Thursday, April 26, 2007

Lesson Learned

Eight golfers. Eight caddies. That was 7 am this morning.

I was scheduled to come in early. I never really give it any thought because I figure hey, it’s probably busy and the Caddie Master needs some guys in early. But when I arrived this morning and saw the tee sheet, I was a little confused. It was dead. There I was, surrounded by 7 other caddies and there didn’t appear to be anyone on the tee sheet. I pulled one of the staff boys aside.

“Why are there 8 caddies here staff guy?”

“Twas the members’ request caddie man. One caddie per bag. Eight bags. I achieved a Q+ average in math, but it looks like 8 caddies are needed this morning.”

“Well said staff guy.”

As soon as you tell a caddie that he’ll be carrying one bag, two things immediately happen: First, a concerned look will wash over his face when he starts to think about the potential tip. Caddies look forward to a certain number to walk the course, and if they’re only carrying one bag, there’s the potential for that number to be much lower than expected. How much will I get? Will the member “take care of me” because he’s hosting an outing?

Secondly, the caddie will start to think about how easy the loop will be and will allow each individual muscle to atrophy, starting with the brain first.

And as much as I hate to admit it, I would also fall under those two descriptions. A long winter, outstanding credit card balances and my tab with certain drug dealers have me backpedaling. I’m also a huge fan of lightening the load on my shoulders whenever I get the chance, because as a caddie, you never know how long you might be working until you get a day off.

So yeah—long story short—my crack-bill is due and there are no grace periods.

Now the problem comes in when the brain starts shutting off. Obviously. The hustle, professionalism and focus all dissipate when you know you have an easy job ahead of you and you’re surrounded by 7 of your friends.

So when the time finally arrived for all of us to make an appearance in “the circle” (a small area for carts to park and people to gather just short of the 1st tee), we’re a little riled up and thinking about plans for later in the evening. At this point, going to a rock concert right now would be a better fit for us. But instead, we were about to greet a corporate outing at 8 am.

First, we all start sizing up the bags. Which bags have stands? Where are the trunks? Who has the nicest set of clubs? Which bags have the best looking straps? All important questions with valuable answers. The older veteran caddies are usually the first to pounce on a “money bag.” This is usually the lightest-looking bag with the brand-name irons. To be honest, this very moment was a lot like musical chairs at summer camp. And I was never very good at musical chairs.

Then again, as much as I would’ve loved to “pounce” on the “good bag,” when you have 8 golfers come out of the clubhouse without a clue as to the pairings and 8 caddies come out of the caddie yard without any motivation to work, it’s like trying to mix oil and water. You should’ve seen it: the caddies were on one side of the bags and the players were on the other. It was like some invisible line had formed that nobody dared to cross. After a few minutes, a couple of caddies made a bee-line towards a bag they liked, but THAT ended up causing some problems because the Caddie Master had his own thoughts as to the pairings, and so people were being switched around before anybody had even approached the tee box. If I had pounced when I saw my opening, I would’ve grabbed a Senator’s bag, and as it turned out, the Caddie Master wanted to put one of the veterans with him. So I just decided to sit back and wait.

And as I waited—ever so patiently—all of the “good bags” started to disappear. Beads of sweat ran down my forehead as I CONTINUED to wait in agony to see which bag would be mine. Finally, I saw it. A textbook trunk. No stand, two umbrellas and an antique collection of Pinnacles all contained within one awkward, dense mass of fabric and plastic. No bag tag graced the exterior, but there WAS a small silver plate on the top which read: “Professional.”

“Tom, take this one.”

CrapMichaelJacksonusedbleachIhatetoomuchtartarsauceonmyfishsticksballs.

“Okay.”

As soon as I tried to pick up the bag, I started laughing. It weighed a ton. The weathered leather strap started burrowing its way into my shoulder and I think somewhere in the distance a baby was crying. I wasn’t even on the first tee yet.

Then I met him. The man behind the bag. The expression on his face said “badass,” but as he turned to shake my hand, his eyes grew large and his features began to tighten. He looked scared.

“Hey. I’m Mr. Hair-gel. I use a crapload of gel in my hair. Sometimes I’m unable to frown because the gel tends to hold up the skin on my face. But I grew up in Kansas and I wanted to make sure my hair was perfect on sales calls, regardless of whether or not a tornado was tearing through town.”

You’re right. Nice doo.

“Nice to meet you. I’m Tom.”

Setting the bag down near the first tee by the other bags turned some heads. Literally. All of the caddies looked my way as soon as the bag hit the ground. One by one, they all started smiling and chuckling to themselves. I bet this is exactly how Rudolph felt when the other Reindeer wouldn’t let him play in their games. They all knew the score. They all had bags with “stands” and “comfortable straps” and “an efficient collection of Pro-V1’s.” Hah. I don’t need no stinking Pro-V1’s.

Then we teed off. Mr. Hair-gel got under his tee shot a bit, but it still ended up in the middle of the fairway. So far so good. His second shot coerced another caddie to hit the turf as if a mortar had been fired, and the ball flew into the woods. Although I tried to bribe Little Red Riding Hood behind a nearby maple, I couldn’t retrieve his ball. He played another. Then some bunkers came into play. We lost the group for a little while, but then as we reached the apex of a nearby hill we saw them in the distance, circling the green. After a few more attempts, we reached the rough just short of the fringe, and after a well struck 7-iron, we were 40 yards over the green.

“Oh yeah, please tell me how hard to hit it around the greens. I don’t really have any feel.”

“Oh, okay. Well…don’t hit it that hard.”

“Okay.”

Pretty soon, we were putting, and after a few valiant efforts, we were home. After I handed Mr. Hair-gel his driver and let the hole sink in for a moment, I started laughing hysterically. I couldn’t help it. And it didn’t help matters when the other caddies started egging me on.

“Tom. Dude…please please please tell me what that guy just got on that hole.”

After a few moments, I wiped the tears out of my eyes and answered: “Thirteen.”

We all started laughing again.

“Tom, do you have a scorecard? You seriously have to keep score for this guy. This could be a record round. Highest ever.”

Just as an aside, I went to Barnes and Noble after the round was over with and came across an interesting factoid: the highest round in PGA Tour history was by an amateur. I’ll have to find the exact quote because I’m sure nobody will believe this. But I swear this is what I read: 245. That’s one round of golf. Apparently the guy lost over 60 golf balls throughout the round and carded a 66 on the 17th hole. The 17th is a water hole, and apparently the rules officials came over after a while and just told him to drop a ball on the green so he could finish the hole.

So for a few holes I decided to keep score. The first three holes: 13-8-7. Sixteen over par. I kept picturing myself sitting on the couch watching this round on television. The announcers would come on after the commercial break and say: “Alright…and we’re back. We take you now to the 4th tee where Braun Hair-gel has pulled a 5-wood on this 168 yard par 3.” And then as Mr. Hair-gel lines up his shot his name and score would flash at the bottom of the screen: Braun Hair-gel, +16. I was laughing so hard I forgot where I was for a moment.

As we were walking off of the 4th green, Mr. Hair-gel turned to me. “Do you know what I got on that hole?”

I froze. Did he know I was keeping score for him? His tone made me feel like he did.

“Umm…”

“I think it was a 6. Is that right?”

“Yeah.”

Well, it might’ve been 7.

“I feel so bad for you. This is only my 2nd time playing golf.”

Pause.

“Really?”

“Yeah. All the guys in this outing play golf, and because I’m working with them now, they told me I better learn.”

“Wow…well, for your second time playing, you’re actually really freakin’ good.”

I was being honest.

“Thanks. But I still feel bad I have to be playing THIS golf course to learn. It’s pretty intimidating.”

“Yeah, it can be. But we’ll get through it.”

I felt like such a shit-head. Here was this guy, scared to death he was going to make an ass out of himself, insecure about his abilities, only here because his boss wanted him to play and I come along and give him a hard time. I felt terrible.

“So Tom, what did your boy get on that hole?”

All of a sudden, the jokes the other caddies were throwing my way just didn’t seem funny anymore. I was ashamed. I was just hoping that it wasn’t too late to turn things around and really help this guy. I hoped he would let me.

So from the 5th hole on, I tried my hardest to make it up to him. He had some misses, sure, but by the time we made it to the 12th, he made a par. In fact, he almost made a birdie.

“Well, at least I got a bogey.”

“No, this is a par 5 Mr. Hair-gel. You just made a par.”

It was so much fun to give him the news.

And believe it or not, by the time we reached 15, he was the only player consistently hitting the fairway. He was one of the only players still making bogies. All of the other players and caddies seemed to have lost interest in the round and were on their phones, or talking during people’s backswings, or not paying attention at all.

And as the final putt fell for a bogey 5 on the 18th, I took off my hat.

“Mr. Hair-gel, great job out there today. Stick with it.”

“Thanks Tom. I really appreciate the help today.”

I’m so glad I caught myself in time. If I was struggling with my golf game and my caddie was laughing at me, I would probably want to kill him. Nobody deserves that.

4 comments:

English Dave said...

Evening

Jeez, Tom. I was gonna say, for a moment there. Everyone has good days and bad days on the course. I mean, I suppose most people would consider me to be fairly useful, but I can hit a few bad shots and have a really bad day as easily as the next man. It really bugs me that people in my regular group see fit to criticize me when I hit a bad shot. Just because my handicap is lower than theirs, they seem to think that I should never miss anything. I still hit bad ones, just not as many as them. Hey, when their handicap is less than mine instead of being more than twice as much, THEN they can criticize. Oops, sorry. Still twitchy about that, I see. Although I haven't had a 13 on a hole that I can remember. I did have a 9 on a par 3 (put 3 balls into the same shit out of bounds) once during the first round of a two day tournament - that's all my shots gone on one hole and I still had to come back the next day. I don't think I won that time.

But, anyway. No-one likes being laughed at when they have a bad hole, although sometimes it is the best medicine for a bad shot. How does that work, I wonder? Especially when the guy laughing at you is the one man who's supposed to be on your side. But I'm glad he said something to you and you got it sorted out between you. It sounds as if it was actually more rewarding (in a strictly spiritual sense) in the end than some of your other loops, working so closely together to get him round. That must be similar to what professional's caddies do when their man isn't on top form, either. And I bet that if this guy continues to play, he will remember you for ever and will ask for you again if he ever comes back to your place.

So, in the end, good for you. Maybe establishing how long people have been playing early on is the way to go. Although some people are just jerks and if they play like shit, fuck 'em. In the ass. With a badger. And an OWL.

KYN

David

Jane said...

I don't think that laughing at your bag would be good for your tip. How much is a decent tip, by the way? I've never had a caddie, and if I did I'd have no idea what a decent tip would be. Do you make only tip, or do you also get a stipend just for carrying the bag?

I carded a 12 only two years ago. 4 balls in the water on a short par 3. It was a case of the shanks. I finally managed to squidge one far enough right to stay dry, got on and two-putted. Went from -1 to +8. I was very sad.

Jam Boy said...

Guess I should clarify...I never laughed so he could see me at the beginning there...so I don't think I offended him...but I still felt so bad and I'm glad I stuck with him. Dave, you're right, in the end it was a very rewarding round.

Just one of those instances where I began my round just doing what every other caddie was doing, and I'm glad I was able to pull myself out of that crowd mentality.

Kiwi said...

LMAO dude, great post. You get better every post