Monday, April 30, 2007

The Tale of Velvet Cuddles

Well, it finally had to happen. I finally won some money playing cards. It was a ferocious 5 hour battle, and when the dust settled I emerged the big winner with 26 new bills to my name. The only problem was, the time was now 2:45 am.

I had to be up at 6. I had to be ready for 36 holes.

The alarm was loud—just as advertised. I’ve learned to strategically place my alarm at the far end of the room so I have to physically get out of bed and cross the room just to get to it. It usually works pretty well, unless of course you forget to pick up your floor and you’ve got papers, clothes and random boxes lying around. Now, instead of a peaceful morning jaunt to the clock, you have a gauntlet with a Minotaur waiting to kick your ass. This morning I tripped on a dense pile of clothing, tried to catch myself by hopping forward and slammed into the wall.

Rise and shine.

Before I knew it, I was in 7-Eleven desperately trying to get my hands on some caffeine. I read in Newsweek recently that caffeine is really quite bad for you in high doses. Well so is crack. Whoop-tee-freakin’-doo.

And then I see it. A drink so ingenious, so loaded with caffeinated goodness that I knew it had to be mine: coffee with ginseng and taurine. Well slap me around and call me Susie. Could this be the greatest invention EVER? It was called “Fusion” and it was contained in a jug with a yellow handle. I didn’t even know 7-Eleven HAD coffee in containers with handles of that persuasion.

So I made a rookie mistake and added too much half-and-half. In fact, I’m so tired at this point that for 2 minutes I’m opening the little half-and-half containers and squeezing them out into the garbage, thinking I’m actually pouring them into my cup. But regardless of this little miscue, I still must’ve put 10 of those little containers into my little nuclear-reactor of a drink. So now instead of having a NORMAL tasting coffee I have one that tastes like I’m sucking liquid from a caffeinated cows’ teat. Awesome.

After I consume my breakfast and 19/20 ounces of nuclear teat, my heart is racing, I’m noticeably shaking and my lower intestine is wringing out farts much like you wring a towel free of water. Perfect. Now I was in top caddying form.

For the next two days a rather large outing would be filling up most of the tee sheet. Ryder Cup formats, 36 holes and lots of beer each day. The participants are matched up in two-man teams but there are only enough caddies to put ONE looper with each foursome. The caddie-player pairings are almost arbitrary with the exception of the player who organized the entire event. He would be taking the caddie he uses religiously—a young lad of about 30 who is so far right politically that he makes the fanatical Christians on Capitol Hill look like Girl Scouts. But despite his rough exterior, he’s one of the nicest caddies we have.

The Caddie Master finally approached me: “Hey Tom? How about you take Mr. Country. Go find his bag. It’s over in that mess of carts somewhere.”

Really? THE Mr. Country? The enchanting lyricist with a friend who triple-hit his chip on 13 the other day? Sweet. And it didn’t take me long to find his bag. When I got within 30 feet of his location I could hear that voice. He was talking to his partner about a new song he had just recorded.

“…It’s a real cute ditty called, ‘Have I Got A Deal For You.’ And you’re just going to love the lyrics.”

I wish I could remember exactly what the words were, but they had something to do with buying a used truck from a sleazy car salesman. Whew. I smell Grammy.

He actually sang most of it right there in front of his partner. It was just sheer luck when I finally found an opportunity to interject and re-introduce myself. Both he and his partner were very friendly. And less than a minute later we were heading out to the 17th. Apparently there were so many groups going off that the head pro decided to put together a mini-shotgun to avoid a bottleneck on the first tee.

“Hang on, Tom. I only know ONE speed on these carts.”

Perfect. This was going to be a great couple of days.

When we finally arrived at 17 and I assumed my forecaddie position out near the fairway, the organizer’s regular caddie was already standing there. I quickly discovered that Mr. Organizer would be playing against Mr. Country in the first match. Well that presented a problem. There’s only one caddie per foursome. I would have to drop back and caddie for the group teeing off on 17B. Who was this mystery group? From my position of about 220 yards out it was pretty difficult—even in the crisp morning sunlight—to make out exactly what any of them even looked like. But I could certainly follow their tee shots. All four were right down the middle. Well now. I like this group already.

When they finally drove up to meet me it became apparent that one team was more pleasant than the other. The first team to greet me did so with a smile and a firm handshake. They wanted me to call them by their first names and one of them immediately started asking me about how to play the approach shot into the front pin location.

The other team was a little different. I don’t want to give away too much information yet, but I can honestly say that one of the individuals playing on THIS team was THE worst person I’ve ever caddied for. And that’s saying a lot, because I think I’ve caddied for at least 250 different people in my career thus far. I always pride myself on being able to get along with everybody. I don’t care if you’re quiet, talkative, arrogant, hate your wife or just love money, I will find a way to make an impression on you by the end of the day. I know most of the other caddies could care less in this respect, but I feel like caddying is so much more rewarding if you can get that Mickleson-Bones/Woods-Williams/Furyk-Fluff feel out of your round by the time it’s over with. But regardless of how hard I tried, there was just nothing I could do about this ONE guy. Just to keep myself sane, I think I’ll call him “Mr. Cuddles.” He’s in his late 50s to early 60s, about 5’10, built like a linebacker and hardly ever speaks.

So wait a minute. How could a guy who hardly ever opens his mouth be so bad? Well, whenever he DID finally decide to speak, it was as if pure evil was seeping out of his throat. I actually wish he would’ve talked even LESS.

Mr. Cuddles and his partner didn’t even introduce themselves to me as I extended a hand and took off my hat no more than 5 feet from their faces.

“Hey…Um…It’s 147 to the flag from here.”

Mr. Cuddles just looked at me and turned away, and his partner—Mr. Dick—retorted: “Oh. Thanks.”

Okay. I can work with this. So they’re a little on the quiet side.

I think I should add, just for posterity’s sake, that Mr. Organizer was paying for every caddie. So every player I worked with would NOT be required to pay a dime for my services. As a player in this event, how sweet is that? You can work the caddie as much as you’d like and payment is optional? Wow. Sign me up.

After the first few holes, Mr. Considerate realized the great position he was in as a player and began to analyze EVERY shot with me. But I didn’t mind because he wasn’t questioning any of my calls. He just turned off his brain and hit the ball where I told him to. And honestly, that is when I see players shoot their best rounds.

“How far do I have Tom?”

“I have us at 143 to the flag. It’s only 135 to clear that bunker though.”

“Any wind up there?”

“Just a hint. But if anything, it’s a helping wind.”

“Well, my 9-iron goes 135. What do you think?”

“I think that’s perfect. Just trust it.”

As he grabbed his 9-iron, I ran over to Mr. Cuddles to give him his yardage. As I looked back, I saw Mr. Considerate hit a crisp shot and stick it to 5 feet. He immediately looked over, smiled, and pointed at me.

Those are the moments that make this job enjoyable.

Now, I turn to Mr. Cuddles.

“Alright sir. It’s 134—“

“How much to clear the bunker?”

“128.”

“I have a 125 or a 135 club. Which is it?”

Now, at this point I’ve seen him swing the club a few times. I’ve noticed by now how much he enjoys the concept of deceleration.

“Hit your 135 club. It plays a little uphill.”

Well, actually it doesn’t. But I know you swing like a sissy-man.

After yet another “decel,” his “135 club” couldn’t even MAKE the front bunker. If I were to guess, I would say his shot went about 120 yards.

“I hit that so well. That was NOT 135 yards. Had to be more.”

Now, I heard this because I was near Mr. Cuddles. He said it under his breath, almost to himself. Then again, he definitely said it loud enough so I could hear it. Do I sense little hints of passive-aggressive behavior you humungous bastard?

But you know what? I let it slide. Water off a ducks nose/back/feet/whatever.

Well, soon enough everyone was on the putting surface. Mr. Considerate’s partner, Mr. Understanding, was a little on the quiet side but was certainly open to suggestions when it came to reads on the greens.

“So tell me Tom. What do you see here?”

Pause.

“Do you see this dark spot right here?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. Right there. About two-cups outside. And it’s just a little bit uphill, so don’t feel like you have to lag it there.”

Putt. Well, he didn’t hit it perfectly, but he certainly had the speed down. The ball lipped out on the low side and ended up about a foot behind the hole.

“Good read Tom. I just didn’t get it out on your line.”

I don’t have to tell you guys how good THAT felt. You guys KNOW I suck at reading greens. I’ll take all the praise I can get. But now it was Mr. Cuddles’ turn. He was almost on the exact same line as the last putt, except he was sitting on a little ridge that would accentuate the break a wee bit. The correct read was about 3 cups out on the right.

“Same read?”

“Well, put it out about a cup more. You’ve got a little—“

“I got it.”

Okay then.

He proceeded to do two things: first, he decelerated, which meant that the ball wasn’t getting to the hole. Obviously, even if he had the ball on the perfect line, a putt left short could easily break a little more than expected. But to add to the buttery goodness that was my current relationship with this evil turd of a man, he pulled his putt as well. This meant that not only was he short of the hole, but his ball finished almost 2 cups LEFT of where he should’ve been. Now, I’m only illustrating this putt so you can get an idea of how I felt when the following occurred:

“What a terrible read. I should’ve just played the ball where I originally wanted to.”

Again, he said this under his breath, head down, but facing me. It was loud enough so I could hear it, but not so loud as to give other players an opportunity to try and correct him.

But you know what? Water off of a ducks’ freakin’ ass. Or crotch. Or whatever. Maybe he just forgot that another player had the same putt a minute ago and almost holed it. Maybe he forgot that he’s incapable of accelerating the club-head with ANY of the clubs in his bag. Maybe he forgot to take his meds this morning. Or he found out he had cancer. Or his brother had cancer. Or some other awful thing that would cause him to be upset with a caddie that he’s able to use at a gorgeous golf course on a beautiful day FREE OF CHARGE. Ahem. But again, water off of a ducks’ whatever.

After that little incident, I started to watch Mr. Cuddles a little more closely. I wasn’t looking for a fight, but I WAS trying to be a little more focused so that I might find new ways to appease him.

Now we’re on the par-4 7th. Mr. Considerate just dropped a 30 foot BOMB to save par and slapped my hand in celebration. Things were looking up again. But here comes Mr. Cuddles. He had a 6-footer left to bring the match back to even. The putt was a little uphill and straight as an arrow.

“Inside left?”

I love that we have this two-word relationship. It’s sort of how communication started. For CAVEMEN.

“Actually, the putt is really straight because—“

“I GOT it.”

He was starting to raise his voice. I backed away and just prayed he would hit a straight putt. Here we are, almost halfway through the round, and I still can’t seem to get through to this guy.

He decelerates once again and pushes the putt. He grazes the right edge and the ball ends up a few inches past the hole. He stands up, looks at me for a moment, and starts walking towards his ball.

“I should’ve just hit it where I wanted to. That was another stupid read.”

At this point, the other players were 30-40 feet away loading their clubs back into their bags. They didn’t hear him. Only I did. I stared at him for a moment and tried to think of something to say, but instead I just decided to wait until he walked away so I could take out a ball from my bib and roll it on his line a few times to see if he was right.

After 10-15 rolls, the putt was undeniably straight. Now I was starting to get annoyed.

So I started to keep track. How many times would this guy say something nasty about me under his breath? By the time we reached the 10th, the count was at 3.

And without going into another long discussion about the read and the result, let me just say it was the same old story all over again. He decelerated his putter and missed yet another important putt. But this time, just as he started to say something again under his breath, his partner, Mr. Dick, actually went to bat for me.

(Let’s assume Mr. Cuddles’ first name is “Velvet” and Mr. Dick’s is “Huge”)

“You ‘de-celled’ a little on that putt Velvet.”

“It was just a stupid read on his part, Huge.”

“Ehhhh…It looked like you almost stopped your putter. It was pretty obvious.”

“I hit the putt on his line, and the ball didn’t end up in the hole. It’s not my fault.”

“Velvet, it was a good read.”

“No it wasn’t, Huge.”

I’m not exaggerating. I heard the whole conversation. Velvet Cuddles had it out for me. Regardless of how hard I worked or what I tried to say/not say to the guy, he seemed to have a frown and a stare saved up for me every freakin’ time I went over to give him a yardage. It got to the point where I almost snapped on 15 when he used that passive-aggressive crap on me for the 7th time. I had a good idea of what I WANTED to say to him, but I was afraid my temper would prevent me from being diplomatic. So after 18 holes, I stayed silent.

I did, however, say something to the Caddie Master.

“Hey, I don’t know how this tournament is being organized exactly, but is there anyway that you can arrange for me NOT to go with Velvet Cuddles again?”

“Why?”

“I’ll work doubles for the next 2 weeks. Please?”

“Umm…okay. Which one is he?”

“He’s got the Red Sox hat on over there.”

“Okay.”

I was miserable. I had really let him get under my skin. And to top it all off, I let that fact slip out in the caddie room. One of my buds walked over to me as I crashed on the couch with my sandwich.

“How’d it go?”

“Ohhhh man. Just awful.”

“Oh yeah? Why is that?”

“I just hope I don’t have to go with that guy again.”

The whole caddie room quieted down.

“Who?”

“The guy in the Red Sox cap out there. I just hate him.”

Now all of the caddies were looking out the window, trying to pick him out.

“That guy? Why? What happened?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Tom, you really look upset.”

“Nah, it’s no big deal.”

But it was. I didn’t realize it at the time, but by telling everyone how much I hated this one player, I had made the Caddie Master’s job much MUCH harder than it needed to be. Because now nobody wanted to go with this guy. In a way I was flattered that so many caddies would respect my opinion and simply hate this guy just from me SAYING that I hated him, but on the other hand, now I was a “whiner” in the eyes of the Caddie Master. Before the second shot-gun of the day the Caddie Master approached me.

“You know, you better stop talking about your loop or YOU’LL be the one going with that guy again because nobody else will want to.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t know why I let him affect me as much as he did.”

Maybe it was the sleep depravation. But then again, I’ve been on LOTS of loops after a long night, and NONE of them were as bad as this.

But, regardless of how pissed the Caddie Master was with me, he still helped me out and didn’t put me with ol’ Velvet again. But after the two days, 3 out of the 4 caddies who went with him agree: Mr. Cuddles is a dick/prick. At least I’m not THAT crazy.

And thanks so much for reading this far. I know it was a lot, but you have no idea how therapeutic this is for me.

10 comments:

English Dave said...

Evening

Like I said in my last comment, old pal, some people are just jerks and if they feel the need to mutter and whinge and try and place blame for their own shortcomings and inability to hit a 6 foot putt straight, then fuck 'em. In the ass. With an OWL!!! That'll keep 'em up all night, thinking about that they did. An OWL!!! With RED ANTS!!!

26 bucks? You're a big-timer all right. What does that work out at, about $5 an hour? That's a good living, right there.

I hate getting up in the morning. Anything before 7 is ungodly. I don't know how you do it on a regular basis. Sticking the alarm way across the room is a good idea. I have an alarm/radio and listen to Terry Wogan in the morning - he's a young, hip and happening DJ over here.

I can't imagine why anyone would be as miserable as Mr Cuddles on the golf course. Why? Don't most people play golf to enjoy themselves and relax? Is he that shallow that he can't possibly ever imagine himself missing a shot and every time he fails to make par or birdie it must be someone else's fault? He should be out on Tour, if he's that damn good, show us all how to do it. I remember listening to Phil Mickelson in an interview after a round in one of the Majors (I forget which) and he was asked what went wrong when he dropped a shot or two on one hole. He said "Well, I didn't listen to Bones. He told me the right approach shot to play but I couldn't see it and didn't feel comfortable trying to pull it off so I hit a club more and went over the back." When the interviewer asked him why he didn't listen to his caddy, he said "I said to him at the time 'Bones, I will be much more comfortable and happy with myself dropping a shot through my own mistake and being wrong rather than you being wrong.'" (Is that the correct quote marks? I'm guessing wildly) i just thought it was big of Phil to take the blame for his own shortcomings and admit his mistake and that his caddy was right, rather than cast about and blame anyone other than himself. And relevant, maybe to the story, although, perhaps, slightly long-winded in the re-telling, much like this sentence which feels like it will never end ...

But anyway, the guy's clearly a twat and hates the fact that he's not the best at this game, when he probably likes to think of himself as the best at everything else he does, which is probably only work. And he's a Red Sox fan as well? I kinda like the Red Sox, going for the whole plucky underdog kind of thing, and anyone who sweeps the Yankees is cool with me, but it just goes to show that not all fans of any team are the same. I'm sure there must be a nice Manchester United fan out there somewhere, but I've yet to meet them.

We're always here reading, old pal. Please keep on writing. Take care and KYN

David

P.S. One of the above statements is blatantly untrue - can you guess which one?

English Dave said...

Ah, there you are.

The actual Mickelson quote, who puts it much more eloquently than I did.

"It's always my choice. I can live with my mistakes. I can't live with his. I can live with going for it and not pulling it off. What I'm not okay with is doing something I'm less than 100% committed to and still not having it work. I don't play that way"

Gotta go, work to do. Cheers!

David

New Texan said...

Dude, that just sucks... I see guys making excuses all the time and yelling at inanimate objects (like the yardage markers, the GPS in the carts, their little hand held laser yardage finders)... I can't imagine being on the receiving end of that.

It's a shame you are not in position to say "trust me and hit the ball solidly." Ugh.

I had some friends in town this past weekend... first course we played was in a little rough shape, particularly the bunkers... my one friend who plays at Kiawah all the time, couldn't stop bitching about the bunkers. At one point, I said "I don't know what you are talking about... the bunkers seem fine to me."... his response "how would you know, you haven't been in one..."

Duh.

Don't like the bunkers? Hit the ball better.

Jam Boy said...

Great comments guys. And I do like that quote about Phil. Players who understand that a hard-working caddie deserves a bit of slack are all hero's in my book.

I find it rather stressful sometimes caddying for members in a simple member-guest or a club championship. I couldn't imagine caddying for a pro in a major. Though I have to admit, that would be a lot of fun to try. I know it will be a cold day in hell before Tiger uses somebody other than Stevie, but that would be hilarious caddying for Tiger:

"How far to clear the bunker?"

"238 with a little wind in your face. Better go with the 6 iron."

"What are you smoking?"

"Crack, usually. But I've seen your highlight reel. Don't be a pansy. Just hit the freakin' 6 you big animal you."

Oh man. That would be so much fun. I probably wouldn't be asked to caddie for him again, but I think being able to razz ANY tour player would be hilarious. Even for one round.

English Dave said...

I had a dream once that I won some competition or other (I don't even enter these kind of things, so I don't know where that came from) and got to caddy for Tiger in something inconsequential (what a superb word!) like a pro-am or something similar. I did not do a good job. I dropped balls and gave him the wrong bats and forgot to clean out his grooves and all kinds of rubbish.

I think I was trying to get him to hit the wrong clubs as well.

"200 yards? Take 9 iron and thin it as hard as you possibly can. Go on - you can get it there." I think I stopped short of calling him a pansy, though. Wouldn't that be great if the on-course cameras and microphones picked up Stevie calling Tiger that in a tournament, though? Then you would know for sure that Stevie reads your site. I reckon he probably does.

Anyway, when we finished, Tiger signed a ball and a glove and all that, but the look he gave me was of utter disgust and contempt, like I was the biggest waste of oxygen the world has ever seen. I took it to mean I wasn't getting the gig on a full-time basis. I've never liked him quite so much since then.

Now, John Daly, I could have a fucking blast with. He is, and always will be, my boy.

David

Steve Williams said...

I do not read this site!

I don't need anyone to tell ME how to do my job.

You! Put that camera away or I'm climbing in there and taking it from you! And if I need to whack you while I'm at it, don't think I won't!

Anyone want to race some cars?

Steve

Jam Boy said...

Not really sure what to make of that last comment.

If this IS Stevie Williams, I'm happy you left me some feedback, but I would encourage you to read a little more, seeing as how I never even hint at telling a professional caddie like yourself how to do your job.

If this isn't, thanks a lot for sending a cold shiver up my spine and scaring the crap out of me. That worked out better than the coffee I had yesterday.

Either way, thanks for reading.

English Dave said...

Tom, dude, do you really think Stevie would, even if he did read your site (which I think he would enjoy, if he ever did, although, if I was him, I don't know how much time I would have for surfing the net and reading weblogs) (that was a lot of commas, wasn't it?) leave a comment like that?

It was me, you doofus. I tried to put in everything I know about Stevie - that is, he likes to race cars and whack people with cameras in the gallery. Oh, and he's a Kiwi, but I'm not smart enough to know how to imply that in print.

Sorry if I got your hopes up. I thought you might have put 2 & 2 together with the time of posting of "Steve's" comment being like 3 minutes after mine. But I'm sure the real Stevie is smart enough not to take offence at someone making light with his name.

Man, I should get a life, or, at least, do some work while I'm at work.

David

Jam Boy said...

Yep, you scared the crap out of me Dave. Man I need a day off. I think I'm not smart right now.

Matt said...

Keep up the great work JB. I always look forward to your stories.

Cheers,
Matt