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?”
“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?”
“Do you see this dark spot right here?”
“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.
“Well, put it out about a cup more. You’ve got a little—“
“I got it.”
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.
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?”
“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.”
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.
“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.
Monday, April 30, 2007
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.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
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.”
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.”
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.
“I think it was a 6. Is that right?”
Well, it might’ve been 7.
“I feel so bad for you. This is only my 2nd time playing golf.”
“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.
Posted by Tom Collins at 7:30 PM
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Although the golf course is now open 7 days a week, I think many members still consider Monday’s to be closed. That’s all I can figure, because it was 82 and sunny today and all of 5 groups graced the first tee-box.
I was told to arrive at 10 am. This meant sleeping in until 9, which was something I hadn’t done in a long time. There was something so peaceful about sleeping in, coming to work and being sent right out on a loop. With an approximate tee-time of 11, I wouldn’t have to worry about working a double, and I almost felt like celebrating with my token crack pipe. In fact, yes, let me do that. But wait. Before I do, let me just take a look at the tee sheet and make sure that life is in fact perfect.
There’s nobody on the sheet until 12:30. Crap. I was told to come in at 10 just in case there were any “additions.” Double farts.
So once I arrived, I did what every other self-respecting caddie would do if he had to wait around for a while. I fell asleep. But it wasn’t a peaceful sleep. I’ve had to train myself over the last couple of years to be a very light sleeper in the caddie room, because you never know when somebody might throw a golf ball at your bean-bag, a nerf ball at your head, or take a permanent marker and draw a dick on your face.
You wouldn’t really expect that last one, seeing as how this is a “customer-service industry” and there is so much face-to-face interaction required, but I’ve seen it happen. And it’s hard as hell to tell a member what club they should use when you have a giant dong on your face.
So as I went in and out of slumber I caught little pieces of what was going on around me. The radio would buzz and blast out info about members arriving. A caddie would chime in and ask, “Any more additions?” No. I’d wake up 20 minutes later to find a card game going on. Twenty-minutes or so after that I heard one of the caddies taking food orders for lunch. I decided I wasn’t hungry, so I kept sleeping.
After about an hour of nodding off, I decided to get up and interact. You know, just hang out. I tossed the nerf ball around with another caddie, I bought a diet coke, took a few sips and talked with our resident conspiracy-theorist about what ACTUALLY happened to building 7 on September 11th, 2001. And then, after hearing the theory for the 34th time, I decided to go to the bathroom.
You might think all this fluff about my activities is somewhat pointless, but I’m trying to paint a little picture before the rest of my day unfolded. Basically, up until this point, I was just lounging around and feeling very relaxed.
So now here I am—relaxed and ever so content on the John—when there’s a knock on the door.
“Someone’s in here.”
Just in case the locked door wasn’t dropping any hints.
“Tom? You in there?”
“You’re on the tee! Just pinch it off and let’s go!”
There was laughter in the background.
“Be right out.”
The lounging around was over. Now I’m flying. In the last 30 minutes, the Caddie Master had to have walked by me at least 20 times. Couldn’t he have dropped some sort of hint? I WOULD’VE been ready. Oh well. I ran outside to see what the hell was going on.
“Who the hell do I have today?”
“You’ll be caddying with Tony. You’re both taking this foursome on carts. Easy job today.”
There was, of course, one thing he left out. This foursome consisted of guests belonging to a particularly cheap member. Not only that, but his groups are always slow. So if you add all of these factors together—a slow group, a bad tip expectation, the fact that there are two caddies doing the job that ONE caddie could easily handle—you’ve got two SERIOUSLY unmotivated caddies working for you. And that’s not good.
But every caddie in the yard knows about this loop. It happens 4-5 times a season, and the Caddie Master rotates the caddies’ assigned so the same 2-4 caddies aren’t constantly being screwed. And I hate to put it that way, because honestly, I still have a lot of respect for this profession and I will always try my hardest to do the best job I can REGARDLESS of pay, but once the round exceeds 4 hours and 45 minutes, my brain shuts off and I start going into hysterics.
Fortunately, the guys we were working with today were very nice. Always cracking jokes and were quite receptive to any advice we were giving them. Then again, there were definitely a few things that started to bug me and the other caddie after a while.
Take yardages for example. There was one player in the group who truly believed that he could hit his pitching-wedge 150 yards. I myself have never swung an oversized “Prince” iron before, but I would imagine they behave much like other golf clubs on the market today. I mean, they have to abide by certain natural laws. Like physics, for example. Now, if I STEP on my PW, 1 out of 10 times I’ll hit it 140. Tops. That’s de-lofting the face, putting it back in my stance, and trying to hit it like it was a 7-iron.
On the 11th hole Mr. Smokesalottacrack was 148 yards from the flag. So, naturally, he grabbed his PW because “that’s a perfect yardage for it.” He ended up 40 yards short in the greenside bunker.
“Must’ve been some wind up there.”
Oh yes, absolutely. Or it could’ve just been reality saying howdy-doody.
One of the other players in the group hit his drive so far on the first hole I thought he was a Long-Drive Champion from Vegas. The first hole is around 365, and he was 20 yards off of the green, PUTTING from the fairway after his tee shot. His follow-thru looked like Sammy Sosa belting another home run. He fell back on his right foot after every swing. Even his putts.
The two remaining players were Mr. Right and Mr. Wrong. They switched names religiously throughout the round. First, one would be in the fairway and the other would be in the rough. Then vice-versa. Then they’d both be in the trap, smash their 3WD’s into the lip and wonder why they didn’t clear it.
“It’s like their swings are randomized and they’re never really sure what will happen. And did you see how Mr. Smokesalottacrack putts? It’s like Kramer entering Seinfeld’s apartment.”
Ah Tony. He made that comment when we were on the 7th hole and the group ahead of us had pulled 2 holes ahead. Neither of us could figure out what to say or do to speed these guys up. They just seemed perfectly content NOT knowing what time it was. Tony and I started placing bets on where their tee-shots would end up.
“He’s going way right into the shit over there.”
“I think he’ll try, but his ball really just wants to end up in the bunker BEFORE the shit.”
The ball ended up just out of the bunker in-between the sand and the hazard line. So we were both wrong. But it was funny how well we were getting to know our players’ golf games. I imagine forecasting the stock market is much easier to do than figure out where Mr. Smokesalottacrack got his stash and why he thinks he can consistently hit a PW 150 yards. I hate to keep coming back to this. But my GOD: 150 yards? If that were true, they WHY have more than like 5 irons in your bag? That would mean you could hit your 5 iron like 220. In fact, why carry woods at all? You’d just need 3-5 irons, a wedge or two and your putter.
“I’m really a better skier than I am a golfer.”
THEN WHY CLAIM YOU CAN HIT A PW 150 YARDS BUTT-WIPE!?
Alright. Sorry. Just had to get that out.
The 8th hole is a long uphill par 5. From a caddies’ perspective, it’s one of 4 or 5 holes that will occasionally piss you off because it can be quite difficult to follow a tee shot as the tee boxes are elevated slightly higher than where you stand in forecaddie position. So if a player hits the ball high enough, you can miss the ball completely. This can prove to be a little challenging when it comes to hand signals. If you didn’t see where the ball ended up, but you can tell that the player is staring at you from the tee-box with a deep and burning desire to know WHERE the hell his ball just ended up, you’ve got problems. I normally make some sort of half-assed sign that could be interpreted as more than one just to make sure I’m not wrong when we finally DO determine where the ball is. I know that’s a bit of a cop out, but as a caddie, the golden rule is to NEVER lose a players’ ball. So I like to try and adhere to that rule as often as possible.
So Mr. Smokesalottacrack hits a line drive, right at us. But it takes me a second to figure out where it is because when the ball initially deflected off of the club-face, its figure is masked by the sunlight bouncing off of the trees behind the players. When I finally do pick it up, I realize it’s heading right for us. I mean RIGHT for us.
“It’s heading right for us, Tony.”
As soon as I realized I was out of its possible flight path I turned to see if Tony was going to be alright. He hadn’t moved yet. He was in an athletic position, knees flexed, staring down the ball to try and anticipate where it might go. He wasn’t sure if he should dive right or left. Everything seemed to move in slow motion.
The ball struck the ground about 15 yards short of him. He made a split decision and immediately ducked and rolled to his left. The ball was ripping through the air with that characteristic buzzing noise as the ball rotated at Solar-system-esque-insane-freakin’-speeds. Just as Tony’s head was about even with his waist, the ball flew just over his back and careened off of a tree, coming to rest 30 yards further left in the rough. It was like watching the first Matrix movie.
“Wow. You okay Tony?”
“Yeah. Man, I could HEAR that thing go over me.”
Honestly, if Tony hadn’t ducked and rolled when he did, that ball would’ve hit him square in the chest. Whew.
Mr. Smokesalottacrack drove up shortly thereafter. “The guys were telling me to yell ‘fore’ but I figured you guys are caddies. You should be watching the ball anyway.”
Yes, but at those speeds you’re just lucky Tony has the reflexes of a cat, otherwise I don’t think he would’ve made it.
“I mean, I actually AIMED at you guys, figuring my ball would slice like it normally does. But it didn’t.”
“Uh-huh. You have about 346 yards left, uphill and into the wind. You also need to hit it low to keep it underneath these initial tree branches. Sounds like a pitching-wedge to me.”
“That’s amazing. How did you know I wanted that club?”
Just expecting the unexpected, sir.
By the time we reached the 16th hole, Tony informed me that we had already crossed the 5 hour mark on our round with these fine gentlemen. Upon hearing the news, a switch was tripped in my brain and I immediately found humor in everything around me. A bird chirped and I almost crapped my pants I was laughing so hard.
Just as the first player was about to tee off and actually get our group MOVING in the right direction again, Mr. Long-drive chimed in: “Wait a minute. Should we bet something on this shot? I think we should.”
I started laughing again. I turned away and tried to think of dead Sea Otters and oil spills and Martha Stewart in jail.
“Yeah. Closest to the pin, $5 a man.”
Oh, the setup was perfect. I wanted so badly to turn to Tony and say, “Alright guys. $5 a man, closest to the GREEN.” I started laughing again, because I mean hell, I just said it in my head and I thought it was the funniest thing ever. I couldn’t even look at Tony without laughing. Were these guys kidding? I mean come on, I always want to support players getting better and I never like making fun of people who are struggling with their golf games. But honestly, once you cross that 5-hour barrier on a round of golf, you should be asked to leave. I don’t care if you’re a good golfer or a bad golfer. Just grab your stuff and get the hell out. I am no longer responsible for my actions. I suppose if you're stuck behind a group the whole day, then playing a round in over 5 hours can be understandable. But if you have the whole golf course to yourself? It's inexcusable.
Out of the 4 shots, ONE landed on the green. So I was wrong. He was 87 feet away. I’m sure that was a world-record or something.
And when we finally reached the clubhouse after 5 hours and 45 minutes, all I remember doing is absentmindedly shaking their hands and saying I had to go. There were no pleasantries left in me. I was just grateful I wasn’t going out with them tomorrow. My heart goes out to those caddies.
Posted by Tom Collins at 10:00 AM
Monday, April 16, 2007
Yesterday was the opening-day scramble at my home course. Normally, the head-pro is asking staff guys to play in it because there aren’t enough members interested. But this year was different. Ten foursomes were formed (5 more than last year) and until about 5 minutes before the shotgun, I was unaware that I was even working. It was one of those mornings where most of the caddies were just loitering around the yard laughing, eating and running up to their cars for a smoke break. It was noisy and nobody seemed to care whether or not they worked. They were all just happy to be hanging out—myself included. But secretly, one by one, caddies were chosen for the tournament and after a while, the cart barn went quiet. And as I looked around me and noticed there were only a few caddies left, I finally started to wonder. Was I going to work today?
Almost as soon as I had that thought my boss (who was subbing in for the regular Caddie Master) called my name.
A while back my boss found out that I’m ¼ Polish and so now he calls out almost any Polish-sounding name that comes to mind when he wants to grab my attention. Everything usually ends with a “-ski.” I don’t mind. It usually makes me laugh. I mean, if your name was Mark and somebody started calling you Doofy, you’d probably look at them funny and laugh too. And if it wasn’t “Strapinski,” it was Dumbowski. If it wasn’t Dumbowski, it was Papinski. It’s all gravy.
I grabbed a towel and ran out to the circle to find a horde of people surrounding the head pro.
“—So do you understand the format? Not only do you have to use 3 drives from everyone, but you have to play from 6 bunkers, use 6 shots out of the rough and use 6 shots from the fringe or fairway areas around the greens. You are never allowed to be on the greens in regulation. This is a ‘short-game scramble’ contest today gentlemen.”
Although I’ve never caddied under this format before, it sounded intriguing. Under this format, that meant that if after 12 holes your group had already taken 6 fairway/fringe shots and 6 shots from the rough, from 13-18 you’re now forced to try and get up and down from the bunkers. That meant a lot of Nicklaus-esque course management and planning throughout the round. Because as I thought about it, many of the “good-miss” areas were 1/10th the size of the putting surfaces. And if you’re trying to hit that target from even 120 yards out, that can present a problem. Especially under the crappy weather conditions, which were kicking up some cold and blustery winds.
I felt like I’ve read about this sort of challenge before. Maybe it was in Dave Pelz’s Short Game Bible. I think Mr. Pelz said this is one of the best short-game tests out there, and even the pro’s can only finish even or -1 on their BEST days. I have to agree with him. Without exaggeration, this is the most challenging tournament format I’ve ever seen. It was so much fun to work as a team with my players and try and determine where the best lay-up areas were. It was also very challenging, because every player has his or her own style as far as how to attack any given hole. Certain players are more comfortable with bunker shots than others, for example. But now you have 6 people (including the caddies) trying to put their heads together and figure out where the safest play would be on any given hole. Where should we place the ball—given the pin location—in order to allow for the easiest up-and-down scenario? And we didn’t always agree.
In fact, the indecisiveness of our “A” player annoyed the hell out of the other caddie in the group.
“I just don’t understand it. If you’re a member at this golf course, OBVIOUSLY you’re successful, which means you know how to make decisions. But this guy has no idea what the hell he’s doing. I hate him.”
That last sentence made me a little nervous. This caddie has been working here for about 7 years, and I believe he holds the record for being kicked off of more loops than anyone else. On a previous loop, one of the players turned to him on the first hole and said something to the effect of: “Don’t worry about reading my putts today. I would much rather read them myself.”
To which this caddie replied: “Well I don’t want to fucking watch you miss putts all day.” And so the member asked him to leave. I guess that was just fine with the caddie, seeing as how he wouldn’t have to watch that guy putt anymore.
So the fact that this ticking-time-bomb of a caddie “hates” this player made me a little anxious. And on the 8th hole, the caddie lashed out.
I was carrying two bags and he was forecaddying for the two older guys in the cart. Needless to say, he was 50 yards ahead of me and my players, discussing the necessary strategy for the hole, namely: we need to be on the fairway leading up to the green, and that means a smart knock-down shot to leave an 80-100 yard 3rd shot into this well-bunkered par 5. I understood the logic, because there weren’t any “easy” up-and-downs to be had with the current pin location. But when we arrived at the chosen ball, Mr. Indecisive was most indecisive.
“Alright, so what are we doing here—“
The other caddie immediately pounced: “You know what? You weren’t here and we’ve already discussed it. Just hit your 180 club and don’t ask any more questions.”
Mr. Indecisive’s mouth dropped. My mouth dropped, as did my expectations for a good tip unless I jumped in with something cheerful to counterbalance this stupid-ass comment.
“So Mr. Indecisive…how was your winter?”
“Umm…it was…fine. Thanks, Tom.”
Whew. I knew that comment was random, but jeez. I had to say something, or I might’ve had to break up a fight. You should’ve seen the look on Mr. Indecisive’s face. I usually only see that look when I see Vince McMahon’s threatening to kill another wrestler.
Fortunately, after a well placed comment to the other caddie, he calmed down and the rest of the round went smoothly.
One of the coolest aspects of this format was how it REQUIRED everyone’s help. In many scramble situations, you usually have 1-2 players contributing most of the shots, and normally the older players are left just sitting and watching the tournament rather than playing in it.
But in this tournament, the 67 year old man was our HORSE. He’d be 80 yards from the bunker we want him to aim for, and he’d skull it right in there. Meanwhile, our better players were trying to float it into the bunker and missed the landing area completely. I’ve never seen an older man laugh so hard. This had to have happened on 8 or 9 holes of the round. And the really amazing thing I started to notice throughout the day was how WELL everyone’s shots were ending up. There were a few holes where the perfect miss was to go just over the green and into the rough. Instead, the player would end up sticking it 3 feet from the cup.
And then he’d laugh hysterically, because on any other day and in any other tournament, that shot would’ve been great.
Our team had 2 lucky chip-ins on the front nine and ended up finishing the tournament 2-under. The closest group to us was +1. It may sound sadistic, but when you’re playing in a scramble format and you can’t seem to do any better than -1 or -2 no matter how well you’re whole team plays, that’s a great tournament.
And the benefits from playing in a tournament like this cannot be underestimated. I would imagine that at least 5-10 players who participated yesterday will now start thinking more in terms of “where do I want to land this ball, and what is the yardage to that spot?” instead of simply “how far to the pin?”
Posted by Tom Collins at 9:10 PM
Thursday, April 12, 2007
About 2 weeks ago a caddie threw a CD on my lap. Apparently one of the members had recently recorded a country album. Now I’m not much of a country fan, so I hadn’t heard of him. I tried to look him up on Amazon and I think I found goat milk for sale that was cheaper and more abundant than any info on Mr. Country here. But the one thing I did notice on the CD was that under every song title it credited Mr. Country with the music and lyrics. There are 12 songs on the CD. So under every song, on the back of HIS CD, I have to read his name over and over and over again. In a way, that’s like putting the calorie count on water. We all get the point.
So when I was told I would be caddying for Mr. Country today I couldn’t help but lower my head and chuckle as I went over to shake his hand and introduce myself. He was accompanied by 3 men, and I’ll use their real names because as far as I could tell, they might not even be their real names anyway.
Mike, Vinny and Terry. Three guys who looked like they had just fallen off of The Soprano’s set. Either that, or they really WERE Mafioso. They all stared me down as I shook their hands. What are you tough-lookin’ guys doin’ with this lanky country boy?
I guess they were Mr. Country’s posse. Kind of like rappers in the whole east-coast west-coast clash of the titans, Mr. Country needs to have protection at all times from all those opposed to putting your name under every single one of your fucking songs on the back of your CD. YOUR CD Mr. Country. We get it.
Normally I like to clean the clubs a little bit before players tee off, but there was so much dirt crusted on each of the sets of rental irons that I barely had enough time to do 2 or 3 clubs before I had to run out into forecaddie position to see where their shots were going.
And I hate to give away some of the fun, but I swear to God and sunny Jesus—I could’ve taken a shotgun filled with buckshot, walked into the middle of a hayfield, put on a blindfold and spun myself around. Then I could’ve fired the gun in an arbitrary direction and STILL found every piece of buckshot in the hay EASIER than I could’ve found any NUMBER of golf shots these guys hit today. Every shot went in a different direction and they were all playing ready golf. Mr. Country told me this fact on the 3rd hole, but I could tell after their second shots on the 1st what kind of crack they were smoking.
And the worst part was, they were all giving me the cold shoulder for the first 6 holes. Other than acknowledging me as I gave them a yardage, none of them talked to me or looked in my direction until a magical shot occurred on 7.
Mike had rocked a drive 227 down the left side of the fairway and was now 187 from the flagstick.
“It’s 159 front and 187 pin, Mike.”
“You sure about that?”
“Yeah. 187 pin.”
“You wouldn’t lie to me, would you Tom?”
Why? You gonna cut off my balls with a spork or something?
“No sir. I wouldn’t do that to you.”
I sorta have an incentive to help you out Mr. Godfather.
“Because my clubs don’t lie.”
Just hit the ball. We’ll see what happens then prune-face.
And sure enough, he hit a great shot and put it pin high on the green, about 20 feet left for birdie.
“Tom! My man!”
Obligatory fist mash. Great.
“See, I told you I wasn’t lying.”
And from then on, the rest of the group started warming up to me. This only further proves my theory that as long as you hustle and don’t try to force a conversation, eventually a relationship will form completely on its own.
Not to be mean, because I have plenty of faults with my OWN swing, but I always find it humorous when you see a player cock his wrist in a strange way, or sway backwards before he takes the club back, or do something a little weird which seems to switch on a little voice in your head that makes you want to spew out something reminiscent of a swing thought to help them out. Mr. Country had a bad habit of swaying before he took the club back. In fact, it was the swaying motion which took the club away from the ball in the first place.
“Hey Tom? Why is my ball going in all directions?”
“I don’t know. But it’s a gorgeous day, isn’t it?”
Yes, it was a cop-out. But I just didn’t want to fight that battle today.
Then, on 13, one of the rarest of anomalies occurred before my very eyes. The fabled “triple-hit.” It came without warning. One minute you have a player on the back of the green chipping for 3, and the next minute they’re on the other side of the green putting for 6. Come to think of it, in the spirit of Mr. Country, I think I’ll sing a little ditty about it.
Oh I lost my wife and my dog and my car and my house…
Wait. Maybe we won’t go THAT far into country-song lingo. Let’s start over.
Oh I was playin’ a round with my buddies three,
Three ugly lookin’ guys are my posse,
The round was goin’ swell till we hit 13,
And my partner hit the weirdest freakin’ shot I’ve ever seen.
Oh kiss my grits and call me Sally!
I was playin’ spring golf with a few of my pallies!
Smoked so much refer I can barely see!
But that sum-bitch was penalized 3!
So he grabbed a club he called his own,
A gift from his kid whose almost grown,
Lined up his shot like ‘em boys on tour,
But the resulting shot wasn’t anything pure.
Oh kiss my grits and call me Sally!
I was playin’ spring golf with a few of my pallies!
Smoked so much refer I can barely see!
But that sum-bitch was penalized 3!
He took the club back all full of hope,
Lord in heaven he’s been smokin’ dope,
The club came through with a mighty swing,
And all I could hear was bing bing bing.
Oh kiss my grits and call me Sally!
I was playin’ spring golf with a few of my pallies!
Smoked so much refer I can barely see!
But that sum-bitch was penalized 3!
Alrighty then. I’ll stop there because honestly, if I don’t, I don’t know if I COULD stop the song. But what I saw was unbelievable. The club came through, click. The club came up a little more, click. And then, as if the player was afraid the ball wasn’t going to go anywhere, it looked like he purposefully snapped his hands forward and around to slap the ball onto the green in the hope that the ball would land SOMEWHERE near the hole. But it didn’t.
“He just double-hit that Tom?”
No. It was a triple-hit. And it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
Posted by Tom Collins at 8:10 PM
Sunday, April 08, 2007
As a caddie, switching gears is very hard to do. At least for me. And by switching gears, I mean that you have your mind set on doing one task, but you’re assigned another. Take for example a slow day on the golf course. After a while, you get it through your head that you’re not going to caddie on that particular day. So you start to accept it, and pretty soon you’re looking forward to getting home early, maybe going to hit some golf balls and or hitting the crack pipe. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, a rogue group walks down the path and before your foot is out the door the Caddie Master pulls you back in, saying you need to work.
Whenever this happens to me, I get a little frustrated. And it’s not because I hate making money. It’s that I had just set my sights on doing something else, and now my dreams are squashed. I’m still not exactly sure if this is something that only afflicts ME or if this is something everyone can relate to. And the worst part about this is I inadvertently make the wrong first impression with my players and they immediately assume that I don’t want to be with them. This can cause some awkward tension on the first few holes.
Today was the extreme of switching gears. It’s like I went from 5th to 1st. I was redlining.
The weather was a little colder than usual, and so my assigned group at 9 am had cancelled. Fortunately, I called in ahead of time and didn’t have to drive all the way in just to find that out. And as an added bonus, I was told to come in at 12:30 to play the course with the new trainees.
Just as an aside, my boss has adopted a new training program. The way it used to work was, the Caddie Master would be playing golf and YOU (as the new trainee) would carry his bag. And so while the Caddie Master was playing, you’d try to pick up on all of the pointers. But now, the Caddie Master walks up the middle of the fairway and directs the new trainees while the SENIOR caddies play golf. What a sweet idea. So today, I got to play golf while a future jam-boy took flight.
So I arrived on time, but was unsure as to whether or not I should bring my bag down into the caddie yard. It just felt weird being able to play golf in the middle of the day on a Friday. I felt like I was going to get into trouble at any second. But then I saw another senior caddie waiting with his bag in the parking lot smoking a cigarette. I guess I wasn’t the only one feeling a little hesitant to walk down with my bag to the first tee. But when he saw me approach, he smiled and we both seemed to agree that as long as we went down there together, we were safe from getting into trouble.
And about a half an hour later, after I realized that this was for real and all of the trainees and senior caddies had arrived, my boss started the same speech I had heard and tried to soak up two years before. Greeting the golfer, meeting the bag, organizing the clubs, making sure you have tees, scorecards, a pin sheet and a towel. The whole nine yards. And then we all moved out to the first tee.
Now, the three other caddies playing were all guys I had played with before. I knew their games and their potential, as I’m sure they knew mine. But there was just something about having all the trainees, my boss, and 5-6 staff guys surrounding the first tee that made the tee shot that much more nerve-racking. I’ve played in junior tournaments before and had maybe 3-4 people following my group, and even THAT was a rush. Now I was in a group of 15. And on top of nerves, I was wearing like 200 layers and I wasn’t sure I could even make a good swing.
I was the last to tee off. One of the other guys playing was a 2 handicap, and he ended up toeing his tee-shot into the right bunker. The second caddie went into the woods. The third guy ended up in the left rough. Somehow, I put it in the fairway.
The whole walk up to my ball was spent trying to relax. And even though this was just for the new trainees’ benefit and my score didn’t matter at all, the fact that my boss and some other people were watching made my hands shake. I could tell it was affecting the other players as well, as they went from 2-5 handicaps to 15’s, putting their balls in all kinds of weird places.
I knocked my second shot to 20 feet and somehow managed to drain it, hands still shaking, not even able to focus on the ball. I have no idea how the tour players do it week in and week out.
After a lucky putt and a par on 2, my playing partners were starting to give me some crap.
“You know Tom, normally I’d say you’re doing pretty well, but we’re playing off of the blue tees. You’re practically playing off of the reds, dude.”
I quickly countered: “So what does that say about how well YOU’RE playing right now?”
“I know, I suck.”
I smiled. I was just grateful that they were trying to cut the tension. We were all nervous playing in front of strangers. Even IF they would eventually be our brothers. But the comment helped me come back down a little from all of the anxiety. Now I was just pumped. I mean hey, I’m -1 though 2. That’s better than Tiger Woods.
Yeah right. I pulled my drive on 3 so far left you would’ve thought I had an offset club-head on the end of a whippy-whip cream shaft.
The guy carrying my bag went from smiling, thinking life was grand to a POKER face by the time I reached my ball, 70 yards left of the fairway next to the water on 4.
“Well, you can’t be in the fairway all the time.”
Clever. Sounds like something I would say. Touche newbie.
I hit a solid second shot, but was so hopped up on testosterone from being 1-under that I jacked my 5-iron over the green into the rough. And even after a decent flop shot, I couldn’t convert the 10 footer for par. Back to even.
We skipped to the par-4 13th so we could play 13-18 and end up back at the clubhouse. On the way over to the tee, one of the caddies interjected: “Hey, I just made par. If we were playing match play, we’d be even right now Tom. Care to place a little wager on this?”
Oh. How could he. The nerve. What an insensitive little—
Well, what can I say. I couldn’t help myself. A little wager to spice things up couldn’t hurt. I mean hell, I was already feeling nervous, why not add a REASON to be nervous?
The 13th hole at my course is a huge bitch. Way too long to be a par-4 and yet not long enough to be a par-5. So I’m sure the course architect in all his omnipotent glory just rounded down and decided to make everyone’s life a living hell.
The only reprieve a golfer finds on this incredibly evil par-4 is the rather large fairway. But, I figured WHY be like everyone else. So I snap-hooked it again, this time into the trees. My boss yelled back as the ball played PLINKO with the branches: “Don’t worry! Just be thankful it’s hitting so many branches!”
Oh. So maybe that meant I wasn’t in the lateral on the left.
Close. I WAS in the lateral on the left, but it was playable. And after 5 more heroic shots, I was in for a double-bogey 6 and a few jeers from my fellow playing partners.
“You like the trees over there?”
“You knew that putt didn’t break that much. Dumbass.”
But out of nowhere, the rookie caddie on my bag made a comment.
“Don’t listen to them. Just catch some of that fire you had on the first 3 holes and we’re right back in this thing.”
Wow. I’m impressed. It’s amazing what a well-placed comment from a caddie can do for your confidence. Although he was only a trainee, I felt like a tour player getting some last-minute advice from a veteran.
The 14th is the second signature hole of the golf course. It’s a par 5, and if you’re long enough off of the tee, it sets up a tin-cup-esque yardage over water to the green. From the tees we were playing, a well-struck tee shot would leave a long-iron into the flag. After the stellar double on the previous hole, I was the last to tee off. After a crisp tee shot, I was 174 from the front and 192 to the pin. There was a little wind in my face and the flag was tucked just over the pond. Normally I’d try to swing a smooth 3-iron, but then I remembered that I can’t hit my 3-iron worth a crap and if I just so happened to catch it WELL, I’m over the back of the green with an impossible shot. So I opted for the 4-iron.
“I like that club.” I can already tell this caddie will do just fine if he sticks with it.
The other players in the group started giving me crap.
“Oh come on Tom. Go for the green you pansy.”
From their vantage point, they couldn’t see the loft of the iron I held in my hand. I just gave them a quick look and fired away. I thinned it a little bit, but I ended up JUST clearing the hazard, bouncing up onto the green and rolling to about 6 feet behind the hole. The next putt would be downhill and lightning fast.
As we approached the green, my boss was still giving some instructions to the new recruits.
“Yes, that’s right…make sure you’re pinching the grass IN as you fix the ball marks on the greens…and just so you all know, it’s never a good idea to put pressure on one of your players to make a putt, but Tom had BETTER freakin’ make his eagle putt. Period.”
Great. Now my hands are shaking again. I was feeling so good, but now my eyes have glazed over and I can’t seem to tell whether that’s the green or the sky I’m looking at. I’m screwed. Just then, my boss leaned over towards me.
“By the way, it’s no more than right edge. Don’t go outside of the hole, Tom.”
Well that was nice of him. I wasn’t expecting that. Man, I tell you: if these caddies didn’t boost my confidence, I probably would’ve quit by now. I couldn’t believe how nervous I was. Yay for caddies.
The caddie on my bag just looked at the putt and then back at me, shaking his head. “Jesus. That’s fast. Good luck, man.”
Thanks. Non-yay for caddies. Whew. Here-goes. I don’t even think I took a backswing. I just squared the putter towards the inside-right of the hole and got the ball started end-over-end. And wouldn’t you know it, it went in.
Then, just at that moment, a cart was seen speeding over the hills near the 15th towards the tee-box. At first I thought it was just one of the staff-guys wanting to hang out with us because there was nothing going on. But I was mistaken.
“Mr. High-Roller is going to be walking today and he needs another caddie.”
There was a brief pause, and my boss turned to me.
“So how about it Tom? You want to caddie?”
I still feel like an ass for doing it, but I couldn’t help but frown. “Yeah, sure, I guess.”
“Tom. Do you WANT to?”
“Well, I don’t WANT to…but you need me to. So there’s no ifs-ands-or-butts about it.”
So I hopped in the cart and flew back to the clubhouse. The foursome on the 1st tee was waiting for me as I ran inside to get ready.
“This is such bullshit.”
I couldn’t seem to stop my mouth. Tom, you’re a caddie. You need to make money. Why are you bitching about this great loop?
And that’s when I realized my problem. Just like I mentioned earlier, when I switch gears—going from not expecting to work to being asked to work—my mind can’t seem to accept the reality of the situation. I LOVE working as a caddie, and yet for the first 3-4 holes of this loop, I couldn’t help but scowl. What the heck is wrong with me?
Fortunately, the guys I was carrying were both really friendly and started drinking beers almost immediately. By the 4th hole one of my players had his hat turned around backwards and was asking the other players if anyone dared him to jump into the lake. So that cheered me up a bit.
And the loop ended up being a lot of fun. I mean sure, I was done a little later than I would’ve wanted, but hey, I got to work and only one other caddie could say as much for that day. I guess this is something I’ll work on.
Posted by Tom Collins at 8:55 PM
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
The staging area. At many golf clubs, this is the area where carts and bags are “staged” and organized prior to the start of a golf tournament. In a shotgun, this is where you would walk to find your golf clubs. The carts are usually organized in some sort of logical way so that when the starter tells you that you will be in the “9A” group you can easily locate where all of your crap is.
It’s almost like setting up the buffet line before a big banquet. You know damn well all of the time, effort and organization you’ve put into this thing will be destroyed within the first 30 minutes of people arriving. Caterers as well as golf professionals understand the power of a mob (as do many other people, but they don’t matter right now). But regardless of how crazy the start of a tournament is, it is still very important to try and be as prepared as possible, because you never know what people may need.
Apparently this course didn’t see it that way.
So to complicate things, this particular club didn’t seem to care where they put things. I think most of the caddies were just lucky to find all four of their PLAYERS before the start of the tournament, let alone the bags and proper carts. I mean, I’m still young, but I feel I’ve seen an awful lot in my life thus far—drunken nights in Atlantic City, colliding with a tree in Lake Tahoe, skydiving, witnessing the consummation of two love-stricken squirrels and even forecaddying for a six-some—but I have never seen chaos like this.
It all started out innocently enough. Some 40-50 caddies met in a locker room behind the clubhouse for a pow-wow at 9 am. Caddies from four different golf courses (all under one company) were uniting to achieve a common goal. Well. Maybe not a COMMON goal. Some were there to make money, others to socialize, others to score some drugs, and still others to get some free pizza after the tournament was over with. But we were all still there, UNITING, getting ready to work together to bring this tournament off without a hitch.
The newly appointed Caddie Master at this club just happened to be my former roommate from Florida who helped me run that incredibly atrocious account two winters’ ago. He stood in front of a packed room for 30 minutes talking about how he wanted the caddie program to run and I couldn’t believe my ears, but I actually agreed with everything he said. I was actually proud of him. He’s come a long way. The meeting was also a great opportunity to say hello to old friends. I’ve only been working in the golf industry for 2 years now, and I have to say, it is quite a small world. There were so many names and faces that kept popping up. Caddies I didn’t even know approached me because they heard where I was from and wanted to know if I knew some of the other caddies they did. So the meeting was a pleasure. We were like a band of brothers heading off to war. Every local caddie I met welcomed me with a smile and a firm handshake. A sincere handshake. It almost brought tears to my eyes.
Then came the hole assignments. For some reason, in every tournament I’ve ever caddied in, when the Caddie Master calls out your name and then begins to read over the names in your group, there’s usually only one name you latch onto. The name is either something incredibly simple (like a Smith or a White) or something incredibly unique (like a Lomand or Baddesich). Every other last name you hear just passes in one ear and out the other. As much as you’d LIKE to remember EVERY name, there are usually 30+ caddies around you waiting to hear their names as well, and so the Caddie Master usually takes on the tone of an auctioneer more than anything else. And in those quick few moments, you latch onto a name and a number.
For me, it was Longballesti and 12A.
Even though that sounds like something easy to remember, you also have a “Home Alone” affect going on around you. Do you remember when the older sister is counting heads in the beginning of the movie and Buzz is trying to throw her off? She would start counting “One…Two…Three” and Buzz would counter with “1192…12…67” trying to screw her up. Well, the other caddies weren’t TRYING to screw me up, but they were certainly doing a good job of it. It happens at every tournament. The caddies get their assignments, and as soon as 10-15 caddies are ready to go, they start talking to the caddies next to them. “I got Smith on 3B.”
“Triantos on 15A.”
“Stevens! 12B! He’s going to HATE this hole location!”
Meanwhile, the Caddie Master is STILL trying to give out hole assignments and you’re STILL trying to remember what the heck yours was.
“B! Smith! Bad hole location!”
I just had to get out of there. Longballesti, 12A. Now, I didn’t REMEMBER the other three players in the group, but I was sure I would recognize the names when I saw them on the golf carts. I stepped outside, hoping I could find my players quickly before the other caddies flooded the staging area.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. What kind of staging area was this? It was on a slant. The rather severe slope leading up to the first tee was littered with carts. All of them were facing UP the hill, and none of them were even in a straight line. To my right, bags were strewn all over the racks awaiting their caddies.
Wait a minute. Carts are over there. Bags are over here. That’s weird.
I would find out later that they didn’t have enough golf carts for every group, so all of the players walking with caddies had their bags placed on the racks before the tournament began.
Okay Tom. Reason through this. You have four players, and you’re the only caddie. They’re riding. They have to be. I wouldn’t be carrying four bags, right? So their bags would NOT be over to my right. They had to be on the carts somewhere.
When I got to the carts, I quickly tried to decipher the dewey-decimal-esque system the outside staff guys had devised to run this shindig. Okay. There’s 3B. There’s 4A. Okay. My players have to be near the back end of this strange polygon-outlier-scatterplot formation of carts. Where did these bag-guys come from? Maybe they’re astrologers and simply wanted to pay homage to Orion’s Belt. And if THAT was the case, who was their drug dealer and does he have good prices?
That’s when I arrived at two golf carts, side-by-side, with no roofs and no bags on them. One of the carts said 12A, the other said 5B.
Wait a minute. What?
I wanted to remain calm and figure out where the hell the OTHER 12A could be, but I started to see blue bibs and caps pour out of the locker room and realized that I didn’t have much time before any questions I NEEDED to ask—like where the scorecards were, tees, towels, whatever—were drowned out by the hustle and bustle of the tournament. The floodgates had opened, and soon it would be a matter of survival.
So I started frantically running up and down the peppered arrangement of carts trying to find the other 12A. Nothing. And may I just say, aside from the beautiful aerial view of these carts, the “consistency” of the numerical order was horrible. The hole numbers went from descending order to ascending order almost arbitrarily. And all of the carts were parked so closely together that I was just thankful I had seen a few Jackie Chan movies in my day to figure out ways to squeeze through the crevices. Otherwise it would’ve taken me FOREVER to get around the staging area.
There was no other 12A. I couldn’t find it anywhere.
Then it occurred to me. Regardless of the “5B” sign next to my “12A” cart, the players will probably just use the two carts I had found, because LOGICALLY that’s where the bags are supposed to go. Yes, crack had been smoked before and DURING the set-up of this tournament, and the ORDER of the carts may be screwed up, but at least all of the carts were paired up correctly (3A was with 3A and 3B was with 3B). So I don’t know what this “5B” crap is. Maybe that’s just the equivalent of a “typo” in a poorly written thesis.
When I finally got back to the two carts I THOUGHT were mine, I was still troubled by the names on the 5B cart. They didn’t look familiar. I mean, I wasn’t sure, but I had a feeling that really WAS the 5B golf cart.
Just as I was about to ask the bag attendants where their crack pipe was, a player arrived at the 12A cart and started strapping in his bag. I was right next to him, and he acted as if he hadn’t even seen me. So I decided to make sure he belonged there.
“Hey, I’m Tom. Are you teeing off of 12A?”
“Yes. I’m Mr. Lemon-face. My face puckers up when I talk to poor people.”
“Oh, I see. Is that why your entire face is imploding into itself right now?”
“Yes! I can smell the poverty wafting off of you! Flee and fetch me several towels so that I might stay dry. It seems I have no roof over my head!”
So I left to go find towels. Fortunately, there were only a few caddies that had raided the towel rack so far. Trying to get near the rack was a challenge though. There were so many blue bibs moving around me that it felt like I was swimming. Thank God I didn’t have a bag to get to. They looked submerged. I would only occasionally see a flicker of a bag tag through the swarming bodies.
So I finally reached the towels and grabbed the 4 or 5 requested by Mr. Lemon-butt. Or whatever his name was. When I finally returned, he was gone. Again, assuming that the 5B cart belonged with the 12A group (even though nobody had arrived yet), I shoved the fetched towels into the basket of the 5B cart and waited for more of my group to arrive. In retrospect, why the hell didn’t I just stick all of the towels into the cart with the player who actually REQUESTED the towels? I have no idea. But it was sheer chaos outside, and with 5 minutes left until the shotgun was scheduled to start, I had only seen ONE of my players.
The head pro started his speech from the front of Orion’s Belt, thanking everyone for coming and talking about how excited he was to kick off the new golf season. Then, all of a sudden, two men bump into me. One of them is slamming his bag down on the 5B cart, the other is strapping his bag into the 12A cart. I turn to the 12A cart first.
“Hey there, I’m Tom.”
“Wonderful. Good to meet you.”
So, what’s your name? You gonna tell me? No? Fine then. Let me talk to THIS yam-bag and see if I can get anything out of HIM. I turned to the 5B cart.
“Hey. YAM-BAG. I’m Tom.”
He was an older man with glasses. He just turned his head, looked at me for a moment, and nodded.
So what the hell is your story old man? You drunk?
Great. The tournament is about to start, and I still have no idea what is going on. Normally, situations like this only arise in my sleep, where a rabid deer with a guitar will chase me through a river of chicken nuggets screaming, “Save the whales!”
The head pro wrapped-up his speech and people started rushing over to their carts. Loud clicks of metal brought 35 carts to life and with a few loud backfires and blue bibs heading in all directions, the tournament was underway and everyone was leaving the staging area. Everyone except for me.
Even the 5B cart was gone. Wait. Gone? Ah crap. I hate being right. Where were my other two players?
“Hey Tom? Did you grab the towels I asked you for?”
“I did…but I think the other cart just sped off with them.”
“Jesus. I tell you to do one simple thing for me, and you already screwed that up. You sure you’re a caddie?”
He was being sarcastic, but the comment still stung a bit.
“Just sit tight for a minute. Let me run over and see if I can find you some more towels.”
So I took off back towards the now deserted bag-racks and tables full of balls, umbrellas and other supplies that were left over. But the towel rack had been demolished and there wasn’t a scrap of fabric anywhere. I grabbed one of the bag attendants.
“Any towels left?”
“Okay. Well, can I at least get the number of your drug dealer?”
Awesome. No towels, but at least I’m networking. I returned to my players.
“They’ll bring some out to us.” Probably not. But I’ll grab a few at the turn.
“Jesus. Well, you’re tip is already suffering and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
“Haha. Yeah.” And I guess there’s nothing we can do about that Lemon-butt-face of yours either, sir.
So I hopped on the back of the cart and we sped off towards the 12th hole. I’ve never thought about how hard it is to ride on the back of a cart without a roof. Turns out there’s really not a whole hell of a lot to hang onto. Every turn they made was an adventure. They were either TRYING to shake me off, or they FORGOT that I was on the back of the cart altogether. But somehow or another, we made it to 12.
The other half of our group was already there. Two brothers, who must’ve been hidden somewhere near the front of Orion’s Belt, were warming up on the tee. I recognized one of them immediately. He had played a round with the head pro at my home course. I was the caddie and there were 3 consecutive $400+ bets on the last hole. To this day I have no idea what game they were playing, but the fact that he wasn’t afraid to lose that much money meant something special. Perhaps my wallet would be a little thicker by the end of the day.
“Hey Mr. Longballesti. I remember you playing against Mr. Head-Pro back at my home course. Some big bets goin’ on there.”
“Oh yeah. Great to see you again.”
He was faking interest. But it was a good kind of fake. Like he was really trying to remember my obscure reference to a round he’d probably all but forgotten. His brother, whom I’ll name Coldball, most certainly didn’t want to listen to anything I had to say. No wonder he was paired up with Lemon-butthead-smelly-face or whatever his name was. Neither of them could associate themselves with a caddie. Well tough titties, because this was their lucky day.
So I tipped my hat, memorized the clothing they were wearing (to know who the hell was hitting from a distance) and dashed off into my forecaddie position. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve never caddied at this course before and this was a scramble. Scrambles are the easiest tournaments to caddie for because you only really have to worry about 1 yardage, 1 read on the greens, etc. Plus, players are usually a little more relaxed in these tournaments because they KNOW that they don’t always have to hit a great shot, because they have 3 other people backing them up. The only guy with a little pressure on him is the last guy to hit, but normally the guy in that position LIVES for that sort of thing. He’s usually the player calling all the shots people hit anyway. And today was no different.
Coldballs was always the last to hit, and he was always bossing everyone else around. Hit 2 clubs more. Hit the ball straight at the hole, there really isn’t any break. No, we’re not using THAT ball, we’re using THIS one. Yada yada yada. There really wasn’t anything for me to do. Well, except for run. My philosophy has always been to hustle, because I figure that if my reads are ever off on the greens (which of course never happens), then at least the players are still getting their money’s worth. So I was always running, trying to be everywhere at once, just in case they decided to use one shot over the other.
But all this running inspired a caddie I knew from Florida to walk over and visit after our 7th hole during a break at the halfway house. He wanted to tell me a story.
“Now Tom. There once was a papa bull and his son. They were standing on top of a hill looking down at all the cows. The son looks up at his papa and says, ‘Papa? Let’s run down there and fuck them two cows on the end.’ The papa bull smiles, takes a deep breath and says, ‘No, son. Why don’t we walk, and fuck them all.’”
And then the caddie looked down at the next par-3 from the tee box, much like the papa bull and said to me: “So you see Tom? As a caddie, we don’t run. That way, we can fuck ‘em all!”
Okay, great story. But my guys won’t feel the need to pay me unless I make this look good. They’re good golfers, and I’m not really sure if I’m doing enough for them as it is under this scramble format. So I’m sorry, but I have to keep running.
“Haha. Good one.”
And it started paying off. When we were on our 13th hole, Mr. Lemon-ass-kisser or whatever turned to me and said, “Tom, I know we’re not saying much out here, but you’re doing a fantastic job. Really like the hustle.”
It’s funny how a little comment like that can make me push a little harder. Fuck them bulls. I’m doing it my way.
And, low and behold, by the time we reached 18, I got a good tip. Most of the other caddies were unhappy with THEIR tips—a “sod-fest” for those of you trying to learn the lingo—but all of the caddies I knew who worked hard all seemed to walk away with smiles after they looked in their pockets.
So again, fuck them bulls. I’m doing it my way.
The real surprise came when Coldballs came out of the locker room and had me help him take his bag up to his car. He was actually very talkative and asking me a lot about where I had come from and how long I had been caddying. It was like night and day from what I experienced with him on the golf course. He even mentioned that he was going to be traveling to my home course in about a month with 20-25 players and wondered if I would caddie for him. So that was a nice surprise. Sweet.
Posted by Tom Collins at 10:59 PM