The last few days have been frustrating, depressing, and then somehow very positive. So at the moment, I don’t really know how I feel. What happened? Well, I guess I can put it quite simply: the owner does not want me to be a Caddie Master.
This really came as a shock to me. I mean…why not? Haven’t I been working hard? Didn’t I help you get the Ritz account? At first, I was definitely confused. How could I not be put in that position? Will I ever be in a management position with some long-term job security? What the hell?
But after talking it over with the boss and getting a little feedback from some of the other managers, I’ve realized that there are bigger plans for me. I don’t fully understand the full scope of it yet—because we are such a small company and the idea of growth is a foreign concept—but I’m slated to be a territory manager someday.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m flattered to even be considered for such a position. But right now, that position is nonexistent. Right now, our company isn’t big enough to support it. So it’s a little frustrating. But after giving it some thought, I realized that the harder I work and the more I can standardize the operations of this company to prepare it for growth, the faster I’ll assume this new title. It is a little scary when I think about it—if I don’t succeed with my recruiting efforts, management training and financial duties, this company will not grow, and I will not have a job. But I think it will be worth it in the end.
And there is so much going on right now. Half of my week is spent filling in for the other Caddie Masters’ so they can get that much needed extra day off. The other half is spent driving around to the different golf courses evaluating caddies, reading over 401k documents, writing about management techniques to help with the new management training program and then trying to find time to caddie. If I have the energy.
To add to the stress, my management skills aren’t what they used to be. Well, let’s be honest. It is entirely possible my management style NEVER really existed to begin with. But I was informed recently that I tend to think more like a caddie than a manager. Now, while that is a fair piece of criticism, I’ve had a hard time figuring out just exactly what that means. Is this even something I can fix?
(Plus, if I’m currently collaborating with the other managers to piece together a Management Training Program for future employees, I can’t be having issues with my OWN management style, right?)
Up until this point, utilizing a caddie mentality has really helped me through a variety of jams. People tend to give me some slack when they see that I’m working hard. The only problem is, when you’re wearing a nice golf shirt and kakis and are responsible for trying to work 30 caddies, hustling and trying your hardest to be everywhere at once simply appears amateurish and unprofessional. I’ve been told I look “inexperienced” and “out of control.”
Well that’s nothing. You should’ve seen me when my crack addiction PEAKED.
Now, in all seriousness, I do have a very good idea of what needs to be accomplished day-to-day, but I’m sure to the average observer I look lost. And probably a little hyper, too.
And that’s a hard thing for me to say. I feel like with the history of this site people know me as this bitter, tough, “been-around-the-block” type of individual. But unfortunately, when it comes to management, my people-pleasing tendencies rise to the surface and I come off as weak. I’m sure of it. And as a manager, that’s a horrible trait to have.
I think part of my problem comes from not being able to trust that other people can help me do my job. I guess I’ve always come from that school of “if you want something done right…” and so I just try to do everything on my own because that’s the only way I KNOW it’s going to get done. One Caddie Master told me recently that I need to “just take a deep breath and survey the situation” before I dive in and try to figure things out.
Well again, that sounds great in theory and all, but what exactly does that mean? When you’re working at a club with NO tee times and 40 people show up out of nowhere, it’s hard to take your time and look calm when all you want to do is dive right into the fray, grab some bags and start taking names. But I suppose now I have to try something else.
Another facet of my management style involves a “first-come-first-serve” approach with the caddies. Being a caddie myself, I know how much it sucks to wait around all day for a loop. I just figured I’d reward the guys who got up at the ass-crack to help me out.
Unfortunately, the result of my kind efforts is a higher probability of unsatisfied players. The fact that I’ve only pissed off one player here or there so far is just dumb luck. Here’s the problem: if I’m assigning caddies on loops simply based on the order they arrive, I’m assuming two things. First, I’m assuming that all caddies are created equal. Well we know that’s horse-shit. Some are great, some suck, some can’t be put with women, some are hung-over, some can’t read greens (ahem) and some just come to play cards with the other caddies. Second, I’m assuming that the PLAYERS are arriving in an order which will perfectly tolerate each and every caddie.
What I mean is, if the first caddie to show up is hung-over and the first player to show up is a party-animal who just LOVES war stories, the two will get along. But if the first player to arrive is a devout-Catholic-man-hating FEMALE and you use that same hung-over caddie, you could have a problem on your hands.
I hate to sound like an Econ-dork, but as an aside, that’s sort of how money evolved out of the barter system. People realized that in order for the barter system to work, a “double-coincidence of wants” needed to arise. Meaning, if somebody wanted to trade a goat for a few wooden wagon-wheels and the local Carpenter wanted to trade a few wooden wagon-wheels for a goat, a trade could be made. Otherwise, you were up Shit Creek without a paddle. Money was created as a medium of exchange avoid this problem.
Well, even though cash is certainly King, I think the medium of exchange in my situation is the attitudes of the members. The attitudes should determine the caddies’ selected. I can’t let the order of arrival set my sheet for the entire day. Now that I think about it, this is a pretty simple observation. But when you’re slammed and you just KNOW one of your caddies has been waiting for over 3 hours, it’s hard to tell him no. But I suppose I can’t feel too badly for him. If a caddie has an attitude problem and there are only a few members I can work him with, he has no right to complain if I have to make him wait around for an appropriate loop.
Man, listen to me ramble. I guess what I’m realizing now is why there are whole sections in bookstores devoted to Management Techniques. Hell, I think there are even Undergraduate MAJORS dedicated to that field. It’s a little harder than I thought. I miss those laid-back crack-smoking days of old. I wonder how my dealer is doing now without me. Probably can’t buy his kids as many presents during Christmas-time.
But tough muffins for that guy. I’ve got bigger fish to fry now.
Well, take care all. Let’s see how my schedule plays out for the rest of the week.
Monday, July 16, 2007
The last few days have been frustrating, depressing, and then somehow very positive. So at the moment, I don’t really know how I feel. What happened? Well, I guess I can put it quite simply: the owner does not want me to be a Caddie Master.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
As much as I hate to say it, I do not enjoy going to golf tournaments. And when I say “golf tournaments,” I mean PGA Events. Well, perhaps that’s a little too focused. I suppose I should define it as: ANY golf event where the gallery and $5 hotdogs are a factor. And yes, I do realize the novelty of attending such an event. I’ve just realized over the years that I really enjoy seeing as much of the action as possible. And to those of you who have been to a few golf tournaments before: wouldn’t you say it’s annoying when you’re watching a particular player and 4 holes over you hear a roar from the gallery? Wouldn’t it have been nice to have SEEN that shot live?
So I just prefer watching golf on TV. I feel like I can see more of the action that way. But today was different. Today I’d try to meet up with Ian Baker-Finch and thank him for the experience I had a couple weeks ago.
Saturday of the AT&T National. I’ve never been to Congressional before, but I’ve met plenty of the caddies who work there and I couldn’t wait to see what they had to walk on everyday. Because from the pictures I had seen, the course looked beautiful.
And yes, the course (which I think was the Blue Course, because Congressional has two golf courses you can play—even though I have no idea where they would FIT another golf course) is certainly well manicured, but I do not envy the caddies who have to walk it. It is very large, hilly and devoid of cut-throughs (areas where caddies could make up some ground and get ahead of their player(s)). I think the biggest reason why I felt sorry for the caddies was the crowd space. That extra 10-20 yards of rough that separates one hole from another can really add up after awhile. I’m not saying I couldn’t work there, I’m just saying I can see why I hear of so many complaints with the caddie program. They’re all tired and they just want to go home.
Speaking of caddies, I did get to see Stevie Williams in action for a little while. Out in front and hustling on every hole. I guess he really is “super-fit” like everyone had been saying. He even had Tiger laughing hysterically at a few points. No wonder Tiger pays him so well. Seems like a terrific caddie. At times people would shout from the crowd, “Yeah Stevie!” I was psyched for him.
Now on this particular day I didn’t arrive at the course until about noon. Right as I was about to pull into the front gate, I realized that there wasn’t any parking near the golf course. I would have to drive about 10-15 minutes away and be shuttled back to the action.
About 45 minutes later I was back at the entrance to the course, map in hand and ready to find the 15th hole. I was meeting the boss-man around 2:30 at the base of the CBS Tower. We would then go up together and see what Ian was up to. That was the plan, at least. The original plan also included a nice bottle of red wine to thank Ian for his glowing review of our service, but we soon realized that there was no chance tournament security would let any sort of food or beverage INTO the golf course. Oh well. I asked somebody nearby what time it was. 1:30. I actually had a little bit of time to take in my surroundings. I had entered the grounds right next to the 5th hole. Well let’s see here: what group is approaching 5? I looked up I saw a wave of people surrounding the 4th green. I didn’t even have to check the pairing sheet. Tiger was about to putt out on 4. I crossed the 5th fairway and found a good spot right next to the trail from the 4th green to the 5th tee. Let’s see if this guy looks as ripped as he did during the U.S. Open.
Nope. Guess the camera adds a few muscles. But he still looked quite determined to win. He kept his eyes on the ground in front of him as he moved. I smiled as I remembered that I had caddied recently for his attorney. What a small, small world we live in.
I would’ve walked with Tiger for a few more holes if it wasn’t for the massive horde of people moving with his every step. Every single solid spot for any sort of observation was already well-scouted out and taken. In fact, if you found yourself moving right alongside Tiger, you would literally be carried by a stream of people towards the green. It was just this big, sweaty, enthusiastic mass of people all jockeying for a good position before Tiger’s upcoming shot.
But I can’t really get pissed, because if it wasn’t for Tiger, this tournament wouldn’t have taken place and I wouldn’t have a chance to visit with Ian Baker-Finch.
So I pressed on.
Speaking of a small world, I ran into a caddie I haven’t seen in over a year. He was a part of my crew down in Florida. He must’ve screwed me over about 5 times before he left, saying he’d be back to work the following day but never actually showing up. Fortunately for me, his home course is now apart of the company I work for, and so when he screwed me over that last time I promptly called his home course and told them he needed to be suspended for being an asshole. The guy ended up quitting a month later. And after that, nobody had heard from him. It was just so weird running into him now. You could tell that he really didn’t want to talk to me. I think he was still pretty mad about his last month with the company. But hey, it’s hard for me to feel bad for a guy I was consistently trying to work. Can’t say I didn’t try.
So anyway, back to the story. I finally made it to the tower on 15, but spent the next 15 minutes watching players’ attempts at the par-3 10th because my boss hadn’t shown up yet. And by the way, the 10th hole is just perfect for a gallery. It was like an ancient Greek amphitheatre on grass. Granted, I had an umbrella and a 300-pound woman in my way, but I could still see where 75% of the other patrons were sitting and enjoying themselves. And after trying to visualize just how good the views were from THEIR seats, I decided to live vicariously through some of them as I waited for my boss.
Tiger missed another putt. I didn’t actually get a chance to SEE him miss, but the crowd keyed me in by releasing a somber “ohhh.” Upon hearing her mating call, the woman in front of me finally moved. At least now I was able to catch a decent view of Tiger looking pissed as he walked off of the back of the green. At least I didn’t miss that.
Then I saw my boss. He hadn’t noticed me yet, and so I had a brief moment to take in how he was REALLY feeling before he tried to act all tough and pretend like it WASN’T hot as balls outside. He was huffing and puffing and literally RAINING with sweat. He raised a hand and wiped the sweat off of his forehead, and it literally acted like a squeegee as a pint of water hit the ground. Then he saw me wave.
“Hey, Tom. What’s up? Have you gone up yet?”
“No, I was waiting for you. I thought we’d head up there together.”
We both glanced at the entrance to the tower.
“Where are the guards?”
We both looked around. There wasn’t a badge in sight. The only people around were passers-by who probably wouldn’t have cared one way or another if we ducked under the rope and went up. For a moment we considered making a break for it, but we didn’t want to inadvertently piss anyone off and risk being kicked off of the golf course.
Finally, my boss spotted a guy with a “CBS Sports” logo on his golf shirt.
“Are you in charge here?”
“Umm…maybe…what can I do for you?”
“Ian told us we could just go right up and see him, but we didn’t want to just barge up there without anyone knowing about it.”
“Oh. Sure. Let me just check and make sure he’s up there.”
We didn’t have to wait long.
“Yeah, he said it was fine. Just head right on up. But try to be quiet, because he could very well be on the air.”
And so we ducked under the rope and made our way up the tree-fort-like TV Tower. One thing that kept running through my mind on the way up was: we didn’t even give him our names. He has no idea who is coming up to greet him. Part of me thought that was pretty cool, because that meant he was generous with his invites. But then another part of me started to worry that somehow the open-ended invite might mean that he really didn’t care that we were there. Now, I would understand, because he’s announcing LIVE and he definitely needs to keep his mind on more important things. But I guess I was just hoping the euphoric, elated feeling I had left the golf course with two weeks ago had followed me to Ian’s booth.
As we neared the top, a tarp flap hung over the staircase, forcing us to duck and lift. This really did feel like a tree-fort. We tried to be as quiet as possible, not knowing what awaited us on the other side.
There were three people up top: the camera-guy, a “statistician,” and Ian Baker-Finch. Ian and the guy next to him both had on headsets and were looking through the plastic window on their cubicle-esque desk to see Chris Couch tap in his par. It was kind of a neat setup they had going. To Ian’s left was a high-def TV with the live broadcast on display. Surrounding the TV were pictures of a couple of holes, pin sheets, course descriptions and post-its with all sorts of random notations. The man to Ian’s right, known as the “statistician,” was assigned to feed Ian all kinds of random facts and figures about each player so Ian would have some material to work from. The camera-guy spotted us.
“Oh, hey. You guys here to see Ian?”
“Well, go ahead. Tap him on the shoulder. He can’t really hear you guys right now.”
We both approached him slowly. It was like we were both afraid to touch him. We were like two med-students working with a cadaver for the first time.
Finally my boss sacked-up. The tapped him briefly. “Hey, Ian?”
It took him a second, but he remembered us. He smiled and quickly slammed his finger down on a button in front of him. “Oh, hey guys! Glad you could make it.”
“We don’t want to interrupt anything, we just wanted to say hello.”
“Oh, nonsense! Take all the time you want up here. Just try to be quiet. If I have my finger on this button here, that means we can all talk. If not, anything we say might be heard on the air.”
The button he was referring to is known as the “cough button.”
Then he proceeded to give us a bit of a tour.
“Now, here you go. Take this headset. Don’t put it on your head, cause you’ll go deaf, but if I turn it up here…there we go…you can hear the producer directing the entire staff as to how the show will go.”
We paused for a moment to listen. Over the headset, we heard somebody counting down.
I started looking around, wondering what was going to happen. For some reason, I focused on the TV. It was currently showing a nice background shot of the 10th green.
Suddenly, a digital scoreboard flashed on the screen, blanketing the background shot of the 10th.
“Go ahead, Nick.”
And like clockwork, Faldo started commentating on the leaderboard. Well that was neat. Kind of weird, but neat.
As soon as Faldo finished, they cued the screen back to some of the action on the course. They were replaying some of the great shots of the day so far. Ian hit the “cough” button again.
“Hey, you guys hear that over the headset? Right there! You hear it?”
I looked at the boss. We didn’t know what he was talking about.
“There it is again! Faldo’s eating! Every time he’s not on camera he’s got something in his mouth! I mean seriously: lunch is at 12:30, Nick. Eat your lunch, and then focus.”
He took his hand off of the button.
“Hey, Nick? You eating again?”
We couldn’t hear the response, but Ian smiled and continued to give him crap.
“Well I don’t care if the lunch was superb. Stop smacking those lips. It’s annoying.”
And that’s the way it went for awhile. Ian would do some commentating, stop to tell us a little more about how he did his job, and then he’d turn and go back to commentating again. After awhile my boss said he had to go. So he thanked Ian and walked out. But I decided to stay a little longer. I mean hey, Tiger’s group is 3 holes away, and this was a pretty sweet view.
When Tiger finally arrived on the 15th tee, it was neat to hear Ian talk as I watched the play in progress.
“Here’s Tiger…with a 3-wood…hitting a stinger up the left-hand side. Perfect.”
Tiger had just placed his 3-wood about 10 yards further than his playing partners’ driver. After the downhill tee-shot, the hole moved back up a steep grade to a fairly small green. The tower was placed directly behind the green with a perfect view of each player coming up the slope. I was wondering if any player had hit the tower yet.
And just then, Stadler slammed his ball 20 yards over the green into our tower.
“I guess Stadler misjudged that one…but 20 yards off is a little excessive. That’s just inexcusable.”
Oh. So I guess it’s not our fault that there’s a giant TOWER behind the green. But hey, that means free relief for Stadler.
“And just look at this crowd. They’re swarming the green now…all trying to get a good look at Tiger.”
Tiger’s ball was near the back fringe so I felt like I was literally standing OVER him while he paced back and forth, trying to figure out which way it was going to break. Now, I knew it was straight. But that’s only because I had just watched 7 groups come through and it seemed like everyone was putting from identical locations. He must’ve looked at that putt for 5 minutes.
The crowd was deadly silent. He took the putter back.
Another somber sigh. Tiger missed his birdie attempt and the crowd started to disperse. While I waited for the movement to subside, I tried to find an opportune time to thank Ian. But he was well into the telecast now, and I couldn’t really find a good moment to interrupt him. So after about 20 minutes, I finally decided to force the issue.
There was a list of golf courses on a piece of paper to his left that I had been staring at for a while now. The list included the new Jack Nicklaus course I had just caddied on, and so I decided to use that to say my goodbyes. I tapped him on the shoulder.
“Oh, hey. You heading out?”
“Yeah…thanks so much for everything. I know you have some things to get to, but I just want to thank you for hooking me up with a new job. I hope to see you there.”
And I pointed at the course on the list. He smiled and nodded.
“Alright mate. See you there.”
Posted by Tom Collins at 7:09 AM
Sunday, July 01, 2007
There have been some extenuating circumstances recently that have prevented me from getting to a computer. I now have a new job within the company and I feel like I’m in the middle of a whirlwind. It’s going well and I’m having fun, but it just seems like everyone is pulling me away from my computer and out of the house these days. So this post has taken me about a week to complete. I apologize for the length, because this is not a quick read. I took my time with this one because it documents a milestone in my caddying career, and I really wanted to share it with you guys. So grab a cup of coffee, some lunch, or whatever else and relax. I hope you guys enjoy it.
Okay. So I guess to start out with, I should let everyone know about a “changing of the guard” that has happened recently with the management of my company. One of the managers has not been doing his job for some time now and the owner finally stepped in and relieved him of duty. I was slated to be his replacement.
I ended up saying yes to the offer, because I’ve decided that if I’m going to be in this field for a while, I need to try and cut back a little bit on how many times a week I work as a caddie. So starting next week, I’m going to be Caddie Master-ing at 3 different clubs, 3 days a week. I get a chance to meet a crapload of people and STILL get 3-4 days a week to caddie. Plus, I finally get health benefits. So at least I don’t have to wake up in a cold sweat every night, wondering if my crack-pipe does in fact carry with it a truckload of consequences.
So that took place a couple of weeks ago. I was a little reluctant to accept the job at first, because I had such a horrendous experience in Florida being a Caddie Master and I really didn’t want to experience that again. But the other Caddie Masters firmly believed that my new experiences would be positive. I would spend the next few days trying to psyche myself up for all of the new responsibilities.
Then on Sunday I walked past the owner as he was talking to one of the senior caddies. I didn’t catch a lot of what they were saying, but I did pick up on important key phrases like: “I can’t believe we’re going to get this opportunity,” and “I wonder what the course will look like.” I just figured my boss had an opportunity to play a new golf course. I just dismissed it. Good for him.
Ten minutes later while I was unwrapping one of the healthiest-looking sausage, egg and cheese biscuits I had ever seen, the owner came into the caddie room and addressed the Caddie Master.
“Hey, make sure you know Paulie’s taking off Tuesday to be with me [the senior caddie he was speaking with earlier]. Tom, you’re coming too.”
Now I was curious. The boss-man walked out of the room. I put down my ever-so-fattening McDonalds breakfast and ran outside to see if I could catch up with him.
“Hey boss? What do you…you know…need me for on Tuesday?”
“Oh, it’s pretty cool. There’s a new Ritz-Carlton course opening up about 30 minutes from here and the owners are going to be playing it for the first time. They need some caddies sent over. I figure you, me and Paulie can take care of them. I don’t know if they’ve signed with anyone yet [a company to run their caddie program], but I might be able to use our performance as a sales-pitch.”
“Yeah. Do you know where the course is?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“Plan on being there around 7. We’ll walk the course and zap some yardages so we’re at least a little prepared for the round.”
So here we go again with another pressure loop. This time, however, the loop’s sole purpose was to help my company get another account. And as a recently promoted manager, I felt like the pressure was REALLY on to impress. To add to the stress, my boss would be caddying right alongside me. But, seeing as how he was the one who trained me to begin with, I figured that if anything bad happened, it wouldn’t be my fault. Or at least that’s how I tried to reassure myself.
On Monday, I walked into work thinking it was just going to be another normal day. Some water, a little fruit and a muffin. Then I heard something ridiculous.
“Hey Tom? Did you hear who’s teaching up at the driving range?”
“Annika Sorenstam. Apparently she’s giving a clinic for the big Merrill Lynch group that’s going out today.”
My mouth dropped.
“You’re fucking kidding me. She’s at the range?”
At that moment I realized I had to meet her. She has always been one of my idols, and I was nearly pissing myself. The Caddie Master came in on a cart.
“Hey Tom? Finish up your meal and I’ll take you over to the range as soon as you’re done.”
GREAT. AWESOME. THAT’S EXACTLY WHERE I WANTED TO GO ANYWAY.
I have never destroyed a meal so quickly in all my life. I was burping and farting as it went down. I was praying that the bathroom had some Febreeze in it so I could freshen up a bit before meeting Annika. Then again, do Swedes even shave their pits? Maybe the smell would attract her. I was torn.
So after diving into my locker to grab a bib and a towel, I raced outside to hop in the cart.
On the way over, I couldn’t stop verifying the information I had received.
“Annika is here today?”
“Yeah. I’m taking you over to the clinic now. You should be there for an hour or so.”
An hour? Oh my Lord. I’ll surely have to take a dump before then. Sorry about the smell, Annika.
“She’s really here?”
“Yes. What are you, deaf?”
I SMOKE ROCKS!
We pulled up onto the range and I saw her immediately. I couldn’t move.
“That’s really her.”
“Yeah. Her and Ian Baker-Finch are teaching the clinic. You’ll be with him today.”
“Yeah. Ian and Annika are going to skip around the golf course and try to play with each of the groups for at least 2-3 holes.”
I was way too over-stimulated at that moment. I needed to double-check.
“So wait. So…I’m going with one of the Merrill Lynch groups and I’m going to take care of Ian when he comes through?”
“No. You’re just with him today. Just him. Your job is to drive him around and help him make it to each group.”
Nothing against Ian, but I was a little disappointed at that moment because I realized then that my chances of meeting Annika were going to be pretty slim. There was no way Ian and Annika would be with the same group on the same hole. I would have to try to find another moment to meet her. So at that point I just prayed for an opportunity.
I walked over and joined a few of the other caddies watching the clinic. This was the first chance I had to get a good long look at Annika. She was shorter than I thought she would be. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I guess the media has just done a good job of making her larger than life. She had a very graceful way about her. Every time she spoke and gestured with her hands, it looked like she was conducting a symphony. Her voice was quiet and shy, and every time the wind kicked up we lost what she was saying. You could tell the mic-guy doing the audio for the clinic was just sweating BULLETS. I watched her hit a few drivers with that smooth, deliberate swing of hers. Just beautiful. Ian kept commenting to everyone about how much he loved her impact position, where her head was already starting to look up at the target. All three drives I witnessed were dead at her intended target with a little draw. Got me thinking about my own swing. Why oh why do I try to hit the ball so hard? Why can’t I focus more on tempo?
Then my attention turned from Annika to Ian. God he was tan. I think that’s why his eyes and teeth looked so white. And boy oh boy was Finchy a smooth operator. His knowledge of the golf swing just oozed out of his pores. The audience hung on his every word, and he finished off every sentence with an award-winning smile. As Ian and Annika started making their way over to the bunkers to finish up the clinic, the Caddie Master tapped me on the shoulder.
“I think now you should go over and clean his clubs. And don’t be surprised if he uses a rangefinder out there today. Last time I caddied for him that was all he used.”
Normally, I’d probably be a little disappointed hearing that news. I think everyone here knows how I feel about rangefinders. But hey, it’s Ian Baker-Finch. He can do whatever the hell he wants with me. Well, almost anything. I wonder if he smokes rocks.
Just as an aside—I know this is stupid, but for some reason I just couldn’t figure something out: Ian Baker-Finch. Do I call him Mr. Baker-Finch? No, that sounds weird. Do I call him Mr. Finch? No. For some reason that doesn’t sound right either. Should I call him Mr. Baker? IBF? What? I’ve never caddied for somebody with a freakin’ hyphen in their name before. Why oh why does this happen to me NOW? Why couldn’t this have happened on a day when I was caddying for some rich widow named Mrs. Golden-Trophy or something?
So I walked over and started polishing his Callaway’s. They were forged cavity-backs with steel 6.0 rifle bubble-shafts (didn’t know they made steel bubble shafts—I guess they could’ve just been fat shafts), and as I looked at some of the other clubs in his bag, I could tell he liked to keep all of his clubs in MINT condition (Although, now that I think about it, I suppose ALL pros would like their clubs kept that way). So I started scrubbing away, even making an effort to get out all of the dirt stuck inside the NUMBER on each iron. Just as I was finishing, the crowd around the bunker began to disperse and Ian started to make his way over to me. After a few handshakes and pats on the back for the participating players, we made eye contact.
“Hey, I’m Tom. I’ll be taking care of you today.”
“Oh, excellent mate. I’m Ian.”
“Nice to meet you Ian.”
Thank God. Ian. I’ll just call him Ian. He had a good firm handshake and a sincere smile to boot. He walked away for a minute or two so some of the other players could get in some last minute pictures before everyone broke away to tee off. But before long I had his bag on the back of a nearby cart and we were making our way down to the first tee.
“Any chance we could get some waters, mate? I’m sure I’ll be drinking like a fish today.”
“Yeah, it is pretty hot. No problem. I’ll be back in a minute.”
Now, I knew where every freakin’ bottle of water could be found ON the golf course, but I had no idea where any of the waters were in the clubhouse. That meant dealing with the food service staff. Great. And I’m not sure what all of you have experienced, but one thing I’ve noticed is: if you’re inside the clubhouse eating, the service is great. But as soon as you need even an ICE CUBE brought OUTSIDE the building, the service becomes snail-like. Well, here goes nothing. I found an outside staff member and asked him to radio in.
As Ian mingled with some of the more important guests, I saw a foursome materialize on the first tee. I, of course, panicked. I was sure that caddying would be a very minor part of today, and so I was still a little confused as to how I might go about “helping” Ian out there. The way I saw it, I was simply a logistics consultant, helping him get to as many of the groups as possible before all 10 of them finished 18 holes. So I found the Caddie Master and asked him if the group on the tee was where Ian should start.
“I have no idea what’s going on right now.”
Look, I know it’s a mad house around here, but I NEED you right now bud.
“Is that one of the Merrill Lynch groups on the first tee?”
“I think so.”
Okay. Well at least I know now that panicking isn’t out of the question. Ian glanced over at the first tee and then back at me for some kind of a sign. Should we be over there? Well, I don’t really know Mr. Ian Baker-Finch. But what the hell. Let’s take a risk.
“You ready Ian?”
“Oh yeah. Let’s go.”
Crap. Ian wanted water. Where the hell was food service? But just then the outside staff guy I had approached a moment earlier came around the corner with a cooler in his hand. I could’ve kissed him.
“Thanks so much.”
“You’re welcome. There are 6 in there. I filled it with ice because only half of them are cold.”
“Oh, are those the waters mate?”
“Yep, here you go Ian.”
“Great. Is that our group teeing off right now?”
“Well, let’s see if we can catch them.”
He grabbed his driver and ran over to the tee. He called out to the group, who had just finished teeing off.
“My wife’s been telling me for years I need to learn how to follow directions. Sorry I’m late.”
Good save, Ian. And that was the start of our time together. For the first few holes, I didn’t really say very much. I knew he had business to attend to, and I just wanted to be the grease that kept his whole plan in motion. He was in the business of entertaining clients. At least today. A little lesson here, some jokes there. And then there was the recurring question.
“So, Ian: if you only had a few days to live, where would you play golf?”
“You know, I’ve been hearing this a lot today. And most people have been suggesting courses like Winged Foot, Oakmont, etc. I have to say, those are all great courses, but they kick the living crap out of you. If I only had 3 days to live, why would I want to punish myself? I think I’d choose a course like Cypress Point or National Golf Club. Some place enjoyable.”
After seeing almost half of the groups, we stopped for lunch. And that’s when I saw her again: Annika. She was eating, signing autographs and trying to hold a conversation with 3 people at the same time. It was impressive to watch. I was pretty sure that if I ever tried to do something like that, a violent and gassy seizure would ensue. That’s way too much to handle at once. But she still remained very calm and collected. The caddie assigned to her for the day was standing next to me.
“So, how’s Annika? Is she great?”
“Oh, she’s fine. We’re just doing a lot of standing around today.”
Okay then. Not really the long-winded, enthusiastic answer I was looking for. But it’ll do.
I just stood and stared. Impolite? Yes. But her back was to me, and I figured hey, when will I ever get to see Annika up that close again? I wanted so badly to tap her on the shoulder and say hello, or wish her good luck, or ask her to marry me. But like I said, she had her hands full with the Merrill Lynch people and I didn’t want to interrupt them. I’m sure they paid her a huge sum of money just to show up, and I wasn’t about to take away any of their time with her. Then again, that still meant I hadn’t actually MET her yet. And as soon as I had that thought, she climbed back into her golf cart and drove away, riding off into the sunset. Which I thought was really weird because it was only 1:34 pm. But I guess it was just destiny.
At about 1:45 pm the sun came back up, yelled, “PSYCHE!” And Ian finished his lunch. It was time to get back to work.
After a while Ian started giving me free reign over his copy of the tee sheet. At the start of the round, he had the sheet in his pocket and would refer to it as he was talking to himself, deciding on his own where we should go and then telling me which hole to try. But by the time we had seen a few more groups, he handed me the sheet and gave me a chance to show him how useful I could be.
“So where are we headed now Tom?”
“Well, we have two choices: we can either play 18 again with the group who just finished 17 or jump back to 16 and spend a little more time with Mr. Smith’s group. We haven’t really seen a whole lot of them today.”
“Right. Back to 16 then.”
And after a few more quick lessons and a few more canned “I’ll see you guys inside for a nice cold one” responses, we were back in the staging area saying our goodbyes so he COULD in fact go inside for a nice cold one. Surprisingly, it was a very busy day. I really admired how well he was able to keep his cool even after all of those lessons and after all of those pictures. I mean we just FLEW around the golf course today. I think it would be impossible for anybody BUT a professional golfer to keep their head on straight and continue to hit solid golf shots during a crazy day like that. This guy certainly knows the business he’s in.
“Tom, thank you so much. Are they looking after you inside?”
Oh, yes. The tip. I had completely forgotten.
“Yes, yes they are. Please don’t worry about it.”
“Well, I had a great time. And I don’t care if they are looking after you inside or not. I want to at least make an effort to look after you. Here you go. Thanks so much for all your help. Have a cold one on me.”
I certainly will.
That was Monday. Although I didn’t know it at the time, Monday was actually the “warm-up” to the main event: Tuesday. Without exaggeration, Tuesday will probably go down in history as the greatest caddie round of my life.
At the start, Tuesday was a little crazy because I was headed to a brand new golf course and it didn’t really have an “address” per se. It was simply designated with a “star” off of a road I was only slightly familiar with. I think Captain Jack Sparrow had a better idea where he was headed as he jumped into the Leviathan’s mouth.
Amazingly, I ended up finding the golf course without a problem, but the entrance threw me for a loop. I was expecting a grand old club house and a lavish driveway, but what I didn’t realize was that the clubhouse hasn’t even been BUILT yet. It’s merely a drawing in somebody’s OFFICE at this point. So those two or three smaller white houses near the gate? Yeah. Should’ve stopped there. But no. I decided to press on and keep going.
About 10 minutes later, as I was driving around yet ANOTHER ridiculous turn DEEP into the 900 acre property, I got a phone call from Paulie.
“Tom? Where are you going? I saw you blow by the clubhouse like 10 minutes ago.”
“Oh crap. THAT’S the clubhouse? I’ll be right back.”
So I flew back down and around the course. I tell ya, if that place ever wanted to raise some money prior to the grand opening, they could always hold a rally race down these hills. Twists and turns everywhere and I could almost get up around 50 mph before I started to poop my pants. After dodging a few golf maintenance vehicles and missing a few forest creatures, I made it back to the temporary clubhouse.
Paulie had already grabbed a cart, and the Superintendent was standing by to guide us over to the first tee. The boss was running a little late, so we figured we’d go through the first few holes and then meet up with him as we made our way over to 4. I’m not sure if it was because this was a brand new course or because he was just a nice guy, but the Superintendent was fantastic. He told us a little about the history of the course, some of the tricky holes to watch out for and a general idea of how to get around. Then he just left us. I never would’ve thought he’d just trust us enough to leave us to our own devices. Then again, what could we really do to the golf course? It’s not like we had any Carl Spackler explosives handy.
The course is a Jack Nicklaus design. I’ve never seen one of his designs before, but from what I could gather from the website, the goal of the course was to try and imitate Jack’s precise nature. In other words, only careful shot-making and course management would be tolerated. And that description was exactly right. We were shooting various targets from the Championship tees (which would be playing around 7300 yards), and I tell you: you could NOT hit a drive any further than 280-290. If you did, you would run through the fairway into a hazard. Bunkers were well placed; the greens were the size of rare postage stamps and the thick rough and fescue were just unmerciful. If you didn’t hit every single one of your intended targets, you were fucked. I can’t wait to hear what the slope and rating for this course will be.
Now, from a caddies’ perspective, the course was impossible. The owners would later claim that this is a “walking course,” but I just can’t see how that would be possible when the average walk from green to tee is around 80-120 yards. For instance: the 9th green to the 10th tee? 300 yards, straight up a hill. The course was beautiful, yes, but you simply have to ride in a cart. Well, that, and snort bug spray. Those little bastards were just ITCHING to violate my tear ducts.
As we approached the 3rd hole, a cart was making its way down the fairway towards us. It was the boss. He had on his aviators (incredibly large sunglasses) and looked like he had just rolled out of bed.
“So what’s goin’ on boys?”
“This course is sick. Very beautiful, very difficult. I hope we get a chance to play it.”
“Well that’s what they were talking about over the phone. They’d love for us to come back. The even hinted that we might be able to play it today.”
Well, that did sound great, but I had a feeling we were in for a long day. There’s no way in hell I wanted to work for 6 hours and then be punished for another 3-4. But who knows. Maybe I’ll have the energy.
So there we were, Paulie at the wheel, me with a rangefinder and the boss-man shouting out targets for me to hit.
“What is it to that big tree on the left? How far is it just over the hazard? What is it to the front of that bunker?”
I was actually starting to feel a little worn out ALREADY. But I think we were getting some really valuable yardages recorded. The boss has been caddying for 18 years (not so much recently, but still) so you have to think that at least SOME of the obscure targets we were recording would come into play. I also have to say, that after seeing the golf course in its entirety, it will undoubtedly serve as a great training aid for any golfer who steps up to play it. It will force players to hit to specific spots. They have no choice. If they’re too long, their either in a bunker, a hazard, or deep rough. If they’re too short, they’re either in a bunker, a hazard, or deep rough. There are even a few holes where being on the wrong side of the fairway completely blocks you out from a decent approach shot into the green. At a quick glance, the course looks very forgiving, if only because it’s so big. But once you take note of some of the yardages, you’ll quickly realize how tight and unforgiving the course really is. My hat is off to Jack Nicklaus.
So with all of our recorded yardages in a little notebook, we made our way up to the driving range to meet two of the owners. According to the boss, today would be a fivesome: the three owners (two brothers and the father), the CEO of Ritz-Carlton, and Ian Baker-Finch. The two brothers were practicing at the range. As we pulled up, all three of us seemed to get out of the cart, take off our caps and extend our hands simultaneously.
The brothers seemed nice enough, but we quickly realized how business-oriented they were as a dump-truck pulled into the main entrance and came to rest on the cobblestone drive. The younger brother grabbed his phone and dialed a number.
“Excuse me fellahs. I can’t fucking stand this. Yes. Winston? Would you get out here please? There’s a fucking truck parked on our new driveway. I want the driver’s name, license plate, company name and a phone number. If he damaged that driveway at ALL, we are NOT paying for it.”
And, just as quickly as he had turned it on, he took a deep breath and turned his hardcore business-side back off.
“Sorry. I just can’t stand things like that.”
My boss quickly responded.
“No, I wouldn’t be able to stand it either. This is quite a facility you guys are putting together.”
“Oh yeah? Did you guys like the course?”
“Oh, and I spoke with a friend of yours yesterday. Mr. Big? You know him, right?”
My boss froze. Mr. Big was the owner of one of the largest caddie companies in the United States.
“You do realize we’re competitors, right?”
Insert awkward pause here.
“Oh, no. I’m sorry. I thought you two worked together.”
“Nope. I own a caddie company which runs 4 out of the top 6 programs around here. I’m not saying you need to do business with me, but I’d love to get a lunch with you next week.”
“Oh, yeah. No problem. I’d love to.”
“Alright. Well, we’re going to go back to the parking lot and start getting ready to caddie. We’ll be back in like 10 minutes.”
“Okay, great. Ian and Mr. Carlton should be here shortly.”
The boss perked up a bit.
“Yeah, Tom caddied for Ian yesterday.”
“Really? How did that go?”
“Great. Ian has no idea Tom’s here today.”
“Oh really? Well that’ll be a nice surprise.”
And then we took our leave. Back to the parking lot to get ready. My boss was already feeling confident.
“A meeting with one of the owners next week? Well, I already got what I wanted out of today. I think I’ll get out of here and let you two handle the fivesome.”
“Just kidding. I know you two could handle it, but I still want to be here if these guys end up wanting to talk business with me. Although, they might not want to. It sounds like Mr. Big already has a contract started with them. This may be a lost cause.”
Just as an aside: none of us knew this at the time, but the owners of the club already had a contract from our competitors on their desk, ready to sign, THAT DAY. There was almost no chance we were going to get a contract started with these guys for the benefit of OUR Company. But again, we didn’t know this. We were just there to caddie, and to hope.
Back in the parking lot, I felt like I was getting ready for the Super Bowl. I was taking my time with the sun-block, making sure to carefully spray the brim of my cap with bug-spray, talking with Paulie about some of the yardages we recorded; I even targeted a few of the trees nearby with my rangefinder to see how fast I could get a yardage. I found out rather quickly that I wasn’t really that coordinated with it. I couldn’t seem to get the laser on my target. Whenever I tried to click the button I’d twitch, causing the laser to neuter one of the nearby squirrels. Sorry little buddy, but you’re taking one for the team today. I think the biggest problem was that I had an older rangefinder. I couldn’t just shoot the flagstick and get a yardage. I had to aim for the base of the pin and hope that I hit a yardage close to what the actual yardage was. The only problem with THAT is, if there are any crazy undulations in the green between me and the flagstick, my rangefinder becomes useless. Great. Well, even Superman had to deal with kryptonite.
After getting water for our towels, we walked back over to the range. The two brothers had just finished their warm-up routines and told us they’d be back shortly with Ian and the rest of the group. For a moment or two we just stood and stared at each other. We were all anxious to get going. None of us wanted to wait around. My boss spoke up.
“Paulie, throw me a few of those balls. I want to get a feel for how fast these greens are rolling.”
Well, at least that’s a good way to pass the time. The practice green behind us looked amazing, and so we all decided to get a feel for speed. For about 3 minutes we were all focused and zoned in on our respective lines, trying to get an idea of how a ball might react on the course. After that, however, we stopped being productive. It wasn’t long before we all started lobbing balls across the green to see if we could hole out. We ended up doing that for 20 minutes. That was a long 20 minutes. I couldn’t wait until everyone got back.
Right when I started walking back to the parking lot to grab my crack-pipe, the fivesome made their way over to the range: the two brothers, their father, Ian Baker-Finch and the CEO of Ritz-Carlton.
I froze at first. For a moment I felt as though I didn’t belong. Well, either THAT or I just felt like I was plastered right in the middle of a Dali painting. This whole thing felt way too surreal. Mr. Carlton was riding with Ian. It’s like I didn’t know what to say to them. The golfers all parked their carts and sat there staring at us for a moment. Fortunately, my boss snapped me out of it.
“Tommy, get over there and introduce yourself. Break this tension.”
“Hey Ian. What’s goin’ on?”
“Hey, I know this guy! Tom! Nice to see you.”
“See, NOW we get to have some fun…no more lessons or schmoozing…just golf and good company.”
“Yeah, I have to say I was impressed with how professional you were yesterday.”
“Well, that’s how you can tell you’ve found yourself in a good job. You’re willing to put in the overtime.”
And with that, he offered me his signature smile and grabbed a couple clubs to start warming up. I turned around to find that my introduction had done a world of good. Now everyone was introducing themselves. Next I approached the CEO.
“How are you? I’m Tom.”
“Tom? The name’s Carlton. Ritz-Carlton.”
“Nice to meet you Mr. Carlton.”
Weird. I wasn’t nervous anymore. I had this strange feeling wash over me, like I suddenly realized that these guys were on MY turf.
I just met the CEO of Ritz-Carlton. I was amazed at how comfortable I felt at that moment, because you could just sense how powerful the guy was. His handshake, his chiseled smile and even his glare were Hogan-esque. If you were to run into this guy on the street, you would know he was important. He seemed a little distant at first, like he really didn’t have any interest in meeting me at all. And, well, I’m sure there’s some truth to that. But honestly, that’s the way I wanted it. I wanted a challenge.
As the group started warming up, I somehow found myself around Ian and Mr. Carlton throughout the entire practice session. I looked over at Paulie, who was already joking around with the brothers, and my boss was at the far-end of the group trying to get to know the father. After cleaning a few of Mr. Carlton’s clubs, I carefully backed away from their cart and made my way over to the boss.
“So how are we doing this? Who do you want me to take?”
“I think you should go with Ian because you went with him yesterday. Paulie will take the two brothers, and I’ll take the father.”
“You okay with that?”
“Me? Oh, absolutely. I’d rather take a backseat on this loop anyway. You guys are the one’s that’ll have to impress. I’m the owner. I can’t be the one doing all the work. I want you guys running the show.”
And with that, the fivesome finished their warm-ups and walked back to the carts. After an obligatory: “Are you on, Tom?” We all made our way over to the first tee.
On the way, I noticed a rather ornate sign with the letters “CH” inscribed on the face. Ian spoke up.
“What’s that sign for? The Clubhouse?”
Well, I guess that answers that question. One of the brothers’ answered excitedly: “Yeah, and oh boy, you should see some of the drawings we have in the office for it. I’ll show them to you when we get finished.”
I started chuckling to myself. Only a private club would do something like that: stick a $700 sign in the ground just to show everyone where the new Clubhouse is going. Wouldn’t a little paint on a stick suffice? Oh well. I guess if you’re going to build a private golf course, go big.
There were 9 of us in all: 5 players, 3 caddies and a cameraman. The camera-guy brought up the rear of our little procession, and he had even strapped down a ladder to the back of his cart in case he needed to get a funky angle while we were out there. And may I just say, this guy HAD to be on something. He had a permanent joker-smile tattooed on his face and from the moment we all met him till the moment we all parted ways, he never stopped moving. As soon as we arrived at the first tee, he quickly jumped out of his cart and bounced around the group snapping pictures of our every move.
To add to the confusion, once the brakes on the carts were engaged, everyone decided to talk at once.
“See how beautiful this is Ian?”
“Is that the green up there? That puny thing?”
“Yeah, isn’t it great?”
“You should’ve seen how much earth we had to move for the left-side of the fairway.”
And as they talked, they all started to pose. It looked like an old-school Madonna video. One of the brothers would carefully place his hand on Mr. Carlton’s shoulder, they’d both gaze heroically out into the horizon and one of them would extend an arm and point, as if there was something very interesting happening out in the fairway bunker on the left. But, the more they posed, the more photos that crazy camera-guy (who was driving a Benz by the way…ahem…can anyone say: “misappropriated funds”?) fired off.
After about 5 minutes of embracing Dadaism, they all got together on the tee box for a “normal” looking shot of the group. The three of us hung back on one of the other tee-boxes and watched. Then we had an idea: why don’t we pose as well? I’m not sure if this actually made it into one of the pictures, but the three of us put our arms around each other and smiled for the camera. Because even though this was a historic day for these fellows, it was also a historic day for us. We were going to be a part of something special.
A few minutes before the first ball was in the air the group decided that they wanted to walk most of the time, and that meant the three of us would be driving the golf carts. We didn’t realize it until later, but that was quite a gift. Driving a golf cart or riding on the back of one is the ONLY way a caddie can survive a loop at this course. For lack of a better term, it was a Bear.
One of the brothers’ kicked it off. “Would you like to know where to hit it Ian?”
The round had begun.
“It has always been a belief of mine that a good course designer shows you were to go. And as you can see, Jack has illustrated nicely that staying right is the best play.”
That comment threw us off for the first few holes. As a caddie, if you’re carrying a bag or running in front of a cart, it’s easy to show a little hustle and impress the group. But when you’re just DRIVING the golf cart? It’s hard not to look like a lazy asshole. All of the yardages we had recorded earlier gave us the credentials to offer some advice as to where a player might want to go. But now Ian put a stop to that. So regardless of how much we had tried to prepare by analyzing the course, picking out specific targets to aim for and calculating carry-yardages, we were back to simply being in the right place at the right time, yardage in hand. It might be a little difficult to actually LOOK like we were working out there.
At first it seemed like we had lost control of the group. I think as caddies we were just trying to do too much. We had never caddied together, much less under these circumstances, and it was like we couldn’t yet trust each other to do certain tasks. When I say “tasks,” I mean things like raking bunkers, getting divots, etc. We would jump on another players’ divot and replace it, even if the other caddie was just about to do the same. The term my boss uses for this is “over-caddying.” It happens when you don’t find a groove and can’t seem to get comfortable with the group. And until my bosses’ player—the father and part-owner of the golf course—skanked a few into the hazard, we were in danger of missing that all-important groove completely.
The fourth hole at this club is destined to be the number 1 handicap. It’s a long, downhill par 4 that dog-leg’s left around a pond. Even after a solid tee shot (280-300), you’re still left with 160-180 yards over a lateral hazard to a narrow green. That’s off the Championship Tees. Ian and Mr. Carlton both KILLED their tee shots and then followed them up with solid approach shots to be on the green putting for birdie. The father, however, ran into some trouble.
First he was in the pond. Then he skanked his third shot right into the fescue. My boss lost that ball. Then the father skulled his “5th” shot straight into the lateral hazard in front of the green. I had a great line on it, but the weeds surrounding the hazard were so thick that 1) it completely covered the hazard so I almost stepped onto a drop-off that would’ve meant my demise, and 2) you couldn’t even see the ground. I looked for a few minutes, then the boss came over and looked for a few minutes, and then the players tried to look. But it was no use. My boss had just lost 2 balls on one hole. He has always preached that the number one rule of caddying is to NEVER lose a players’ golf ball. I think the rulebook is out the window today, gentlemen.
But like I said before, I was grateful that the father had played the 4th so poorly, because it temporarily segregated my boss from the rest of the group. That meant me and Paulie could now completely focus our attention on our own guys and start to get into a bit of a groove.
That being said, now I had to pee. I quickly handed Ian and Mr. Carlton their driver’s and took off down the cart path. I had to find somewhere to go. That’s when I realized how well Jack had framed each hole on this golf course. There was nowhere to hide. There weren’t any trees or bushes to step behind. Those only came into play if you went into a hazard. So I pulled up along the fence on the right and decided to take the initiative. I was now the first caddie to ever take a piss on this golf course. I mean hey, if this is a day for firsts, I’m making my OWN mark on this golf course.
When I turned around, I saw my boss on the left side of the hole in the rough. I guess he had the same idea. He had parked his cart sideways and was standing behind it making his mark as well. The funny part was that he was still looking back at the tee-box, which meant he was still TECHNICALLY forecaddying. Now that is the mark of a successful owner. The ability to multi-task.
It was at this point in the round when the three of us starting working together. No more working separately or overlapping on duties. One of the brothers would launch a divot over in my direction, I’d quickly toss it back to Paulie as I was making my way over to help my players’ with yardage. While on the green, one of the owners would hand me their extra clubs, and after I had organized them for an easy hand-off, I’d give Paulie a signal and he’d start making his way over in my direction. As we crossed each other on the green, we would make an exchange and I’d grab the flag. While tending the flag, I’d remind my boss about the ball mark his player had made on the front of the green. As my boss moved to fix it, Paulie had just finished his read for one of the brothers, and I was already in position to tend the flag. Hey, it may not seem like anything special, but you have to remember that we never work together on the course, and for all of us to be that in sync and focused was quite a treat. I felt like I was in a ballet.
Paulie and I were able to score some more points with our players over the next 2-3 holes as the boss moved from a hazard, to some weeds, and then back into a hazard with the father. Again, not a great situation for the boss, but it really helped me and Paulie to focus on our players and make them feel like we could help them with anything they needed. There were even a few moments when I lost sight of my boss completely because he was down over an embankment sifting through fescue. It wasn’t until he slowly peered over the crest of the hill that I realized where he had gotten off to. And then, upon seeing that one of my players was about to hit, he quickly lowered his head back down and disappeared in the high grass. He reminded me more of a sniper than a caddie at that moment.
And before we knew it, the front nine was over with. We hopped on the carts and they drove us up that long, treacherous hill where a lunch had been prepared for the 5 of them. I’ve never seen anything like it. The tent that was set up for them was the size of a small apartment, and it came with a chef, a maitre d’ and 3 other guests to join them for lunch. They had propped up professionally-framed pictures of the golf course for browsing, and laid out a spread of gazpacho, lobster, shrimp, salad, 3 different types of wraps, potato salad, a variety of desserts and 3 or 4 other items whose purpose and origin are still a mystery to me. They also had a small bar of refreshments. It was ridiculous. The CEO sent my boss back over to the parking lot for some of the beers from his cooler. After the boss was on his way, the CEO came back and told me and Paulie that he actually wanted the ENTIRE cooler to be brought over. We were grateful for the errand, because we were both too afraid to grab something to eat unless our boss was present. When we returned, the fivesome sensed our anxiety and told us to please eat whatever we wanted. And so we just destroyed what was left. I think I had 2 wraps, lobster, a chocolate tort and some sort of avocado salad. I’ve never felt so plump. I was kicking myself as I swallowed the last few bites because I had forgotten—for those 15-20 minutes of flavorful bliss—that I still had to caddie. I started stretching and PRAYING I wouldn’t have to find a bathroom before the day was done. Meanwhile, my boss just sat in the background, unable to eat because he claimed his body wouldn’t be able to handle it. He said that if he HAD tried to eat anything, even a sunflower seed, he would’ve shit his pants.
Driving out into forecaddie position on 10, I was feeling very good about what we had accomplished so far. We had found a groove, the players were starting to rely on us more and more, and even the camera-guy was backing down because he had just about had his fill with pictures for the day. But now we had another variable thrown into the mix: unexpected delays for course critiques.
It started at lunch. I overheard one of the brothers ask Ian: “So Ian, now that we’ve finished the first 9, what do you think of the course?”
I honestly don’t remember his exact response, but it was very positive. And now that pandora’s box had been opened, the brothers’ felt more and more confident to ask Ian’s opinion about almost everything the group encountered.
“What do you think of this green?”
“Is this bunker big enough?”
“Do you like how the trees frame the fairway on this hole?”
And for a while, Ian was enjoying the enquiries because he has always wanted to get into course design. He told me that the day before.
“I just think playing golf, designing courses and having a good glass of wine with some friends would be a great life.”
Yes, that would be pretty nice. I wanted to get a little more out of him, though.
“Well, you’ve probably seen so many different golf courses by now that you have a good idea of what you really enjoy playing.”
“Oh yeah. I think designing a golf course would be a great way to express myself.”
So Ian was really getting into the whole “critique” aspect of his round. And on the 11th hole the Superintendent and a few of his assistants joined the group to hear some of these critiques and offer up some suggestions.
But prior to this spat of constructive criticism, I ran into a little bit of trouble on 11. The 11th hole on this course is a super-long par 5. I think it’s over 630 yards on the card, and it’s downhill the whole way. The drive down the cart path is even a little treacherous. I was going full speed, and at about 250 yards out, the cart path makes a short, 90-degree right-hand turn to avoid a 20 foot drop-off into some rocks. If I hadn’t hit the brakes in time, I’m sure I would’ve flown off of the embankment. I think they might need a guard-rail there.
So anyway, Mr. Carlton’s ball ends up in the weeds on the right. That’s where the boss was stationed. He finds it immediately and throws it back out into the rough. In fact, this was the beginning of a trend that carried through the rest of the round: my boss was going to make every effort to give these guys decent lies. Ian bombed his drive right down the middle, about 280 yards from the creek that guarded the front of the green.
As they pulled up, Mr. Carlton stepped out and looked to me for a sign.
“It’s just over here by the edge of the fescue.”
He sounded angry. Maybe I’ll steer clear of this guy for a little while. I had made a great find for him on 10, and I thought he would be in a good mood by now. But I think all of the course analysis was starting to ruin his enjoyment of the day. You could already tell his game was suffering because of it.
Ian bombed a HYBRID 250 yards right down the middle. He was in a perfect location to make birdie. But that’s precisely when my kryptonite punched me in the face.
Remember the issues I was having with my rangefinder? Well, the 11th pin was up front, sitting just BEHIND an undulation in the green. So to combat this, I decided to try and aim for a point just behind the pin. I would be estimating.
“How far we got Tom? Like 45?”
My rangefinder kept reading 62. I lowered the device slightly and looked for myself. It really did look 45. I clicked the button again. Nope. 62. Maybe I’ll just subtract a little bit so he becomes a little more comfortable with the number.
“Well, I keep getting 57 from here.”
And sure enough, he flies it right over the flag.
“Well shit. That wasn’t 57. Give me another ball.”
Then he sticks it to 3 feet.
“Yep. 45 yards. I can usually guess the yardage pretty well from this distance. You might want to check the batteries on that thing.”
No, the batteries are fine. It’s just old and I’m an idiot.
So great. Now he’s a little shaky with my yardages. That’s the last thing I wanted to do today. I’ve even heard of tour caddies who have been fired for screwing up a yardage. I mean, I guess I could see why. Every missed shot costs these guys money.
On 12, which is a 430 yard par 4 straight up a hill, Ian hit his first drive in the crap on the left. We’re talking HEAVY shrubbery. But I had a good line on it. I was on the right side of the fairway, and so I bolted to try and find the ball as quickly as possible.
This is a brand new course, so I knew that regardless of what ball I found in there it would have to be Ian’s. That was the only thing I had on my side. As soon as I jumped into the weeds I realized I was in for another challenge. Thorns and blackberry bushes started tearing up my legs. But as long as my movements were quick and I kept moving, I didn’t seem to notice any pain. I got to work immediately, kicking and sweeping my feet through the greenery. I covered one of my hands with my towel so I could tear through the thorns without fear of any scratches. But after five minutes of an intense search, I still hadn’t found anything. I still hadn’t even seen the ground. That’s how thick it was.
“Tommy! Get back over here and look for my man’s ball! It’s over by this post and shouldn’t be very hard to find! I’ll take a look for you. I had a good line on it too.”
So I ran back across the fairway and started looking for another ball. As I looked down, I noticed that both of my legs were covered in blood. I took a moment to try and wash most of it off with my water bottle, so as not to make my towel look “messy.” At this point, Ian and the rest of the group had made it into the fairway and were making their way towards the carts. Ian had already played another ball just in case we weren’t able to find his first one. My boss started yelling.
“Hey, Ian? You playing a Callaway?”
Somehow, he had found Ian’s ball. And that was amazing to me. He would later tell me that he found it underneath the weeds I had already trampled over. He used a technique he learned while caddying at Shinnecock—just put your feet close together and shuffle around until you feel something round. It was a phenomenal find, but Ian wanted nothing to do with it.
“I’m not going to play it out of there. You can just pick that one up.”
“Oh, I figured as much. I just wanted you to respect the find.”
Ian laughed. “Yes, I certainly do.”
Then he turned to me.
“So what do we have here Tom?”
I was currently in the process of trying to use my rangefinder again. But after a couple of unsuccessful tries, I put it back into my pocket.
“Screw this. I’m finding you a sprinkler head.”
Ian started laughing again.
“What does it say over there?”
“148 center, and that is where the pin is located today.”
And he sticks it to 10 feet. The Superintendent and three of his assistants were all relaxing on a bench behind the green, watching all of the approach shots. And that’s when our round got REALLY slow. On holes 12, 13 and 14 the Superintendent, the brothers and the father all bombarded Ian with questions about how each hole was laid out. At first you could tell Ian was really getting into it, but by the time we reached 14 Ian started finishing his critiques with: “You know, that’s what I think, but I’m not the designer. I wouldn’t listen to me if I were you. I’m just enjoying the golf course.”
On 15 Ian and I had a quick moment together I’ll remember for some time. Like I said, he was just being BOMBARDED with questions, and I felt bad for him. On one of the previous holes, Ian referred to a small mound in front of the green as a mistake. He felt that it wasn’t necessary. His exact words were: “Well, I don’t know what the technical term is for it. I suppose you’d call it a WART or something. But I don’t think this was meant to be here.”
So on 15, while Mr. Carlton was walking across the fairway to hit his shot and the brothers were looking for their balls in the weeds on the left, I decided to try and lighten the mood.
“So how are you doing Ian? Enjoying the course so far?”
“Oh yeah. Very nice. I just wish I could play golf and not have to think about anything else. But I’m a guest today. I need to put in my two cents when they ask for it.”
“Yeah, they’ve really done a nice job setting this up. But what the heck is with the floor of these carts? Did they armor-all this to make it look better?”
“Yeah, I think they did.”
“Well that’s smart. My feet have been slipping all day today. I can’t believe I haven’t been thrown from the cart yet.”
He started laughing. “Oh yeah?”
“Yeah. No wonder the greens look so shiny. Maybe they armor-all-ed them too. I KNOW they must’ve armor-all-ed that ‘wart’ back there for you.”
“Haha. Yeah, that was pretty crazy, right? I didn’t want to make them feel bad, but that just looked weird.”
“Well don’t worry about this green up here. When I saw it this morning, I told myself that it was the only normal-looking green on the course.”
Every other green on the course is super-small with undulations galore. This green was large and almost completely flat. It almost looked out of place.
“I think you may be right.”
Well at least now he was in a better mood. And the rest of the round went off without a hitch. We rode back up with them to the parking lot, hopped off and shook hands.
“Mr. Carlton, really a pleasure to meet you.”
“Yes, thank you Tom.”
“Ian, thanks so much. It’s been a great couple of days.”
“Yeah, mate. Are you guys leaving now?”
“Well, yeah, I guess so. Believe me, I’d love to stay and hang out with you guys, but I’m sure you have some important things to take care of.”
“Oh, okay. Well I’ll tell you what: I’m going to be announcing from the 15th hole on Saturday and Sunday of Tiger’s tournament. If you guys can make it over, just come to the tower and tell the guys at the bottom that you’re ‘Finchy’s mates.’ They’ll let you come right up. I don’t even care if I’m on the air. I want to see you guys there.”
“Wow. We’ll be there.”
Then me, Paulie and the boss walked over to the parking lot to change out of our bibs and talk about the day. Needless to say, we were all pretty amped. About 15 minutes later me and Paulie took our leave, and the boss decided he’d walk back to say thank you once again to the owners for allowing us to come. I can’t make direct quotes because I wasn’t there, but apparently the owners asked Ian and the CEO what they thought about our service, and they both agreed that we should be given a chance to run the account. And after my boss left, one of the brothers’ went into their office and tore up the contract they were about to sign with our competitors.
There are still a lot of things that need to fall into place, but I might be the next Caddie Master at this course.
I’m going to stop there, because in Microsoft Word this post is already over 22 pages and I think that’s a little excessive. But to those who have reached this point, thank you so much for reading, and I will definitely be posting again soon. This new job has just blown me away with all the new responsibilities recently and I’m still trying to ground myself. But I hope everyone is doing well.
Posted by Tom Collins at 11:31 PM
Sunday, June 03, 2007
I’m going to try something a little different for this post, because there are a lot of crazy things happening in my life right now and I’m at the point where I think just boiling down one of my posts into a Bukowski-esque form might just get to the root of my opinions a little faster. Who knows, this may even be a little easier to read.
I was also bitten by a “rather aggressive” Lonestar Tick yesterday while desperately searching for an errant tee shot and I’ve been a little on edge with fears of Lyme Disease (the “rather aggressive” part is a quote from a website that had a picture of my attacker). So I’m feeling a little poetic at the moment.
So here we go: an attempt to write like Charles Bukowski.
Sometimes Aleve just isn’t strong enough.
I find bruises
No idea where they came from
A social worker would cringe
From the sight
Don’t feel supportive right now
It’s a balancing act to stay upright
Maybe I shouldn’t have had that
But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel
A familiar face
A favorite player
An Argentinean from Miami
Three friends in toe
All avid in their love for this great game.
It has been months
Maybe even a year
But the member still remembers me
I suppose the feeling is mutual
I still don’t really know him all that well
But I respect him
He respects me
I feel obligated to caddie
Balls to the wall
Till I hurt even more
Poor logic, perhaps
But the company and the tip always make it
I’ll be with them for 3 days
18, 36, 18
72 holes of pure joy
It helps to silence my fears
Of a serious job
For the moment, anyway
Other caddies look at me
Like I stole something
Like I might not be worthy of such a loop
I find comfort
That I care enough
To know that I am not entitled
I am grateful
This player-assignment was not my choosing
I will not take this gift for granted
How could anyone?
Good golf and good money?
I suppose only non-golfers would argue
The member allows me to call him
By a nickname
The others I try my damndest to pronounce correctly
Although not that difficult
I try to show their culture the proper respect
So I accent the same letters they do
One of the players
I still have no idea
His speech was rushed on the first tee
I hope that before the 72 holes are up
I’ll have it
Not to foreshadow too much
But it took me 70.
The golf they were playing
Took the form of a Match-play Championship
Two-footers were not even close
To a gimme
Lockjaw was a common debilitation
I don’t know Spanish
I can only count to 10
But I could easily decipher
A missed putt
Caused the body to shake
The arms to reach to the heavens
And utter every bad word
On a school bus
On one occasion
After an important putt rocketed past the cup
One of the guests yelled and screamed
For a good 30 seconds
After a moment of silence
The member smiled and turned
“Would you like a translation, Tom?”
“No, I think I get the picture.”
Almost makes me want to learn Spanish
So I can be just as eloquent
When I decide to drop the F-bomb
Although I suppose
Would work just as well.
One of the teams dominated
For 3 of the 4 rounds
Was impressed at my own ability
In 95-plus degree heat
Reading putts that would
Normally make me second guess
I was Neo from The Matrix
I saw lines beneath the grain
The nods of approval
And pats on the back
Never felt so rewarding.
I wanted to do a good job
This was my favorite member
For no other reason
Than he respects me the most
I mean hell
I must’ve been focused
Because I did not even feel
The Lonestar Tick biting the
Out of my leg
When I was in the trees looking for
That errant tee shot
It took me over 2 hours to realize
That she was even there
Fears of Lyme Disease
Call into question my lack of
I think now I might be motivated.
By the time the last
Came my way
The forecast was for
And severe rainstorms
But they came from Miami
A little water
Would do nothing to deter
The last match of the weekend
The two underdogs still needed
I know I wanted to see it, anyway
I was hurting
My legs couldn’t seem to move faster than
A speed walk
My mind tried to compel them
But Mr. Lactic-acid had something else
By the 3rd hole
Visibility was poor
I could only see about
100 yards in every direction
The rain felt like the massaging jets of a Jacuzzi
Bill Murray’s famous “I’d keep playing. I don’t think the heavy stuff’s coming down for quite a while.”
Came to mind
I think for the last 5 holes they were carrying
The wind and cold had slowed me down
To an embarrassing walk
I didn’t want to let down my member
But he just smiled and applauded my efforts
As his cart fish-tailed off of the fairway.
By the time we reached the 14th
The match was over
My underdogs had finally won
Despite my poor reads on the greens
I just accept the fact that I suck
Don’t get me wrong
I still try
But let’s not kid ourselves here
For 54 holes
Believe it or not
I was flawless
But the last 18 holes were just ugly
Even had a few going the other way
It was surprising that they still asked me
Part of me thinks the member was just
Telling his players to trust me
They had to have known I was tired
You can’t fake running like Forrest Gump
At least I had more time to take a breather
And better scenery
Than he did.
By the end
They were all so grateful
Normally it would be hard to tell
But they spoke Spanish
They could’ve said a million things
Behind my back
If they didn’t like the job I was doing
I’m sure they would’ve stopped asking
But regardless of all the Spanish
The remarks on the side of the green
They still put their trust in me
For whatever reason
Regardless of how water-logged and tired I was.
I will always treasure
Those final handshakes
That last eye-to-eye glance before
A player and his caddie part ways
Never to meet again.
Posted by Tom Collins at 9:20 PM
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Yesterday I met quite an unusual fellow.
I was assigned to a group with four walkers. The member in the group wanted one caddie per player. I guess he wanted to impress one of his clients. I was assigned to this “client,” whom we’ll call Mr. Safari. I really want to call him that because he just so happened to be wearing one of those stupid hard white hats with the three small holes in the front, the sort of thing normally reserved for dirty men with mustaches running around Africa trying to blow away an animal with an elephant gun. He had one ball marker on either side of his brim, and they looked more like crown jewels than practical tools for a golf course. He was wearing a light blue striped golf shirt and light blue shorts, which only accentuated his manliness. And shoes? Why black Nike high-tops of course. What else would you use to round out a well planned ensemble?
His bag weighed a ton. My boss has this philosophy which he bestows upon every new recruit that walks through the door: there’s no such thing as a single being too heavy. Meaning, if you’re only carrying one bag for 18 holes, it shouldn’t matter how heavy it is. Over the last 3 years, I’ve modified that statement. I believe for the most part he’s right, but I’d say about 10% of the time he’s dead wrong. Today would be one of those times. It was a cart bag with Dangerfield-esque qualities. He had everything in there: a couple dozen balls, a few cell phones, a pair of shoes and 16 clubs.
“I really don’t want to take anything out of my bag.”
Is there any particular reason you feel this way? No? Do you LIKE being kicked in the nuts?
I looked over at the member, who seemed to be pleading with me with those big, puppy dog eyes. He wanted to please his client. So I took a deep breath and nodded. I wouldn’t want something as small as me changing a bag out to be the catalyst for screwing up a big business deal for this guy. I don’t think that would ever happen, but I just had a feeling I should pick up the bag and keep quiet. Then, suddenly, a hand comes out of nowhere and grabs two wedges out of the bag. It was my boss.
“I’ll just take these. They’ll be waiting up at the cottage for you.”
I froze. I looked at Mr. Safari to see his reaction. A long moment passed and then he finally nodded and said, “Yeah, whatever you guys need.” Well that’s just great. That’ll save my back a bit. I guess my boss had already assessed the situation long before I arrived on the scene and decided to help lighten my load.
Mr. Safari grabbed his belly-putter (with the cute matching light-blue grip) and said, “Oh, by the way. I have a rangefinder, but I left it on the range.”
Well, that’s too bad.
“Well, I guess I could—“
One of the outside staff guys butted in: “On the range sir? Whereabouts?”
“Almost in the middle of the range on one of the club-stands.”
“No problem. Be right back.”
Great. Please HURRY. I can’t WAIT for this guy to double check me on yardages all day.
Ten minutes later the staff-member returned with the rangefinder and we all moved to the first tee. It took Mr. Safari a good 10 minutes to make his way over to me and take his driver, because he was just too busy playing around with his rangefinder. It looked like he was getting yardages to everything. Yay! Let’s point it at stuff! He aimed at the beginning of the fairway, over the bunker, on the edge of the fairway, in the trees on the right and even at the porta-john in the woods on the left. I guess he wanted to prepare just in case his diaper didn’t hold out.
But the fun didn’t start until we reached his approach shot.
“119 to the front and 135—“
“Whoa whoa. You need to understand something.”
“I need you to say ‘watermelon’ before I hit the ball.”
“Yes. My swing can become jerky at times and I need to hear that so I remember to swing smoothly.”
“I’m sorry. ‘Watermelon?’ I don’t get it.”
“W a t e r – melon [backswing-follow thru]. It just sounds nice, doesn’t it?”
“I guess so.”
“My wife prefers: ‘margarita.’”
Yeah, I would prefer one right now myself.
So I gave it a shot: “Alright sir. Water-melon.”
“Thank you, Tom.”
Well that felt weird. I felt more like a dancing dog in a tutu than a seasoned caddie. This sucks. And of course he whiffed his next shot. How could he NOT. He’s focusing on fruit.
His third shot ended up on the green, pin-high left. As I ran to retrieve his “manly” divot, he yelped: “Wait. Tom? I like to have a club in my hands at all times. Could you please hand me my putter?”
“Great. And just remember: after every shot, try and guess what club I’ll need next. I want to hang onto that club all the way to my next shot.”
Wow. Holy fruitcake.
So I handed him his putter. I finished replacing his divot and ran ahead to fix his ball mark on the green. Upon our next encounter, he decided to allow air to pass over his larynx once again.
“Alright. Here’s the way I want this done. You start on the other side of the hole. Then, as I stand up from reading the putt on THIS side, I want you to stand up and switch spots with me. When I get up from reading my putt on the OTHER side, I want you to point to a spot you like. Then, I’ll tell you whether I like it or not.”
Holy crap balls in heaven. Just putt the ball already.
After a long, drawn out ballet which reminded me more of a synchronized swimming routine than a display of green-reading, I finally picked a spot.
“Okay, I like it.”
He lipped out, a squirrel farted and two of the members in his foursome were already over on the second tee. I had a strange feeling that at this precise moment, Ben Crane was playing golf somewhere in America and sensed the pace of our round. I envisioned him whipping out a Scotty Cameron and declaring: “There can be only one.”
Upon completion of the first hole, I ran into my forecaddie position on the second. I told one of the other caddies in the group about the whole “watermelon” request. He had his own backswing-follow-thru trigger.
“Go – FUCK-yourself.”
Not bad. Although, we both thought the follow-thru might feel a little rushed if that particular keyword was used. So I opted not to suggest it.
When we arrived near the green on the second hole, he already had his 60-degree wedge in hand.
“Where is this one going, Tom?”
Well, he didn’t want to go long. Anything short of the hole was perfect.
“Just try and land it on the front of the green and let it roll out. Anything short is good.”
He lined up and hit the shot. It was perfect, but the aim was a little off. The shot finished about 2 feet right of the hole. He tapped in for par and then approached me for his driver.
“Next time, POINT to where you want me to hit the chip. Otherwise, I’ll have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Quiet you! Otherwise Ben Crane will hear and come to kick us in the nuts!
But regardless of how things were going, I knew that he couldn’t keep this up. There’s no way a player—who is not a professional—can laser in yardages, debate them, analyze to the inch where to place the ball around the greens and look at bogey putts for 5 minutes without cracking at reaching an I-don’t-give-a-rats-ass attitude. And by the time we reached the 7th hole, I was right.
“How far, Tom?”
“157 front and 174 flag. Make sure you get it up onto the upper tier.”
That’s it? No other questions about the wind? The lie? The Bush Administration? Really? No rangefinder double check? Awesome.
And 83-88 strokes later, we tapped in for a glorious bogey on 18. He had been defeated 3 ways on the Nassau and had slowed down our round to a painful 5 hours and 15 minutes. We were slow? Yes. Was the bag heavy? Absolutely. But did Ben Crane kick us in the nuts? No way. And that was just fine by me.
Posted by Tom Collins at 5:30 AM
Saturday, May 26, 2007
For the longest time I have wondered: what does it mean to be a senior caddie? When will I know I’ve reached that status? Is it an age thing? I can smoke a LOT of crack before I pass out. Does that count?
Well, today it hit me: regulars. Look on any of the tours. Even though the caddies may be traded around and work for different professionals, they have all reached a point where they’re only working for one or two people in order to make a living. I know things like skill, dedication and hustle are all important qualities to have, but by landing one or two players and then keeping them around, week after week, I believe you’ve obtained “senior caddie” status.
I mean think about it. You cannot even HOPE to get requested unless you are able to perform your duties with a high level of proficiency. I don’t care if you’re Dave Chappelle. If you’re a funny man and your players are cracking up after every swing, that’s great, but that will not hold their interest in the long run. Pretty soon they’re going to get tired of raking their own bunkers, getting their own yardages and hitting their balls offline on the greens. I know of two or three “senior caddies” that have been yelled at by their “regulars” recently because they were not doing their job. I don’t care if the member is a huge Redskins fan and you happen to know every stat on every player that ever stepped on the field. Eventually, the players are going to wonder why they’re paying you.
Over the past 3 years I’ve had my fair share of requests. To this day I still occasionally go out with the same people. But for the most part, I’m a free agent. I’ve talked to a few of the caddies before about this and they all keep telling me that being a free agent is the way to go. They say that once you have a few regulars, there will be days when all of them will be playing at the same time, and then you have to decide which one to go with. And that can be tough. You’re bound to piss off somebody.
But I still think I’d like to have at least one regular guy. One guy that appreciates my service, but still just wants to get to know me and have fun out there. I can already see why it’s a huge deal when professional golfers and caddies split up. They aren’t married, but I’m sure it can feel like that at times.
“Why didn’t you caddie for me on Tuesday?”
“You needed to call me. You never call me anymore.”
“I call you.”
“Yeah, but it’s only when you need something. You never just call to chat anymore. That hurts, sir.”
It may sound ridiculous, but that really does happen. One of the caddies I work with was flown out to work for his regular in the Byron Nelson Pro Am this year. Five days, all expenses paid. Another caddie I know was working on his senior thesis and his regular gave him the keys to a penthouse in New York City for a week so he could finish his research. Those are just two examples. I could give you a dozen more. So while I understand some of the inherent problems with having a few regulars out there, I would still love to be in that position someday.
And then it happened. Or, at least I THINK it happened. Last Saturday, I ended up caddying for a member who usually only shows his face during the Member-Guest at the end of the season. He’s based out of California and doesn’t really get a chance to travel. He just split up with his wife because she was cheating on him. She also has a drinking problem. He’s a monogamous guy and doesn’t want to deal with it anymore.
I found out all of this by the time we reached the 6th hole. Honestly, I was flattered by his candid responses. It’s been about 3 years since I tended bar, and so I haven’t delved into that little aspect of customer service in a while.
“So where are you from?”
“California. But I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be there because my wife and I just split up. Oh, and how far do I need to carry this ball so it barely clears that front bunker?”
This guy transitions better than I do.
“Hit a low 145 shot to keep it under those limbs…and don’t worry…there are plenty of fish in the sea.”
Then, a perfect shot.
“Aww yeah! That shot was the tits!”
“Oh yeah. Because there’s NOTHING wrong with tits.”
I love this guy. It’s rare to meet someone who can go from talking about the aftermath of a recent divorce to laughing hysterically at a lucky shot from the trees.
I was pretty tired on Saturday and I knew how hard I would be working the rest of the weekend so I spared myself some hard work. But for one reason or another, I impressed this guy enough to get a request the following morning.
Now we’re on to Sunday. Now this wasn’t your normal Sunday of golf. Monday and Tuesday would be host to the main event: an invitational tournament where the best 4 golfers from each club would be competing for a special designation—sort of a “king of the private clubs” trophy. So Sunday was always an automatic double shift because of the regular play in the morning and then a barrage of practice rounds for the tournament in the afternoon.
I was really happy to be going with Mr. Sarcasm again in the morning. It was a three-way split, meaning I’d only be carrying two bags for 9 holes. That was phenomenal, because I knew regardless of the weather, a sudden pandemic or giant twinkie-people taking over the earth, I was going to be working a double. I appreciated the opportunity to save my strength a bit before the real work began. But one of Mr. Sarcasm’s guests was special. Not like…blue bus special. I mean he was borderline celebrity. At least in my opinion. I’m going to be very careful about what I say about him, because I’m sure he’d appreciate some confidentiality, but I just have to share this little tidbit with all of you.
He was Tiger Woods’ attorney.
Apparently he just got back from playing with his famous client at the K Club in Ireland. He’s in his late 40s to early 50s, about 6 feet tall, and makes fun of absolutely everything. I think Mr. Sarcasm said it best: “Baldy’s got the attention span of a ceramic dog.”
Somehow, that comment made sense to me. And yes, his real nickname is “Baldy.” Well, either “Baldy” or “Barney.” Mr. Sarcasm suggested I call him that because his golf swing resembles Barney Rubble smashing a rock with a stick.
He’s around a 16 handicap and hits the ball a mile or a foot in every direction. But he has a great attitude about it. He just makes fun of himself and everyone around him. All in good humor, of course.
On the 5th hole Baldy was looking for his ball in the left rough, but he was searching about 50 yards ahead of where the ball actually was. When I told him where his ball ACTUALLY was, here were the responses, in chronological order.
Baldy: “Crap! I’m an idiot.”
Mr. Sarcasm: “You know what? It takes a special someone to think they’ve hit a ball that far. I love your optimism.”
Baldy: “How much you wanna bet I put this on the green?”
Mr. Sarcasm: “Which green? There are two you could potentially hit.”
Baldy: “Oh be quiet. Fairways are for sissies.”
And it went on like this all day. The other caddie in the group must’ve said “I’ve got to write some of this down” to me like 10 times throughout the round. On the 14th hole one of the other members of our threesome was down on the lower tier facing an impossible putt. Really, his only goal should’ve been to get the ball on the upper tier, but instead he wanted a read.
“It’s actually pretty straight. Put it out about 3-4 feet left of the hole. Right here.”
“Yeah. And try to get a good feel for the speed with your practice strokes. Make sure you give it enough.”
Typically, players coming up from the lower tier do one of two things. They either hit the putt way too hard and the ball ends up over the green, or they get scared and try to finesse it up the hill resulting in a putt which rolls back to their feet. This player accomplished the latter. I spoke up again.
“Same thing. Not a lot of break. Just make sure you get it over the hill.”
Baldy chimed right in.
“DUHHHHH! Good call Tom! Are you a professional caddie or something?” He started laughing. “I mean how freakin’ obvious is that?”
“Well, he didn’t do it before. I just wanted to make sure this time.”
On the 15th hole Baldy found a caddies’ nametag in the grass. But instead of putting into his pocket or giving it to one of us, he slapped it on his chest and started yelling, “I’m CHUCK now! The guy has GOT to be a better golfer than I am.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell him that “Chuck” has Parkinson’s.
Overall, it was a great experience being with him. There were even a few moments throughout the round when he threw out his two cents about some of the players on the tour, their relationships to each other, and some factoids about Tiger’s mannerisms.
“Outside of tournaments, [Tiger] the guy is hilarious. Non-stop jokes. He’s really a great guy.”
Well, I’m sold. It’s nice to hear that a player like Woods is just as genuine and approachable as one would think.
And to top it all off, Mr. Sarcastic wants to work with me again. Granted, he’s not out very often, but we really got along well. So at least there are hints of senior caddie-ness starting to show.
I was a little surprised by the afternoon loop. After looking at the tee sheet in the morning, I would’ve figured the boss would just lob an apple up into the air and I’d catch it as I ran by to get back out in the first fairway. But as it turned out, I waited around for about an hour after my first loop. In fact, there was a chance I wouldn’t be working at all.
So I got up and started making my way to the snack machine. I was bored, and I felt like chewing on something light before I was sent out again. As soon as I stepped out of the doorway one of the staff guys in a golf cart flew across my field of vision going full speed. The cart jumped the curb and slammed into the snack machine, smashing it up against the wall and spinning it around as the steel legs scraped big gashes into the floor. The table sitting next to the machine didn’t stand a chance. It buckled like paper from the blow of the cart, and all of the food and drinks on top of it were thrown into the air. Soda cans exploded on the concrete floor and the staff member was thrown out of the cart. Fortunately, the cart was now pinned between the snack machine, the table and the wall. The staff member got up, jumped back into the cart, threw a case of water bottles out and locked the brake into place.
My first reaction was a little strange. For some reason I was immediately convinced that this individual had purposefully ran the cart into the vending machine. I can’t imagine why I would think that, seeing as how we were all really busy and that cart would certainly be needed for players this afternoon. I instinctively ran over and asked if he was okay.
“Holy crap. I’ve never had a traffic ticket in my life. Now look what I’ve done.”
Two long, rather unpleasant-looking scratches ran across the front of the cart. The snack machine had a huge dent on the bottom and half of the springs inside had popped out. A variety of snack items had fallen into the tray, and I think $3 to $4 worth of change had dropped into the coin return.
The outside staff guy just put his hands on his hips and looked at me, his mustache twitching slightly.
“One of those cases of bottled water fell on the accelerator. There was nothing I could do.”
We just stared at each other. One of the 2-Liter bottles of Coke that previously resided on the table was still bubbling on the floor, spraying sweet sweet carbonated syrup into the air. An image kept running through my head. All I could picture was that staff member’s face, petrified, as he slammed into the snack machine. And all I could do was laugh. And laugh. And laugh.
In fact, when I walked up to my car to grab a spare pair of socks, I was still laughing. Two members in a cart drove by me and waved. The woman looked at me like I was crazy. I don’t know why I thought it was so funny. I guess it was because I realized I would never see anything like that again. And having a front row seat for it? I guess God really does like me.
But God added a little twist to the equation. The members that drove past me in the parking lot? I would be caddying for them. And both of them were insecure high handicappers. They just saw me laughing hysterically. Not a good first impression.
When I introduced myself, the woman spoke up immediately.
“I saw you laughing in the parking lot. We’re not very good at golf. Are you going to be able to handle this?”
I had to act fast. The group was staring at me.
“Oh, yes, yes. One of the staff guys slammed a cart into the snack machine. I’ve never laughed so hard in my life.”
The woman started laughing.
“Really? How the heck did that happen?”
“A case of bottled water fell on the accelerator. There was nothing he could do.”
Now the whole group started laughing. Whew. At least now they wouldn’t be watching me like a hawk.
They were a nice group, but a combination of things, like worrying about tomorrow and the fact that they didn’t care about yardages or even FINDING their balls, made my job fairly unimportant. The only thing that kept me focused was that the member kept asking me for reads on the greens.
“Help me out on this one friend.”
He was very courteous, but there really wasn’t anything I could do for him. The Superintendent had cut and rolled the greens late this morning, and at this point they were rolling around an 11-12. He was long most of the time. So regardless of what I said, I was usually off by quite a bit. The greens were just too fast for him. Little did I know they were only going to get worse.
Monday. Finally, here we were. The big show. Twenty-Two teams, four great golfers on each team, 54 holes to determine the winner. Today would include 36 holes, 18 of which would be a two-man better ball net, the second 18 would be a modified alternate shot. I wouldn’t find this out until later, but the Superintendent would be cutting and rolling the greens after every ROUND. At the start of the tournament, they were rolling around a 12.5. I have never seen the course look this good.
The boss-man had given me the opportunity to pick my team. Apparently, whatever team you were assigned to traditionally invited you to play their golf course at some later date. Upon hearing this, I did what any other self-respecting golf fanatic would’ve done. I chose the team from Oakmont.
Upon first meeting the players, I didn’t think there was anything to worry about. The highest handicap on the team was a 7, and everyone else was around a 1 or 2. The previous evening I had even spent a little time researching their golf course, just so I could have something to talk about with them if we ever got bored out there. For instance, did you guys know that off of the back tees at Oakmont there’s a par 3 that plays over 280 yards? I couldn’t wait to ask them about it.
Each team was paired with two caddies. The other caddie in the group was my old roommate from Florida and the new Caddie Master at one of our new accounts in Maryland. The only thing I’ll say about him for the remainder of the tournament is that when our players showed their true colors and things started getting a little rough, he chose to stay with the only player who kept a good attitude about him. So his experience in the event was a little different than mine. I, on the other hand, ended up with quite a fight on my hands.
As the head pro from our club introduced himself and welcomed everyone to the event, he threw out the one small factoid that put me in a tough spot: rangefinders were going to be allowed. Upon hearing the news, one of the members of my team crapped his pants and started sobbing with joy. Helping that guy with yardages and club selections would be out of the question. And, after getting to know the other players, I could tell that they would rather listen to him than to me.
Now, normally I’d say, “Great. I won’t have to work very hard. They’ll be taking care of the yardages. I just need to replace a few divots and make an occasional read on the greens. Nothing to it.” But honestly, I had been psyching myself up for this event for a long, long time. I had been bringing out two or three balls with me every time I caddied to make sure that any question I had with a read on the greens could be later understood after a few extra rolls. I wanted to show these players how much I was worth. I thought this was only fair, seeing as how they were going to be charged an arm and a leg for my services, regardless of how much they utilized me.
But for the first round, I literally did nothing. I ran everywhere, I had every yardage and read on the greens ready for them to use, but they never asked. They hardly even noticed that I was there. But, I kept my cool. After the whole “Velvet Cuddles” incident a few weeks ago, I didn’t want to make a big deal about this in the caddie yard. But as it turned out, it was the other caddie in the group who spoke up.
“Dude, they’re not asking for ANYTHING from you. That’s fucked up.”
“No, it’s alright. I mean, they have a caddie. Whether they choose to use me or not is their business.”
“Still. It seems irresponsible of them not to at least ask you SOMETHING. I mean, it’s not like they play here regularly.”
I just shrugged and laughed it off. After the first round was over with, and grabbed a bite to eat. The course was nice enough to provide a lunch for the caddies, knowing full well we had a big day ahead of us.
At the start of the second round, the other caddie in the foursome came over to me before we all teed off.
“Hey, Tom? I heard about what they’re doing to you out here. Let’s fuck with them.”
“That guy with the rangefinder? Regardless of what he says, give him a yardage. And as he’s walking past me, I’ll give him a yardage too. Maybe we’ll learn to break him of that habit.”
I wasn’t exactly sure what this was going to do, but I have to admit, I’d rather try to have a little fun out there than simply run around this course and say nothing. The next hole was a par 3. I got the yardage and walked over to the cart as they were pulling up.
“183 pin and 167 to clear that front bunker.”
The player pulled out his rangefinder, shot the flag and mumbled: “182.”
The other caddie (my hero, Scott) immediately walked over to him and said, “What do you get for a yardage with that thing? I get 182.”
He paused. “Yeah. 182.”
Scott looked back at me and smiled. “Oh, great. Thanks.”
I just stood off of the tee box and watched. When everyone had made an attempt, I started jogging up towards the green. Scott quickly caught up.
“That guy’s an asshole. I say we do that all day until he puts that damn thing away.”
I just laughed. “Well, alright. Not sure what good it will do though. I’m sure he sleeps with that thing.”
The next hole was a par 5 where players need a good lay-up yardage to set up an easy third shot. I walked off the yardage to the bunker and calculated a yardage with the uphill and wind. They pulled up and he instantly grabbed his rangefinder.
“It’s 194 to the front of the last bunker on the right. With the wind, I’d play a 185—“
“It’s 196 to the front of the bunker.”
I stepped back. Scott’s players were nowhere near us, yet he still ran over to say hello.
“What do you guys have to that last bunker on the right? 194?”
The guy with the rangefinder just blinked. “196.”
“Oh. Okay. Thanks.” And he ran back to help his players. Mr. Rangefinder just stared at Scott for a moment, and then looked back at me. Did he understand what we were doing?
Scott and I tag-teamed Mr. Rangefinder for the next 5 holes. He must’ve received at least 20-30 yardages in TRIPLICATE at this point. And then, on the 9th hole, Mr. Rangefinder finally turned to me and asked: “How far do we have Tom?”
The heavens parted and somewhere a puppy farted happily.
“176 front and 198 to the flag. Playing at least one club less with the wind.”
And this turned into: “Hey Tom? Have a look at this putt, will ya?”
How did this work, Scott? Have I told you you’re my hero already?
“I see two-cups left to right. Just tap it, because it could easily get away from you.”
“Thanks.” And he made it.
In fact, for the last 5-7 holes, they consulted me for everything. And something amazing happened. They actually started playing better. I’m not trying to make an argument for caddies everywhere, but I will say that I can’t believe they didn’t realize this simple fact sooner: the less you have to think on a golf course, the better you’ll play. Period.
By the end of the second round, my team was in the middle of the pack. Probably not in any position to win, but still had a chance to make some noise with a good final round tomorrow.
Tuesday. For the final round, I would not be caddying for Mr. Rangefinder. Surprisingly, I was a little disappointed. I had made quite a bit of progress with him so far, and I was hoping I could actually CADDIE again today. Instead, I would be caddying for the worst golfer on the team (a “7” handicap who was playing like a 25) and the golfer who hardly ever spoke. I mean hey, what’s the worst that could happen?
Just as an aside: the greens were now lightning fast. By noon when the stimp-measurement was taken, the greens were rolling at an incredible 14.4.
For most of the round, it was business as usual. I wasn’t helping them on the greens (which somewhat concerned me because at these speeds it was a different golf course and I would’ve liked to warm up on them a bit), but I was helping them with all of the club selections. And despite a few whiffs off of the tee from the 7 handicap, we were playing pretty well.
Then we came to the par-3 11th. Oh number 11. Honestly, the only place you can land it is on the green. If you’re even an inch short, the ball will roll back into the water. If you go a little long, it will bounce off the back of the green and end up in the water. If you’re a little right, you’ll usually catch the bunker or end up with an impossible flop from the deep rough.
The only saving grace is that it’s not the longest of par 3’s. From the back tees it’s only about 176 to the front. Only. Today, the tees were a little up and it was 159 to the front and 181 to the pin. Obviously, the wind plays a huge role in club selection. For some reason the wind always swirls around the cove and it can change from a helping to a hurting wind after only a few practice swings.
I was stressing out. I wanted to give my players a golden yardage, but the wind kept changing direction and with the greens as fast as they were, only a perfect shot would stay on the green from this distance.
Okay. Well, they have to get over the water. So that means at least 160. They don’t want to go long, so that means less than 180. There was a little wind in our face. Or was it helping? No, it was definitely in our face. But it wasn’t crazy. Just a little wind to make you think you needed an extra club. I finally made an executive decision.
“Tom, how far do you think it’s playing?”
“175. Hit a good 175 shot and that will be perfect.”
“Are you sure? That kind of puts me between clubs.”
“What are the two distances you’re between?”
“170 and 180.”
“That’s a tough one. Well, I guess it all comes down to how confident you are in a solid shot. If you hit a really good 170 shot, that will be fine. But you have to hit it really well. Or, you can opt for a smooth 180. Just pick the shot you feel most comfortable with.”
“I don’t think I want to pure my 170. Let’s go with the 180 club.”
Sounds good to me. Now, I hate to admit it, but I think this hole is going to give me an ulcer someday. Whenever the conditions are a little tough, I hold my breath and mentally try to control the ball flight so that my player lands safely on the green. Sometimes I try to push the ball so hard with my mind that my face turns beat red and my stomach cramps up. Psychotic, yes. Necessary? Absolutely.
He didn’t catch it all. I could hear it. It was a little on the toe. I held my breath and tried to push the ball so hard that I thought I needed a new pair of shorts. But it didn’t work. His ball landed just short of the green, and the ball rolled back into the water.
He straightened up and just glared at me. “That wasn’t the right club. I needed more.”
Now, normally, I would’ve asked if he had mishit it at all, but this wasn’t a normal player. He was a good golfer and a special guest of the club. I had to take the subservient route. I just stared at him and kept my mouth shut.
And I knew he was wrong. Because the next player to hit put it just OVER the green. The other caddie asked him: “How far did you hit that?”
“I hit my 185 club. I needed to hit a little less.”
I looked over in Mr. Silent-but-deadly’s direction. He didn’t even flinch. He still thought he was right.
Our other teammate put his ball on the green. He was on another tier, but still had a makeable birdie putt. So our team wasn’t completely dead. But Mr. Silent-but-deadly was now on the warpath. He decided to take his anger with him onto the green.
Now, I hadn’t been reading their putts all day. My green reading skills were not exactly up to snuff, seeing as how I’ve never read a putt on this course under 14.4 conditions. But for one reason or another, I found myself behind the hole looking over our teammate’s birdie putt. I wasn’t going to say anything. I just wanted to have a general idea in case they decided to ask. I mean hey—that’s kinda my job.
“Tom? What do you see here?”
Wow. I guess he does want my help.
“You know, actually I see this putt as pretty straight, I think—“
“EXCUSE ME???” Mr. Silent-but-deadly literally screamed at me.
I paused. I wasn’t sure whether I should kick him in the nuts for being rude or try to explain myself. I started shaking I was so pissed off. I decided to use that in my response. I’m callin’ you out pilgrim.
“Yes…Initially, the putt will break left off of the ridge, and then because of this smaller ridge near the hole, it should come back to the right. It’s very fast.”
Mr. SBD walked behind me and looked at the line. “Well I just don’t see that at all. I think he needs to play it at least a foot outside right.”
“Yeah, Tom? I’m not going to use your read if that’s alright.”
Again, this is in front of everyone, including another caddie who had just started two days ago.
“That’s fine. Go with what you’re comfortable with.”
He pulled the putt immediately. It started about two cups left of the hole, broke to about 2 feet left, and then came back to about 3 cups left of the hole.
Mr. SBD immediately retorted: “Oh, I’m sorry. You should’ve played it at least 2 FEET out on the right.”
It’s moments like this that I truly wonder whether Darwinism is fact or fiction. Evolution should’ve taken care of this personality defect long ago when we were all trying to move forward as a species. I took a field-goal-kicker’s stance and was about to slam my foot in his nuts, but I decided that it wasn’t worth it. If you’re going to be a douche-bag on a course that’s playing this beautifully on a sunny spring day, I really don’t want to know what you’re going to turn into if reincarnation really occurs. My bet is he’ll end up coming back as a shrimp. With turds hanging off of him.
So for the rest of the round, I “stone-faced” him. I had the yardages ready, but I didn’t say a word unless he asked. I ran faster than I have in a long time. I wanted this guy to have nothing to complain about. I think after 3-4 holes he realized how wrong he was, and he kept trying to start conversations with me, but I wouldn’t open my mouth. By the time we reached 18, he thanked me and tipped me more than necessary. So that was nice, but I almost didn’t want to take it. It just felt wrong.
“You deserve it. You really hustled out there.”
I also kick people in the nuts on occasion. But today was your lucky day.
But as I started walking back down to the caddie yard, I started cheering up. Earlier this morning one of my cohorts decided that the caddies should have a golf tournament today as well. There were 20 of us signed up at the moment, and we’d be playing a great local track we lovingly nicknamed “Tits National.” The tournament was then aptly named “The Tits Open.” I mean hey, these members can’t have all the fun.
But when I came down into the caddie yard, there were 5-10 caddies surrounding the dry-erase board laughing the slapping each other on the backs. What the hell was going on? Somebody probably wrote “I’m Gay” on the board and everyone was just joking about it. One of the caddies ran up to me.
“Tom! Tom! Oh man. Keep it on the down-low, but we’re playing the Tits Open HERE today.”
“Yeah man! Check it out!”
I walked over to the dry erase board and looked at the message. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It said something to the effect of: “Make sure to thank the pro, the GM and the Super for letting you do this. But your ‘Tits Open’ will be played here today at 3 pm.”
The Discovery Channel will tell you that a pig can have an orgasm for almost 30 minutes. Today, my orgasm would last for 4 hours. The course was in perfect shape, the greens were rolling over 14 and the weather was perfect. I wanted to cry.
After having a quick lunch and changing my shirt, I teed it up with some good friends. To top it all off, I had one of the best rounds of my life. A 78 from the tips. And number 11? Yeah. I played it 175 without even looking at the yardage. And it was perfect. It was all perfect. I love everybody.
The funny thing was, I still ended up losing money in the tournament. But I didn’t care. What a great freakin’ day.
Posted by Tom Collins at 8:59 PM