Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The First Loop

Today was many things. It was the official start to my season, it was a time to greet good friends from last year and it was a litmus test to see where I stood with my abilities. I also had a moment today where I thought my career as a caddie was over. But aside from THAT wonderful scare, the round went very well and I think this is going to be a great year.

I just love daylight-savings-time. Getting 4 ½ hours of sleep instead of 5 ½ really felt great. But to be honest, I was too excited about getting on the grass again to care about caffeine this morning.

Walking into the caddie room today was a treat. Handshakes all around. Everyone who walked through the door today was someone I hadn’t seen in over 3 months. Not a long time by any means, but in caddie-years that feels like forever. It’s like not seeing your family for a while. There are many times throughout your stint as a caddie where you rely on these guys for anything from food to money to rides to drugs. And they are all so generous with drugs. So many choices, and sometimes I just thank God I’m always in the right place at the right time. But bottom line, you are all brothers in arms. You all suffer together and rejoice together. So it was a pleasure to see these guys again.

The only drama of today came when one of the senior caddies missed the tee time for his regular guy. This particular member shows up maybe 3 or 4 days a week and always gives the pro-shop a hard time. He can never seem to tee off as early as he would like.

“Why can’t I tee off now?”

“Nobody can go out until 8 am Mr. Impatient-Fast-Ass-Player.”

“This is bullshit!”

What many members don’t realize is that the grounds-crew needs as much time as possible in the morning to mow the greens, cut some of the fairways and give the course a nice once-over before players arrive and tear through it. The biggest problem with this PARTICULAR member is, even if they let him out at 8 am, he’s done by 10 am. This means that instead of having until 11:00-11:30 to finish the last 3 or 4 holes, the grounds-crew only has until 10.

Anyway, Mr. Impatient-Fast-Ass-Player (who is actually a swell guy) always takes the same senior caddie whenever he goes out. He even calls the caddie at home to make sure he knows when to come in. But on this particular day, this senior caddie forgot to change his clocks.

Here was the effect: the senior caddie is late, so Mr. Impatient-Fast-Ass-Player ends up saying “Fuck it” and takes a different caddie. An hour later, the senior caddie comes in and still expects to work as soon as possible. Now bear in mind, I was there on time and have now been waiting an hour longer than he has to work. Seeing the impending dilemma, the Caddie Master tries to dilute the situation by attempting to sell this caddie on another loop, saying that he’ll be “off the course much faster” than if he waits around for the loop I was currently assigned to. But the senior caddie wasn’t buying it. He knew, just as I did, that the loop I was assigned to was quite lucrative. So he wanted in.

“Sorry I was late. But I can just take these guys coming up. That would be great.”

Look, I love you man, and it’s great to see you and all, but that’s MY loop you’re trying to steal.

Fortunately, the Caddie Master quickly finds two other players to pair with this sought-after twosome so we can split the loop instead of the painful alternative: him getting everything and me waiting around on the couch until noon because he’s been caddying for 8 years and I’ve only been there for 3. Ah seniority. Will I ever be an equal with this guy?

And this really was a great loop, believe me. I guess I can’t really blame the other caddie for wanting a piece of it. I would’ve fought for it too. The group consisted of three incredible members and one toolbox. The first player, Mr. Awesome, was as laid back as they come, not ever really saying that much but always laughing and going about his business to shoot 75. The second, Mr. Forget-me-not, spent 3 weeks last summer confusing me with another caddie.

“Hey Tom! Good to see you again!”

I’ve never met you before.

“Tom, you remember my son Cal, right? I know you guys really hit it off last time. Remember me telling you about his application to med school? Well he got in! Isn’t that great?”

After that loop was over, I ran inside and asked the other “Tom” who occasionally moonlights as a caddie if he knew this member.

“Oh, Mr. Forget-me-not? He’s the man. How’s his son Cal doing?”

Yep, Mr. Forget-me-not had the wrong guy. But the fact that he welcomed me into his life so quickly still meant a lot to me. Even if he thought I was somebody else.

The third member of the group, Mr. Wishes-his-arms-were-relaxed has one of the most painful putting strokes I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure if his technique came from a putting tip he received or if this is actually natural for him, but he uses a left-hand-low approach and keeps his left arm so incredibly straight you’d think some sort of poisonous snake had bitten it when he got out of bed that morning. His left arm, wrist and putter were all in one long, straight line. It was like he had his putter surgically attached to his arm and the putter head was now a single finger he could use to touch almost anything he wanted. But regardless of how rigid he kept his arm and putting stroke, he couldn’t seem to keep the ball on the right line. I’m SO glad I wasn’t caddying for him. I think I would’ve had a seizure trying to read his putts for him.

The final member of the group is a toolbox. He’s 7 feet tall, lanky and likes to whine. His swing is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Poopy-pants. His pre-shot routine, alignment and setup all look superb. The backswing is even good. Then suddenly, right when he gets to the top, a nearby squirrel whips out a cattle prod and pokes him in the bean-bag. The resulting follow-thru looks like he’s being electrocuted, yet somehow the ball flies down the middle of the fairway. It boggles the mind. I call him Mr. Toolbox because of his attitude towards the caddies. First and foremost, the other caddies hate him because he runs absolutely everywhere. It’s very difficult just to keep up with him, let alone get in front of him. And the worst part is, if you DON’T keep up with him, he whines about it to the pro shop. Well, no. That’s not the worst part. The worst part, which is quite unfortunate for the owner’s of the golf club, is that HE is the guy prospective members play golf with to decide whether or not they want to join. And I don’t know of anyone who would feel inspired enough to join the club after playing with that guy. I dub thee Mr. Toolbox. Arise, Sir Tool.

So that was the foursome. I was carrying Mr. Forget-me-not and Mr. Toolbox, the veritable Ying and Yang of golf. One of them truly feels that having a caddie carry your bag is a privilege, the other feels the need to criticize my every move, behind my back, and holds the power to fire me via his new position on the board. So, while I would absolutely love to spend all my time and energy caddying for the nice guy, today my efforts would need to be focused elsewhere. Today, appeasing the asshole would take priority.

The first hole was great. Well, I guess it was up until the green. I was an amazing caddie until then. But once I reached the putting surface, the litmus test had begun.

“Hey Tom? What do you see here?”

A 7-foot-tall toolbox. Oh wait. You mean the read? Oh.

“About a ball left to right.”

I was guessing. Now, I’m not sure how all of YOU read greens, and perhaps this is a stupid thing to say because there may not BE any other way, but I pretend that the ball is rolling straight at the hole, and as my imaginary ball rolls, I take into account the contours of the green and where I see the grain pointing to affect which way it rolls. So essentially, by the time my imaginary ball gets to the hole, I see how far left or right the ball ends up, assuming it doesn’t end up in the hole. Then I usually double check the read by imagining the ball taking the line I envisioned, watching the roll to see if it ends up in the center of the cup. Now even though I have said, many times, that I absolutely suck at reading the greens, when I get into the zone and can really focus, I’m actually pretty good at it. Well, at the current moment during this first round of the year, I was not in any sort of “zone” at all. I was just on cloud nine to be caddying again. I figured the rest would just work itself out. I had forgotten how much focus good green-reading requires.

So the ball actually ended up breaking about a cup-and-a-half. Mr. Toolbox just gave me a quick look, so we would both know that he wouldn’t be speaking to me about the greens for awhile.

Okay, so green reading is something I will have to work on.

The 8th hole was what really woke me up. The bags were already on the ground and I was just standing in the rough watching Mr. Wishes-his-arms-were-relaxed wishing his arms were more relaxed to swing his 5-wood. Suddenly, the middle of my back started to hurt. First it felt like somebody was blowing a small bubble in the middle of my spine. Then it felt like the bubble tensed up, and when I slowly twisted to try and relieve the pressure, it started to ache. I tried to remain calm, but all I could think about was my caddie season coming to an end before it had even begun. So I tried to slowly stretch it out, but it didn’t seem to go away.

Now everyone was moving again. I would have to pick the bags up. Trying to keep my back perfectly straight and lifting slowly with my legs, I began to walk. And wouldn’t you know it, after 2 minutes, the pain had disappeared.

So tonight I’m going to sleep on the floor with a pillow under my knees and two pillows supporting my head. I’ll sleep on the floor all summer if that’s what it takes.

But the rest of the round was very enjoyable. No more pain and I can’t wait to see more familiar faces as the summer progresses.

1 comment:

John B. said...

Not sure which would be worse, having to caddie for assholes or having to work in the pro-shop and listen to the assholes bitch all day about the caddies, tee times, etc.

Some of these guys are used to being 'in charge' at work, the owner, boss man, whatever, and when they scream their employees, wives, whoever listen and obey.

When the rest of the world doesn't jump at the sound of their voice, they get crabby and irritable. I used to deal with the same clientle at a higher end restaurant I used to manage...glad I got out of that.