Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Defining Loop

I’ve caddied for a wide variety of people thus far. Doctors, lawyers, radio personalities, lobbyists, business owners, amateurs, pros and even some former caddies. I’ve met with my fair share of resistance (many of you have been there with me). I’ve been on the “pressure” loops where I knew that my performance would impact people other than myself, and those “other people” were counting on me. But even if you combined all of those “pressure” loops together, it still wouldn’t add up to the significance of what I had to accomplish this past weekend.

Sort of a dramatic beginning, I know. But that’s how I truly felt after I found out what my assignment was. You see, in the caddie industry, if the caddie program isn’t run in-house by the club professional or the outside staff, it is run by a caddie management company. If you’re the owner of a club, and you would like to have caddies available to your members but you don’t want to worry about managing the program, you outsource to a company like the one I work for and we take care of recruiting, training, organizing and selling the caddie program to your members.

Well I’m sure at this point there are several caddie companies throughout the United States, but 10-15 years ago there was really only one company with any clout. Even today this company maintains a long list of accounts—anything from Augusta to Sawgrass—and it is by far my companies’ biggest competitor. It was all founded by one man, and HE was my assigned loop for a two-day member guest. For those two days, I would be assisting this demigod of a man (known simply as “Jeff”) and his partner in five 9-hole matches at one of my companies’ other accounts in Maryland.

After telling me who this member was, my boss simply stated, “He’s service-oriented.” In the caddie industry (as well as many other industries I’m sure) this meant that I needed to take care of him. Hustle. Be in all the right places at the right times. So I started stretching and warming up for the big show. And then I started thinking: hey, if this guy felt so inclined, he could easily infer quite a bit about my boss and my company merely by observing my performance. The training I had received, my attitude on the course, even my appearance would be judged and graded by this man.

Needless to say, I was a little nervous.

But THEN I was like: FUCK all that. In the office, he’s the man. But out here, he’s on MY turf. I mean sure, I could caddie for this guy worried, shy and on the defensive, but I’ve just had a Full Throttle and I’m definitely feeling like I have some MASSIVE gonads. Today, I’m aggressive whether he likes it or not. In a way, this loop felt like a defining moment in my career as a caddie. This guy has GOT to be a good critic. He’s trained hundreds upon hundreds of caddies and knows my job inside and out. Now the question was: Could I show him something special? Could I separate myself from all those other caddies he’s trained and managed?

TEAM AMERICA, FUCK YEAH!

Almost sounds stupid, doesn’t it? I mean come on, it’s caddying. It’s not rocket science. You clean the clubs. You get yardages. You rake bunkers, fix divots, and repair the greens. Maybe you read their putts once in a while. It’s not a life or death situation.

Well, you may be right. But I felt like my company’s pride was on the line here. I NEEDED to step up.

SAVE THE FUCKIN’ DAY, YEAH!

The first day was so incredibly long I wanted to shoot myself in the face. Three 9-hole matches with breaks in-between. Why breaks? Well, the members needed to rest up and cram even MORE food in their mouths. And at the end of each break, the members insisted on comparing notes with the caddies with respect to the meals they just had.

“So…Caddie? What did you have for lunch?”

“Three slices of pizza and a diet coke.”

“Oh yeah? Well we had crab cakes, lobster, shrimp, cornbread and sweet potatoes for lunch. I’m stuffed. I couldn’t eat another bite if I tried.”

And you’d think the caddies would be pissed. But caddies are lazy. The fact that the members just stuffed their faces full of puppy chow just means that they won’t want to WALK for their subsequent matches. THAT meant the caddies won’t have to worry about carrying bags, and so THAT’s why when I overheard a few conversations about all of this food the members were having I saw nothing but smiles on all the caddies’ faces.

“Well sir, in that case…maybe you should take it easy. Ride in the cart for the next match.”

“That’s a damn good idea caddie. I’m glad I thought of it.”

Before I go off on another one of my irrelevant tangents, I suppose I should tell you a little about MY loop, since that is the whole point of this post.

First, there was the guest. Bob. Bob was from Queens. Bob had a “Caddyshack” hat on that said “Bob.” Bob was rather portly. And by portly, I mean that Bob had maximized the elasticity of his skin. Bob claimed to be an 8 handicap, but Bob couldn’t seem to make a par for 54 holes. So Bob drank a lot of screwdrivers.

Bob also liked to criticize my approach to caddying. I think it was because I hustled. In his mind, I was probably moving faster than he thought the human body was capable of, and so he consistently felt the need to share his feelings on that particular topic with the rest of the group. Like being faster than a golf cart? That was just crazy talk. Nobody needs to move that quickly.

And then there was Jeff. Jeff was the one I was worried about. When the member assignments were being called out in the caddie yard, I was almost embarrassed for my name to be called out because I was already well aware of the fact that Jeff was a great loop out there. He was a good golfer, very friendly, and tipped extraordinarily well. One of the untold rules around the caddie yard is that if your loop was lucrative, you don’t tell anyone about it because everyone else will try to take it away from you. But, since I was new to this particular yard, the rule for me was slightly different. I didn’t want any of the local caddies knowing who I was going with because they all KNEW that he tipped well, and this is THEIR golf course. Why aren’t THEY going with this guy? I NEVER caddie at this course. Why should I get the big tip?

Yes, I work until I’m about to fall over and I spent the last year of my life desperately trying to get caddies out on loops. But as far as these caddies were concerned, I’m an asshole for treading on their turf and I should just stay at home and pray for a slow, painful death. While getting sodomized by a Leprechaun.

And of course, without fail, EVERY caddie asked me who I was going with. And, without fail, EVERY time I told them (quite RELUCTANTLY I might add) they would pause, look at the ground, look to the heavens, a tear would roll down their beer-splattered cheek and they would mumble: “Well, he’s great. You’ll…have fun with him…all day.” And then they stopped acknowledging me altogether.

I couldn’t wait to get on the golf course. Away from all of the other caddies and away from any distractions. I wanted some special time with my players to show them what I was capable of.

Honestly, the first round was a blur. I was running as fast as I could (Forrest Gump would’ve shit his pants), dirt was flying everywhere and I was starting to go cross-eyed after looking at so many different reads on the greens. Surprisingly, my reads on the greens for the first 27 holes were all right on the mark. It always feels good when a member walks up to you after a putt and says, “Sorry I didn’t believe you. You were right on that read.”

Before I knew it, the first day was over with and I was on my way home with a healthy tip. But I still had no idea what Jeff thought of my caddying abilities. I don’t blame him though. The format of this particular member-guest was intense. Five 9-hole matches over two days. 27-holes the first day, 18 the next. 11 Flights (even MONKEY’S would consolidate) with 4 teams per flight. On the first day, my boys lost every match. We never had the lead, and we were completely on the defensive. I hate to use the word, but it did feel like the other teams were filled with “sandbaggers.” Our team gave every other team strokes, and they outplayed us GROSS, every time. And it’s not like my players were playing that poorly (well, Bob was, but Jeff made up for it and then some).

We were dead last (in the entire tournament…that’s 11 FLIGHTS of Orangutan fecal matter) by the end of the first day. So pulling into work for the second round was a little depressing. After the first day (all 14 joyous hours of it if you count the commute), knowing my players had no chance of winning made me feel like my job was pretty pointless. In some ways caddies can act like motivators, but after the first day, I had just about run out of encouraging words to say. Anything I said today would sound superfluous. That’s the one thing I’ve learned thus far as a caddie—you can bullshit the average Joe on the golf course, somebody who isn’t used to “yes-men” cluttering up their work day—you CAN’T bluff a successful businessman. He knows all the tricks of the trade. The sales pitches. The high-pressure deadlines and meetings and live-or-die decisions he’s had to make on a regular basis. Bullshit just doesn’t interest him anymore. He doesn’t have time for it.

To complicate my job a little more, by the end of the first 9-hole match Bob was starting to get very sarcastic with me.

“Hey Bob? You happy with that club or do you want me to run over real quick and get you something else?”

“Well I wouldn’t expect you to fucking WALK.”

Or the 10th tee after everyone had hit their tee shots.

“Ready Tom? Ready…set…SPRINT!”

Bob was relentless. He was making me feel like a jackass for running. And it really pissed me off. This would probably be comparable to an Actor rehearsing for his very first lead role every night for 3 months, waking up every other night at 4 am mumbling lines of dialogue to himself, having all his friends and family present during opening night and when the moment of truth finally arrives, just as the curtain comes up, some guy in the front row rips a loud fart and starts laughing. Bob was completely throwing me off my game. And again, I KNOW it’s just caddying, but I was trying to prove something out there. And not just for me. But for my boss, his company, and the caddie master who sent me out there.

So I broke the fourth wall.

“You know what Bob? I think you just cured me. I’m going to walk as slowly as I possibly can for the rest of the round.”

Then Jeff chimed in.

“That’s the spirit. Every caddie at this course is lazy. We’re used to that. Just relax out there.”

What a letdown. After all of my hard work the last 36 holes, it became apparent to me that all of this extra effort really didn’t count for much.

And then it happened. As their cart pulled up next to me on the final hole so they could hit their approach shots, Jeff finally spoke to me. The clouds parted, birds started singing, and somewhere in West LA R. Kelly was peeing on another victim.

“Do you run outside of work?”

“No…I—“

“Cause you’re fast. You’ve done a fantastic job. I’m sorry we couldn’t have played better for you.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry—“

“You should really work here full time. I hope I see you here again soon.”

And just like that, he stuck it to 2 feet and the round was over with. The tournament was over with. I cleaned their clubs, shook their hands, and I was gone.

Mission accomplished. There are so many different caddying styles out there. Some caddies make fun of their players when they hit bad shots, and the players eat it up. Other caddies don’t seem to do much of anything while their players rake their own bunkers, fix their own divots, and clean their own clubs. The players only ask that the caddie read their putts—because their reads are flawless. I’m just thankful that Jeff happened to like MY caddying style. Let Bob drink his screwdrivers.

And now I thank all of you for making it through another one of my posts. Take care.

4 comments:

Sean said...

Great story...

When I lived in Venezuela, there were no carts, only caddies. At our course, the caddies were all kids (like 14), and were cheap (like $5/round at most). We tipped the hell out of them, so they'd all clamor for our business (and you could tell that it was just like your experience when some got assigned to us).

These kids worked hard for their money! But I never remember them *running* around the course. Of course, we were walking, so there wasnt' a big need to beat us to our balls.

At a course here in Dallas (The Tribute), at a charity scramble, they assigned a forecaddy to each of the hackers groups and the kid they assigned to us ran *everywhere*. Craziest thing I'd ever seen. It was like 102* out and he was dripping buckets.

Do caddies here in the States *run* everywhere? Is it because they're assigned more than one person? (in Venezuela, it was one caddy to one person -- hey, it was cheap).

Jam Boy said...

I know at Augusta and a few other courses they limit one person for every caddie. But most of the time, I'm taking care of foursomes. Which is fine, because that means that the tips are coming from more than one person.

And as far as running is concerned, I get shit for that all the time. Many of the other players and caddies don't feel it's necessary. But for some reason I just don't feel like I'm doing very much for the players if I'm not hustling a little out there. Plus, I would rather the member feel like I deserve a great tip than have him reach into his pocket and just hand over the normal stipend.

Anonymous said...

GREAT POST! And very well written. You should write a story on tips.

What type of person tips well, what type avoids the tips. How your tip is not always contingent on your effort but other factors.

By the way, what IS your average tip per person or per round. We usually tip $30 per person for a forecaddie. Is that about right?

Jam Boy said...

You know, it's so funny you should mention writing a post about tips. I've actually been thinking about that for the last few days, trying to figure out for myself what might be considered a "good" tip or a "bad" tip just in case a golfer were to ask me. I'll start working on that.