think we’re in trouble.”

No shit Sherlock.

“I think I fell asleep for a few holes there. I can’t seem to wake myself up.”

FINE. GEEZ. Have some CRACK. All I wanted was to have my own stash for the freakin’ milk in the morning to wake my ass up. But here. You take it. Take all of it Mrs. Poppins. Wanker.

In the midst of that minor seizure I was just reminded of a random experience I had while working out west at a ski resort. I was working in a rental shop and some tourists from England waltzed in (because let’s face it, they don’t amble, jog or mosey) to rent some equipment. While I was sizing them up, one of them noticed that my shop puts names on all of their skis so that people don’t get confused out on the slope. All of these English-types started laughing at the idea of naming a pair of ski’s “WANKER” and they asked me if I knew what they were talking about. I had a vague idea.

I wanted to say something like: “Oh yeah. Doesn’t that mean something close to ‘fuck-tard’?” But I just decided to keep my mouth shut and see what THEY had to say instead.

“It’s someone who ‘tosses off.’"

To quote from Family Guy: “Listen freak, not all of us watch Fraiser, okay?”

I mean, I know what this English-person was referring to NOW, but at the time I was like: YOU’RE FROM ENGLAND. SPEAK ENGLISH. WANKER.

Okay. Glad I got THAT story off of my chest.

So back to this little match. We find our heroin’s sitting on a bench behind the 16th tee wondering where the hell our 3 shot lead went. Now we’re 1 down? What the hell.

“Well, I’m glad they’re going first.”

That was the best I could come up with.

But out of nowhere, my man woke up. Mr. English hit a perfect shot that ended up about 15 feet from the hole. All of a sudden we’re looking at birdie and a chance at bringing this match back to even going into 17.

Predictably, our opponent gets up and down and taps in for his par. Now it’s up to team "AWESOME" to bring this match to its knees.

Unfortunately, this putt was not an easy read. There was a little ridge running down the right hand side of the ball-hole line (sorry, I must resort to Dave Pelz to accurately describe this one), making me think the ball was going to be forced to go a little left the whole way. But, on the other hand, there is a lake behind the green, which of course will make the ball break a little bit TOWARDS the water and move right. So now you’ve got three options, all of which have a case. One, you could aim the putt a little right of the hole and count on that ridge to kick it back to the left. Two, you could aim a little to the left and hope that the ball does indeed follow that “always breaks towards the water” rule. Or three, you could take a shot of whiskey and say fuck it, let’s just aim right at it and let whatever happens happens.

Being new to the game of caddying, I had to fall back on previous experiences and just go with my instincts. My “infallible, astoundingly God-like” instincts that have only failed me about 86 times in my entire life.

So I chose to have my player aim a couple balls right of the hole. I mean hey, that was the first line that I noticed. You gotta trust your first instincts, right?

“You sure Tom? I think I see it moving left-to-right here.”

“Well it could, but I see this ridge on the right and I’m thinking that’s going to play a bigger role in the overall break of this putt.”

Sound, logical reasoning. Good job Ace.

So where do you think it broke? Right. It broke right. About a foot before the hole, the ridge flattened out and the ball broke towards the lake.

Oops.

Mr. English gracefully walked up and tapped his ball into the hole. I was peeing my pants. Here we have this great opportunity to square-up the match and I talk him OUT OF his first reaction to the line of the putt.

I hung my head and stared at the ground for a few moments. When I looked up Mr. English was standing there with an out-stretched arm to hand me his putter. He was grinding his teeth.

“Here you go.”

Damn.

Now don't get me wrong, I was still very optimistic. But I mean come on, I had to be a little REALISTIC too. I needed to panic for a second. One down with two holes to go. Whew. We could be eliminated from this match on the next hole. Where the hell is that damn inhaler when you need it?

Both players hit their tee shots in the fairway. Our opponent hit his second into one of the greenside bunkers and left himself with an impossible up and down. My player skanked his first shot about 20 yards and then hit his third just off the front of the green.

Then the impossible happened.

Our opponents' bunker shot was fairly horrible, flying about 30 feet past the pin. He had quite a lot of terrain left to negotiate. A huge undulation between his ball and the hole and a rather large side-hill to contend with.

Nope. It was no problem for him. He was able to stop the ball right on top of the side-hill, let it trickle down the dip in the green, and let it curve gracefully into the cup for par.

Now my player had a 15 footer from off of the green to stay in the match. And he missed it. Game. Set. Match.

The two players played the 18th out of courtesy, but I would’ve rather walked straight in. I felt so horrible. Man. Now it’s true, I have been trying to learn these greens. And I have had some trouble with remembering certain breaks, but MAN. I will NEVER forget that putt as long as I live. I’m sure that’s how caddies on tour keep track of all of the breaks on the all of the greens they see. It’s pure heartbreak. I’m sure there are situations on the greens that we as spectators (or if it’s the Masters, “patrons”) don’t get to hear about, and I’m sure many of them involve players or caddies bitching and moaning about the fact that, “Hey, remember this putt? We missed this to lose by a shot two years ago because you thought it was going to break to the right. Well it DOESN'T. You gonna listen to me now smarty-pants?”

I thought for sure that read on 16 had completely screwed me out of a tip. And if he hadn't given me anything at all, I probably would've understood.

But no. For some reason, it ended up being my biggest tip to date for a single bag. Way to be Mr. English. Way to be.

I did end up caddying for 36 holes, but instead of walking you through my second round (which would be boring because there wasn’t a whole hell of a lot that happened), I thought I’d share something special with you.

Now perhaps this information is a little more “behind the scenes” than you bargained for when you first started reading stuff on this site, but I thought I’d include it anyway.

It’s called “Caddie-Ass.”

"Caddie-Ass" is a phenomenon by which your ass cheeks undergo an intense state of fusion that will do any number of things to a man: some cry, some walk off of loops to seek medical assistance, and some men’s testicles are sucked into this massive chafing vortex without mercy.

In the afternoon the caddie I was working with alerted me to this condition and when he started talking about your balls getting severely pinched I started laughing. I couldn’t help myself. The faces he was making seemed more like awe and curiosity than pain and suffering. But he quickly corrected me.

“Dude, why are you laughing? It’s not funny. Wait till you get it. That’s when you’ll really know you’re a caddie.”

Oh boy. Sign me up.

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