For the longest time I have wondered: what does it mean to be a senior caddie? When will I know I’ve reached that status? Is it an age thing? I can smoke a LOT of crack before I pass out. Does that count?
Well, today it hit me: regulars. Look on any of the tours. Even though the caddies may be traded around and work for different professionals, they have all reached a point where they’re only working for one or two people in order to make a living. I know things like skill, dedication and hustle are all important qualities to have, but by landing one or two players and then keeping them around, week after week, I believe you’ve obtained “senior caddie” status.
I mean think about it. You cannot even HOPE to get requested unless you are able to perform your duties with a high level of proficiency. I don’t care if you’re Dave Chappelle. If you’re a funny man and your players are cracking up after every swing, that’s great, but that will not hold their interest in the long run. Pretty soon they’re going to get tired of raking their own bunkers, getting their own yardages and hitting their balls offline on the greens. I know of two or three “senior caddies” that have been yelled at by their “regulars” recently because they were not doing their job. I don’t care if the member is a huge Redskins fan and you happen to know every stat on every player that ever stepped on the field. Eventually, the players are going to wonder why they’re paying you.
Over the past 3 years I’ve had my fair share of requests. To this day I still occasionally go out with the same people. But for the most part, I’m a free agent. I’ve talked to a few of the caddies before about this and they all keep telling me that being a free agent is the way to go. They say that once you have a few regulars, there will be days when all of them will be playing at the same time, and then you have to decide which one to go with. And that can be tough. You’re bound to piss off somebody.
But I still think I’d like to have at least one regular guy. One guy that appreciates my service, but still just wants to get to know me and have fun out there. I can already see why it’s a huge deal when professional golfers and caddies split up. They aren’t married, but I’m sure it can feel like that at times.
“Why didn’t you caddie for me on Tuesday?”
“You needed to call me. You never call me anymore.”
“I call you.”
“Yeah, but it’s only when you need something. You never just call to chat anymore. That hurts, sir.”
It may sound ridiculous, but that really does happen. One of the caddies I work with was flown out to work for his regular in the Byron Nelson Pro Am this year. Five days, all expenses paid. Another caddie I know was working on his senior thesis and his regular gave him the keys to a penthouse in New York City for a week so he could finish his research. Those are just two examples. I could give you a dozen more. So while I understand some of the inherent problems with having a few regulars out there, I would still love to be in that position someday.
And then it happened. Or, at least I THINK it happened. Last Saturday, I ended up caddying for a member who usually only shows his face during the Member-Guest at the end of the season. He’s based out of California and doesn’t really get a chance to travel. He just split up with his wife because she was cheating on him. She also has a drinking problem. He’s a monogamous guy and doesn’t want to deal with it anymore.
I found out all of this by the time we reached the 6th hole. Honestly, I was flattered by his candid responses. It’s been about 3 years since I tended bar, and so I haven’t delved into that little aspect of customer service in a while.
“So where are you from?”
“California. But I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be there because my wife and I just split up. Oh, and how far do I need to carry this ball so it barely clears that front bunker?”
This guy transitions better than I do.
“Hit a low 145 shot to keep it under those limbs…and don’t worry…there are plenty of fish in the sea.”
Then, a perfect shot.
“Aww yeah! That shot was the tits!”
“Oh yeah. Because there’s NOTHING wrong with tits.”
I love this guy. It’s rare to meet someone who can go from talking about the aftermath of a recent divorce to laughing hysterically at a lucky shot from the trees.
I was pretty tired on Saturday and I knew how hard I would be working the rest of the weekend so I spared myself some hard work. But for one reason or another, I impressed this guy enough to get a request the following morning.
Now we’re on to Sunday. Now this wasn’t your normal Sunday of golf. Monday and Tuesday would be host to the main event: an invitational tournament where the best 4 golfers from each club would be competing for a special designation—sort of a “king of the private clubs” trophy. So Sunday was always an automatic double shift because of the regular play in the morning and then a barrage of practice rounds for the tournament in the afternoon.
I was really happy to be going with Mr. Sarcasm again in the morning. It was a three-way split, meaning I’d only be carrying two bags for 9 holes. That was phenomenal, because I knew regardless of the weather, a sudden pandemic or giant twinkie-people taking over the earth, I was going to be working a double. I appreciated the opportunity to save my strength a bit before the real work began. But one of Mr. Sarcasm’s guests was special. Not like…blue bus special. I mean he was borderline celebrity. At least in my opinion. I’m going to be very careful about what I say about him, because I’m sure he’d appreciate some confidentiality, but I just have to share this little tidbit with all of you.
He was Tiger Woods’ attorney.
Apparently he just got back from playing with his famous client at the K Club in Ireland. He’s in his late 40s to early 50s, about 6 feet tall, and makes fun of absolutely everything. I think Mr. Sarcasm said it best: “Baldy’s got the attention span of a ceramic dog.”
Somehow, that comment made sense to me. And yes, his real nickname is “Baldy.” Well, either “Baldy” or “Barney.” Mr. Sarcasm suggested I call him that because his golf swing resembles Barney Rubble smashing a rock with a stick.
He’s around a 16 handicap and hits the ball a mile or a foot in every direction. But he has a great attitude about it. He just makes fun of himself and everyone around him. All in good humor, of course.
On the 5th hole Baldy was looking for his ball in the left rough, but he was searching about 50 yards ahead of where the ball actually was. When I told him where his ball ACTUALLY was, here were the responses, in chronological order.
Baldy: “Crap! I’m an idiot.”
Mr. Sarcasm: “You know what? It takes a special someone to think they’ve hit a ball that far. I love your optimism.”
Baldy: “How much you wanna bet I put this on the green?”
Mr. Sarcasm: “Which green? There are two you could potentially hit.”
Baldy: “Oh be quiet. Fairways are for sissies.”
And it went on like this all day. The other caddie in the group must’ve said “I’ve got to write some of this down” to me like 10 times throughout the round. On the 14th hole one of the other members of our threesome was down on the lower tier facing an impossible putt. Really, his only goal should’ve been to get the ball on the upper tier, but instead he wanted a read.
“It’s actually pretty straight. Put it out about 3-4 feet left of the hole. Right here.”
“Yeah. And try to get a good feel for the speed with your practice strokes. Make sure you give it enough.”
Typically, players coming up from the lower tier do one of two things. They either hit the putt way too hard and the ball ends up over the green, or they get scared and try to finesse it up the hill resulting in a putt which rolls back to their feet. This player accomplished the latter. I spoke up again.
“Same thing. Not a lot of break. Just make sure you get it over the hill.”
Baldy chimed right in.
“DUHHHHH! Good call Tom! Are you a professional caddie or something?” He started laughing. “I mean how freakin’ obvious is that?”
“Well, he didn’t do it before. I just wanted to make sure this time.”
On the 15th hole Baldy found a caddies’ nametag in the grass. But instead of putting into his pocket or giving it to one of us, he slapped it on his chest and started yelling, “I’m CHUCK now! The guy has GOT to be a better golfer than I am.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell him that “Chuck” has Parkinson’s.
Overall, it was a great experience being with him. There were even a few moments throughout the round when he threw out his two cents about some of the players on the tour, their relationships to each other, and some factoids about Tiger’s mannerisms.
“Outside of tournaments, [Tiger] the guy is hilarious. Non-stop jokes. He’s really a great guy.”
Well, I’m sold. It’s nice to hear that a player like Woods is just as genuine and approachable as one would think.
And to top it all off, Mr. Sarcastic wants to work with me again. Granted, he’s not out very often, but we really got along well. So at least there are hints of senior caddie-ness starting to show.
I was a little surprised by the afternoon loop. After looking at the tee sheet in the morning, I would’ve figured the boss would just lob an apple up into the air and I’d catch it as I ran by to get back out in the first fairway. But as it turned out, I waited around for about an hour after my first loop. In fact, there was a chance I wouldn’t be working at all.
So I got up and started making my way to the snack machine. I was bored, and I felt like chewing on something light before I was sent out again. As soon as I stepped out of the doorway one of the staff guys in a golf cart flew across my field of vision going full speed. The cart jumped the curb and slammed into the snack machine, smashing it up against the wall and spinning it around as the steel legs scraped big gashes into the floor. The table sitting next to the machine didn’t stand a chance. It buckled like paper from the blow of the cart, and all of the food and drinks on top of it were thrown into the air. Soda cans exploded on the concrete floor and the staff member was thrown out of the cart. Fortunately, the cart was now pinned between the snack machine, the table and the wall. The staff member got up, jumped back into the cart, threw a case of water bottles out and locked the brake into place.
My first reaction was a little strange. For some reason I was immediately convinced that this individual had purposefully ran the cart into the vending machine. I can’t imagine why I would think that, seeing as how we were all really busy and that cart would certainly be needed for players this afternoon. I instinctively ran over and asked if he was okay.
“Holy crap. I’ve never had a traffic ticket in my life. Now look what I’ve done.”
Two long, rather unpleasant-looking scratches ran across the front of the cart. The snack machine had a huge dent on the bottom and half of the springs inside had popped out. A variety of snack items had fallen into the tray, and I think $3 to $4 worth of change had dropped into the coin return.
The outside staff guy just put his hands on his hips and looked at me, his mustache twitching slightly.
“One of those cases of bottled water fell on the accelerator. There was nothing I could do.”
We just stared at each other. One of the 2-Liter bottles of Coke that previously resided on the table was still bubbling on the floor, spraying sweet sweet carbonated syrup into the air. An image kept running through my head. All I could picture was that staff member’s face, petrified, as he slammed into the snack machine. And all I could do was laugh. And laugh. And laugh.
In fact, when I walked up to my car to grab a spare pair of socks, I was still laughing. Two members in a cart drove by me and waved. The woman looked at me like I was crazy. I don’t know why I thought it was so funny. I guess it was because I realized I would never see anything like that again. And having a front row seat for it? I guess God really does like me.
But God added a little twist to the equation. The members that drove past me in the parking lot? I would be caddying for them. And both of them were insecure high handicappers. They just saw me laughing hysterically. Not a good first impression.
When I introduced myself, the woman spoke up immediately.
“I saw you laughing in the parking lot. We’re not very good at golf. Are you going to be able to handle this?”
I had to act fast. The group was staring at me.
“Oh, yes, yes. One of the staff guys slammed a cart into the snack machine. I’ve never laughed so hard in my life.”
The woman started laughing.
“Really? How the heck did that happen?”
“A case of bottled water fell on the accelerator. There was nothing he could do.”
Now the whole group started laughing. Whew. At least now they wouldn’t be watching me like a hawk.
They were a nice group, but a combination of things, like worrying about tomorrow and the fact that they didn’t care about yardages or even FINDING their balls, made my job fairly unimportant. The only thing that kept me focused was that the member kept asking me for reads on the greens.
“Help me out on this one friend.”
He was very courteous, but there really wasn’t anything I could do for him. The Superintendent had cut and rolled the greens late this morning, and at this point they were rolling around an 11-12. He was long most of the time. So regardless of what I said, I was usually off by quite a bit. The greens were just too fast for him. Little did I know they were only going to get worse.
Monday. Finally, here we were. The big show. Twenty-Two teams, four great golfers on each team, 54 holes to determine the winner. Today would include 36 holes, 18 of which would be a two-man better ball net, the second 18 would be a modified alternate shot. I wouldn’t find this out until later, but the Superintendent would be cutting and rolling the greens after every ROUND. At the start of the tournament, they were rolling around a 12.5. I have never seen the course look this good.
The boss-man had given me the opportunity to pick my team. Apparently, whatever team you were assigned to traditionally invited you to play their golf course at some later date. Upon hearing this, I did what any other self-respecting golf fanatic would’ve done. I chose the team from Oakmont.
Upon first meeting the players, I didn’t think there was anything to worry about. The highest handicap on the team was a 7, and everyone else was around a 1 or 2. The previous evening I had even spent a little time researching their golf course, just so I could have something to talk about with them if we ever got bored out there. For instance, did you guys know that off of the back tees at Oakmont there’s a par 3 that plays over 280 yards? I couldn’t wait to ask them about it.
Each team was paired with two caddies. The other caddie in the group was my old roommate from Florida and the new Caddie Master at one of our new accounts in Maryland. The only thing I’ll say about him for the remainder of the tournament is that when our players showed their true colors and things started getting a little rough, he chose to stay with the only player who kept a good attitude about him. So his experience in the event was a little different than mine. I, on the other hand, ended up with quite a fight on my hands.
As the head pro from our club introduced himself and welcomed everyone to the event, he threw out the one small factoid that put me in a tough spot: rangefinders were going to be allowed. Upon hearing the news, one of the members of my team crapped his pants and started sobbing with joy. Helping that guy with yardages and club selections would be out of the question. And, after getting to know the other players, I could tell that they would rather listen to him than to me.
Now, normally I’d say, “Great. I won’t have to work very hard. They’ll be taking care of the yardages. I just need to replace a few divots and make an occasional read on the greens. Nothing to it.” But honestly, I had been psyching myself up for this event for a long, long time. I had been bringing out two or three balls with me every time I caddied to make sure that any question I had with a read on the greens could be later understood after a few extra rolls. I wanted to show these players how much I was worth. I thought this was only fair, seeing as how they were going to be charged an arm and a leg for my services, regardless of how much they utilized me.
But for the first round, I literally did nothing. I ran everywhere, I had every yardage and read on the greens ready for them to use, but they never asked. They hardly even noticed that I was there. But, I kept my cool. After the whole “Velvet Cuddles” incident a few weeks ago, I didn’t want to make a big deal about this in the caddie yard. But as it turned out, it was the other caddie in the group who spoke up.
“Dude, they’re not asking for ANYTHING from you. That’s fucked up.”
“No, it’s alright. I mean, they have a caddie. Whether they choose to use me or not is their business.”
“Still. It seems irresponsible of them not to at least ask you SOMETHING. I mean, it’s not like they play here regularly.”
I just shrugged and laughed it off. After the first round was over with, and grabbed a bite to eat. The course was nice enough to provide a lunch for the caddies, knowing full well we had a big day ahead of us.
At the start of the second round, the other caddie in the foursome came over to me before we all teed off.
“Hey, Tom? I heard about what they’re doing to you out here. Let’s fuck with them.”
“That guy with the rangefinder? Regardless of what he says, give him a yardage. And as he’s walking past me, I’ll give him a yardage too. Maybe we’ll learn to break him of that habit.”
I wasn’t exactly sure what this was going to do, but I have to admit, I’d rather try to have a little fun out there than simply run around this course and say nothing. The next hole was a par 3. I got the yardage and walked over to the cart as they were pulling up.
“183 pin and 167 to clear that front bunker.”
The player pulled out his rangefinder, shot the flag and mumbled: “182.”
The other caddie (my hero, Scott) immediately walked over to him and said, “What do you get for a yardage with that thing? I get 182.”
He paused. “Yeah. 182.”
Scott looked back at me and smiled. “Oh, great. Thanks.”
I just stood off of the tee box and watched. When everyone had made an attempt, I started jogging up towards the green. Scott quickly caught up.
“That guy’s an asshole. I say we do that all day until he puts that damn thing away.”
I just laughed. “Well, alright. Not sure what good it will do though. I’m sure he sleeps with that thing.”
The next hole was a par 5 where players need a good lay-up yardage to set up an easy third shot. I walked off the yardage to the bunker and calculated a yardage with the uphill and wind. They pulled up and he instantly grabbed his rangefinder.
“It’s 194 to the front of the last bunker on the right. With the wind, I’d play a 185—“
“It’s 196 to the front of the bunker.”
I stepped back. Scott’s players were nowhere near us, yet he still ran over to say hello.
“What do you guys have to that last bunker on the right? 194?”
The guy with the rangefinder just blinked. “196.”
“Oh. Okay. Thanks.” And he ran back to help his players. Mr. Rangefinder just stared at Scott for a moment, and then looked back at me. Did he understand what we were doing?
Scott and I tag-teamed Mr. Rangefinder for the next 5 holes. He must’ve received at least 20-30 yardages in TRIPLICATE at this point. And then, on the 9th hole, Mr. Rangefinder finally turned to me and asked: “How far do we have Tom?”
The heavens parted and somewhere a puppy farted happily.
“176 front and 198 to the flag. Playing at least one club less with the wind.”
And this turned into: “Hey Tom? Have a look at this putt, will ya?”
How did this work, Scott? Have I told you you’re my hero already?
“I see two-cups left to right. Just tap it, because it could easily get away from you.”
“Thanks.” And he made it.
In fact, for the last 5-7 holes, they consulted me for everything. And something amazing happened. They actually started playing better. I’m not trying to make an argument for caddies everywhere, but I will say that I can’t believe they didn’t realize this simple fact sooner: the less you have to think on a golf course, the better you’ll play. Period.
By the end of the second round, my team was in the middle of the pack. Probably not in any position to win, but still had a chance to make some noise with a good final round tomorrow.
Tuesday. For the final round, I would not be caddying for Mr. Rangefinder. Surprisingly, I was a little disappointed. I had made quite a bit of progress with him so far, and I was hoping I could actually CADDIE again today. Instead, I would be caddying for the worst golfer on the team (a “7” handicap who was playing like a 25) and the golfer who hardly ever spoke. I mean hey, what’s the worst that could happen?
Just as an aside: the greens were now lightning fast. By noon when the stimp-measurement was taken, the greens were rolling at an incredible 14.4.
For most of the round, it was business as usual. I wasn’t helping them on the greens (which somewhat concerned me because at these speeds it was a different golf course and I would’ve liked to warm up on them a bit), but I was helping them with all of the club selections. And despite a few whiffs off of the tee from the 7 handicap, we were playing pretty well.
Then we came to the par-3 11th. Oh number 11. Honestly, the only place you can land it is on the green. If you’re even an inch short, the ball will roll back into the water. If you go a little long, it will bounce off the back of the green and end up in the water. If you’re a little right, you’ll usually catch the bunker or end up with an impossible flop from the deep rough.
The only saving grace is that it’s not the longest of par 3’s. From the back tees it’s only about 176 to the front. Only. Today, the tees were a little up and it was 159 to the front and 181 to the pin. Obviously, the wind plays a huge role in club selection. For some reason the wind always swirls around the cove and it can change from a helping to a hurting wind after only a few practice swings.
I was stressing out. I wanted to give my players a golden yardage, but the wind kept changing direction and with the greens as fast as they were, only a perfect shot would stay on the green from this distance.
Okay. Well, they have to get over the water. So that means at least 160. They don’t want to go long, so that means less than 180. There was a little wind in our face. Or was it helping? No, it was definitely in our face. But it wasn’t crazy. Just a little wind to make you think you needed an extra club. I finally made an executive decision.
“Tom, how far do you think it’s playing?”
“175. Hit a good 175 shot and that will be perfect.”
“Are you sure? That kind of puts me between clubs.”
“What are the two distances you’re between?”
“170 and 180.”
“That’s a tough one. Well, I guess it all comes down to how confident you are in a solid shot. If you hit a really good 170 shot, that will be fine. But you have to hit it really well. Or, you can opt for a smooth 180. Just pick the shot you feel most comfortable with.”
“I don’t think I want to pure my 170. Let’s go with the 180 club.”
Sounds good to me. Now, I hate to admit it, but I think this hole is going to give me an ulcer someday. Whenever the conditions are a little tough, I hold my breath and mentally try to control the ball flight so that my player lands safely on the green. Sometimes I try to push the ball so hard with my mind that my face turns beat red and my stomach cramps up. Psychotic, yes. Necessary? Absolutely.
He didn’t catch it all. I could hear it. It was a little on the toe. I held my breath and tried to push the ball so hard that I thought I needed a new pair of shorts. But it didn’t work. His ball landed just short of the green, and the ball rolled back into the water.
He straightened up and just glared at me. “That wasn’t the right club. I needed more.”
Now, normally, I would’ve asked if he had mishit it at all, but this wasn’t a normal player. He was a good golfer and a special guest of the club. I had to take the subservient route. I just stared at him and kept my mouth shut.
And I knew he was wrong. Because the next player to hit put it just OVER the green. The other caddie asked him: “How far did you hit that?”
“I hit my 185 club. I needed to hit a little less.”
I looked over in Mr. Silent-but-deadly’s direction. He didn’t even flinch. He still thought he was right.
Our other teammate put his ball on the green. He was on another tier, but still had a makeable birdie putt. So our team wasn’t completely dead. But Mr. Silent-but-deadly was now on the warpath. He decided to take his anger with him onto the green.
Now, I hadn’t been reading their putts all day. My green reading skills were not exactly up to snuff, seeing as how I’ve never read a putt on this course under 14.4 conditions. But for one reason or another, I found myself behind the hole looking over our teammate’s birdie putt. I wasn’t going to say anything. I just wanted to have a general idea in case they decided to ask. I mean hey—that’s kinda my job.
“Tom? What do you see here?”
Wow. I guess he does want my help.
“You know, actually I see this putt as pretty straight, I think—“
“EXCUSE ME???” Mr. Silent-but-deadly literally screamed at me.
I paused. I wasn’t sure whether I should kick him in the nuts for being rude or try to explain myself. I started shaking I was so pissed off. I decided to use that in my response. I’m callin’ you out pilgrim.
“Yes…Initially, the putt will break left off of the ridge, and then because of this smaller ridge near the hole, it should come back to the right. It’s very fast.”
Mr. SBD walked behind me and looked at the line. “Well I just don’t see that at all. I think he needs to play it at least a foot outside right.”
“Yeah, Tom? I’m not going to use your read if that’s alright.”
Again, this is in front of everyone, including another caddie who had just started two days ago.
“That’s fine. Go with what you’re comfortable with.”
He pulled the putt immediately. It started about two cups left of the hole, broke to about 2 feet left, and then came back to about 3 cups left of the hole.
Mr. SBD immediately retorted: “Oh, I’m sorry. You should’ve played it at least 2 FEET out on the right.”
It’s moments like this that I truly wonder whether Darwinism is fact or fiction. Evolution should’ve taken care of this personality defect long ago when we were all trying to move forward as a species. I took a field-goal-kicker’s stance and was about to slam my foot in his nuts, but I decided that it wasn’t worth it. If you’re going to be a douche-bag on a course that’s playing this beautifully on a sunny spring day, I really don’t want to know what you’re going to turn into if reincarnation really occurs. My bet is he’ll end up coming back as a shrimp. With turds hanging off of him.
So for the rest of the round, I “stone-faced” him. I had the yardages ready, but I didn’t say a word unless he asked. I ran faster than I have in a long time. I wanted this guy to have nothing to complain about. I think after 3-4 holes he realized how wrong he was, and he kept trying to start conversations with me, but I wouldn’t open my mouth. By the time we reached 18, he thanked me and tipped me more than necessary. So that was nice, but I almost didn’t want to take it. It just felt wrong.
“You deserve it. You really hustled out there.”
I also kick people in the nuts on occasion. But today was your lucky day.
But as I started walking back down to the caddie yard, I started cheering up. Earlier this morning one of my cohorts decided that the caddies should have a golf tournament today as well. There were 20 of us signed up at the moment, and we’d be playing a great local track we lovingly nicknamed “Tits National.” The tournament was then aptly named “The Tits Open.” I mean hey, these members can’t have all the fun.
But when I came down into the caddie yard, there were 5-10 caddies surrounding the dry-erase board laughing the slapping each other on the backs. What the hell was going on? Somebody probably wrote “I’m Gay” on the board and everyone was just joking about it. One of the caddies ran up to me.
“Tom! Tom! Oh man. Keep it on the down-low, but we’re playing the Tits Open HERE today.”
“Yeah man! Check it out!”
I walked over to the dry erase board and looked at the message. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It said something to the effect of: “Make sure to thank the pro, the GM and the Super for letting you do this. But your ‘Tits Open’ will be played here today at 3 pm.”
The Discovery Channel will tell you that a pig can have an orgasm for almost 30 minutes. Today, my orgasm would last for 4 hours. The course was in perfect shape, the greens were rolling over 14 and the weather was perfect. I wanted to cry.
After having a quick lunch and changing my shirt, I teed it up with some good friends. To top it all off, I had one of the best rounds of my life. A 78 from the tips. And number 11? Yeah. I played it 175 without even looking at the yardage. And it was perfect. It was all perfect. I love everybody.
The funny thing was, I still ended up losing money in the tournament. But I didn’t care. What a great freakin’ day.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
For the longest time I have wondered: what does it mean to be a senior caddie? When will I know I’ve reached that status? Is it an age thing? I can smoke a LOT of crack before I pass out. Does that count?
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
This morning was a comedy of errors. Almost 4 hours of my life I’ll never get back. And it all started yesterday.
A Nationwide event is coming through Maryland this week and I heard a few days ago that there might be an opportunity to caddie IN THE ACTUAL EVENT. No more pro-am’s. A real event with a large possible payout for me. Or not. I mean, I could be wrong. I know the Nationwide is a good tour, but I also know there has to be a few guys out there that are just barely living weekend to weekend. I’ve seen the Golf Channel specials. I know the score.
Anyway, I saw my name on the clipboard yesterday with another name and phone number next to it. The words “Nationwide event” lined the bottom of the page. I decided to wait until the Caddie Master arrived, just so I could get the full story before I called.
Remember that caddie Scott from my last post?
Well he came in, went to look at the tee-sheet and saw that note for me.
“Hey Tom? You going to try and get a bag in that Nationwide thing?”
“Yeah. I’m just waiting to hear the rest of the story from the boss-man.”
“Who’s got a cell phone? I’ll call this guy right now. Tom? You got a cell phone?”
“Not on me.”
Within about a minute, he had a cell phone in his hand and started dialing. He left the room. About 10 minutes later he returned with a smile on his face.
“We need to be there at 8 am tomorrow morning.”
(Just as an aside, for the next two days our course will be closed due to aerification.)
“Are we caddying tomorrow?”
“No. From what I understand, we’re just signing up.”
“We have to be all the way up there bright and early just to SIGN UP?”
“Alright. What the hell.”
And that’s how we left it. I figured hey, if I only have to sign up, I’ll be back by early afternoon and can go on another date with my girlfriend, who I haven’t seen in about a week because of our conflicting schedules. Sweet. I called him later that day to work out the carpooling logistics, and when it was all said and done, he was going to meet me at my apartment around 6 am the following morning.
During the phone call, I slip and fall down half the staircase. As I near the bottom, I somehow manage to slip one of the banister posts in-between my big toe and the rest of my little piggies. Toes bend. When I slam into the wall, I feel like my foot is on fire and I just want to hit something.
“Dude? Are you there? I can’t hear you.”
“…Yeah…I just…dropped the phone.”
“Alright. See you tomorrow.”
“Great. I’m psyched. Crap-nuggets!”
I iced down my foot and crashed about an hour later.
5:15 am: I wake up and run straight into the wall. I never do it on purpose, but it always seems to do the trick. Now I’m alert and ready to caddie. I check the weather and try to make myself look presentable for the meet-and-greet with the Caddie Master. I start humming one of the theme songs to Caddyshack.
6 am: I wait patiently outside to meet up with one of my own personal hero’s: Scott the caddie. Not only is he a great caddie, but he was also a big inspiration for my whole fascination with crack. My phone rings.
“I’ll be there at 6:30.”
Click. No hello. No goodbye. No, “I’ll bring the pipe.” He was just calling to tell me that he couldn’t get up this morning.
6:16 am: He calls again. “Tom, you had better drive yourself. I’m starting to hit some traffic.”
Oh, that’s right. I forgot. Around our neck of the woods, if you’re heading east on a weekday morning, you had better be on the road before 6 am, otherwise you might as well bring a chessboard and “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand.
6:22 am: I jump in my car and immediately hit a wall of traffic.
6:50 am: Scott calls again. “Hey, so how do I get there?”
“Take exit 17A off of the beltway and then call me. It’s not far after that.”
“You got it.”
7:46 am: I arrive in the parking lot. I bump into a big dude with golf attire, a towel and a yardage book. I decide to put two and two together.
“Excuse me, are you caddying in this event?”
“So what’s with the towel? We’re just signing up today, right?”
“Nope. We’re caddying today. They needed caddies yesterday too, but there weren’t any.”
7:55 am: I’m back in my car dialing Scott. I get an automated message saying, “This is not a valid number.” I have a minor seizure and I poop my pants a little. I haven’t heard from Scott, I haven’t eaten breakfast and I had already made plans for the day. I made an executive decision and started the car.
8:15 am: Hit more traffic. Realize that roads are stupid, cars are stupid and construction is stupid. I see a sign up ahead for my exit. It’s the second of two. The first is on my right, and so, logically, I assume that the following exit—the exit I need to take—will also be on my right. As I reach the top of the next hill I see the exit I need on the LEFT side of the road. I’m four lanes over and miss it completely. I start shouting “IDIOTS” at the top of my lungs.
8:23 am: After pulling off a Tekken-esque combo with my car (left, left, right, left, right, right, jump-kick, punch), I’m finally bearing onto the proper exit and arrive back at my apartment by 9:30.
See, as much as I want to caddie in this event, not having breakfast and missing out on an important date just didn’t fly right with me. Plus, I had worked for a Nationwide guy the day before, and if worse came to worst, I would still come away feeling good about this week.
By noon, I still hadn’t heard from Scott. Maybe he was STILL looking for the golf course. Then my phone started ringing. I didn’t recognize the number. Then again, the last two numbers Scott had used weren’t familiar either. I picked it up.
“Is this Tom?”
“Yes. Who is this?”
“I’m the Caddie Master over here at the Nationwide event. Are you okay? Scott said you and him left about the same time this morning. He didn’t know if you were dead.”
“Oh. Sorry about that. There was a little misunderstanding. I bumped into another caddie this morning and he told me that I would actually be caddying today. I was told I was merely there to sign up. I already had plans this afternoon I couldn’t break. I hope I didn’t screw you over. I didn’t have your number, and Scott’s phone kept telling me that it didn’t exist.”
“Yeah. Reception can be bad in this area. But Scott already has a bag.”
Pause. Okay…well…good for him.
“Yeah. So are you out of the picture for this week?”
“No, no. I was really looking forward to working the event. I know I might’ve given you a bad first impression, but I’m really a reliable guy. If you have any spots left, I’m free from tomorrow through Sunday.”
“Okay. Well, right now I think everyone who wants a caddie has one. But if something opens up, I’ll give you a call.”
Great. The last thing I wanted was to come off as an unreliable caddie. But I received some bad information yesterday. What could I do? I still felt like an idiot though. After thinking about it, of COURSE it made sense: if you’re trying to pick up a bag, you should get one on Tuesday when the pro is playing his practice round. That way you can get to know each other and he’s not as stressed out as he would be during the actual event. Damn I’m an idiot.
My last two experiences with pro-am’s had been bad. That’s probably why I wanted to leave this morning after the first signs of opposition became visible. Basically, if you’re a mammal with strong shoulders, you can caddie in a pro-am. I’m not trying to discredit or cheapen the experiences of people who have ever caddied in pro-am’s, because hey, it’s still a lot of fun to be with a professional golfer. But from my perspective—having caddied for a while now—I have always seen these events as places where I might be able to gauge my abilities against other caddies. You know—see if I have the talent to caddie on tour someday.
The last two pro-am’s I worked in went as follows: arrive early, nobody knows what is going on, you grab some tees, you ask where the pin sheets are and somebody asks you to speak ENGLISH, and THEN you ask where the yardage booklets are and somebody tells you “that will be $25.” THEN you get the $25 and come back just in time to see the last booklet being sold to a spectator. Now you can’t give yardages because the sprinkler heads all have a code on them that refer to the yardage book. So there you are with a bag on your shoulder, a couple of tees in your pocket and no idea where the first tee is.
Again, I’m a little picky because I’m a perfectionist at heart and I take my job seriously, but when I ran into that caddie this morning I felt chills run up and down my spine. I just didn’t want that whole pro-am experience to happen again. Now, I DID have a great time in those pro-am’s because I was with my Dad and he could give me some slack. But now I’m trying to caddie for a pro in a real tournament. With a real purse. And a real reason for a bad read to get me kicked off of the golf course. The pros probably won’t ask anyway, but hey, you never know.
It’s like that great old analogy Dr. Bob Rotella once used to describe the difference between hitting a 10 foot putt alone compared to hitting a 10 foot putt in front of 1,000 people. It’s like laying a board on the floor and walking across it, and then taking that same board and raising it 40 feet in the air. The simple task of “walking across it” just became a lot harder.
So we’ll see what happens tomorrow. I’m going to get up early and hope he calls me. If not, hey, at least I’ll still have work at my home course on Thursday. But I hope he finds me a spot. That would be an interesting change of pace.
Posted by Tom Collins at 10:54 PM
Sunday, May 13, 2007
I’m toast. I think I’ve racked up doubles every day for the past week. At this point, my neck is burned, my feet feel like they’re broken and I think I’ve consumed more pain medication than Keith Richards. But, I also have cabbage falling out of my pockets. And that always feels great.
I’ve actually been depressed lately because I haven’t had the time or energy to write. So much has happened to me and I go to sleep every night pissed off because I haven’t been able to tell anyone about it. I’ve started working on a rather massive post which includes 3-4 of my last 7 days, but it’s not quite finished yet and I’ve decided that I have to get this post off of my chest first. Yesterday something pretty significant happened. I caddied for a big name.
Now, in my caddying career thus far I’ve been fortunate. I’ve caddied for several big names, but most of them are so obscure that only a die hard politician or a crazed sports fan would know who any of them are. In fact, many of them were just regular people to me until the Caddie Master pulled me aside after the loop and said something like, “He used to be the CEO of this,” or “He helped get the President out of that.” I’ve been keeping a list and at some point I want to release all of the names, but I haven’t quite figured out when the right time for that would be.
So for now I’ll start with one name. Peyton Manning.
It started out as any other day. The only exception was that I knew I was working a double. The tee sheet looked rabid, and I was hoping to get my double over with quickly. Kind of like a flu shot. Because there’s nothing worse than working an early loop, sitting around for a few hours and then going out late in the afternoon to complete your 36 hole stint.
I was sent out fairly early with Mr. Nice-Guy, the first member to ever request me. He would be playing with Mr. Aussie, another cool member who gave me one of my biggest tips back in 2005. Somehow they knew each other, and that was just fine by me.
A “shadow” would be joining us. Yes, I know. Shadows tend to do that. But this “shadow” was a new recruit, and up until this point he had only been working valet. So his golf knowledge was a little on the slow side. A nice kid though. Eager to learn. Reminded me of me 2 years ago.
Anyway, Mr. Nice-Guy and Mr. Aussie were very easy to caddie for, but they certainly made the “shadow” work a little harder than he was used to.
“Hey Shadow, why don’t you rake that bunker so Tom doesn’t have to?”
“Oh, no, that’s alright Mr. Nice-Guy. I can get it for you.”
“Nonsense. These new trainees have to learn somehow.”
True, but I don’t like people doing the work for me. I feel like I’m not doing my job. Besides, I’ve been on loops with “shadows” before, and there were times when the other caddie in the group would really take advantage of the wee shadow. I remember one loop where the shadow carried two bags for 14 holes. Pretty amazing considering he had never even carried ONE before. I’m not saying I’m anywhere NEAR that by asking a shadow to rake a bunker, but I still get a little gun-shy of making them do things for me. I mean come on: I’m the one getting tipped kid. Just take it easy. You’ll be working hard soon enough.
But Mr. Nice-Guy kept after him.
“Come on now! Grab this bag! You know Tom, I don’t know what the training procedures are, but I feel like these new guys have to learn the pop-pop-pop that’s expected of them right away. Can’t take it easy on them.”
Alright, why not? Keep raking bitch!
So that was the first loop. Very easy, very comfortable. I’m in my safe zone. But 5 minutes after I set the bags down up top, the Caddie Master approached me.
“You want to caddie for Peyton Manning?”
I froze. Now, I knew that Peyton Manning had played here the day before, and I also knew the two caddies who went with him. Very strong guys. One of the caddies had been regularly assigned to Michael Jordan when he had been a regular visitor. So I just had to wonder why I was offered this loop. I mean, both of the caddies assigned to Peyton yesterday were here today. The Caddie Master picked up on my confusion immediately.
“One of the caddies fucking tells me AFTER the first 18 that he can’t work the second 18. Why didn’t he tell me that this morning? That would’ve been nice to know. So what’ll it be? You up for it?”
I had a date at 7. I figured hey, if I’m a little late, she’ll understand once I explain myself.
“Well, you can’t really turn down a loop with Peyton Manning, can you?”
And with that, I ran inside to stuff half a sandwich down my throat. I would eat the other half on the way out. Apparently the course was a little busy this morning so Peyton’s group started on 6. So I hopped in the cart and started thinking about how I’d react. Could I keep my cool? Take it easy Tom. He’s just a regular guy. A regular guy with a Super Bowl ring.
“The head pro is playing in the group. So don’t do anything stupid.”
Oh, okay. So I should refrain from shitting my pants and babbling like an idiot?
When we arrived, I hung back near the cart for a moment as they all putted out on 6 (they were just starting their second 18 of the day). It’s funny how when you meet a celebrity you tend to forget how to do almost everything while you’re around them. I turned to the Caddie Master.
“So…should I wait for you to introduce me?”
He just stared at me.
“No. I’d thought you’d handle that. Need me to take off your cap for you too?”
Crap. I haven’t even met the man yet and I’m screwing up. I watched him line up a putt as the caddie offered him the read. Freakin’ great. Green reading. Awesome. I get nervous reading putts for Joe Schmoe. They’ll probably need to get the paddles out for me on 7, because I’m going down.
They all finished putting out and walked over to their carts on the other side of the green. Okay. I guess I won’t be meeting the man yet. The caddie I was replacing ran over and hopped in the cart. The Caddie Master just shook his head.
“What the hell do you have going on tonight?”
“I have an appointment at 5.”
And they drove off. The remaining caddie ran over and slapped me on the shoulder.
“It’s you and me buddy. You’ve got Peyton. He’s in the yellow shirt back there.”
Oh, you mean the 6’5, 230 pound beast who’s towering over everyone on the tee-box? Yeah, I got it. And might I just say: Holy CRAP. The other caddie looked awful. Burnt to a crisp, starving and worn out. He was running on empty. This was his 12th double in a row. Tack on a big name and the head pro watching your every move, and we’re talking one over-worked horse. His name is Scott, and I think he’s my new hero.
“Hey Scott, how you holdin’ up?”
“It’s funny, but at this point, I’m almost used to working doubles now.”
It was a fivesome. The member, Peyton, two of his buddies and the head pro. I watched as Peyton flew it over my head into the left rough. I didn’t even see the other tee shots. I only saw the head pro’s because it almost hit me. It was like I had tunnel vision now and the only person I could focus on was Mr. Manning.
The head pro drove over to me first.
“Make sure you take care of Peyton.”
“You got it. Your ball is back over behind those trees pro.”
And, after dropping off the member at his ball, Peyton Manning drove across the fairway with an outstretched hand.
“Hey, how are you? I’m Peyton.”
“Hey Mr. Manning. I’m Tom. Good to meet you.”
“Do I have a shot over here?”
I always hate this question when I first meet a golfer. I don’t know his skill level. For a single digit handicap, his ball was playable. For a higher handicapper, taking the safe play would be better. So I just decided to go with a generic answer.
He parked his cart and I saw him immediately frown.
“Aww crap. I got nothing.”
DAMN. Alright, no worries, I’ll figure this guy out.
“What’s the yardage?”
“142 front and 166 pin.”
Man this guy is huge. I can’t even imagine how big the linebackers have to be in order to sack this guy. Suddenly, the pro’s ball screamed over my head. I ducked and closed my eyes. Whew. Missed me. The head pro drove over.
“Hey Tom? Where’d that go?”
FUCK. I have no idea.
“Just over the right side of the green.”
Okay, so I just made that up. I hope to God I’m right. If not, Peyton obviously has reason to doubt my credibility. Peyton then took two quick practice swings and chunked his ball further into the trees.
“Awww Peyton you JERK!”
But he got up onto the green soon enough. And as our group started to surround the green, the head pro drove around the right side looking for his ball.
“So Tom? Where did you say this was?”
I just stared at him. Just as I was about to open my mouth to allow bullshit to flow freely into the air, one of the other players cut me off.
“It’s right over here pro.”
Amazing. Just over the right side of the green. How the freakin’ crap-noodles was I able to guess that? Well, I guess that’s just one more I owe the man upstairs.
Now we were all on the green. After I fixed a few ball marks to make the head pro relax his sphincter muscle a bit, I approached Peyton as he was looking over his putt.
“So what’s this do?”
Oh man. Here we go.
“I’m seeing a cup outside right. Right here.”
I pointed, he aimed, fired and missed. He missed the putt by about a cup out on the right. Granted, he was 4 feet by the hole, but I’m sure he must’ve thought I screwed up.
“Peyton you JERK! Just BLASTED that one.”
Okay, maybe not. He threw me his ball to clean as we stepped off of the green to let the others finish out the hole. He was playing Titleist 18’s. I just stared at it for a moment. Peyton leaned over me.
“You like that?”
“Yeah. Not bad.”
“If you look hard enough, you’ll probably find about 3 dozen of those things on the course somewhere.”
Well that’s cool. He’s got a sense of humor. That made me a LITTLE more comfortable.
When we got up to the halfway house, Scott ran right up to the window.
“Give me 3 hotdogs.”
Normally, caddies are supposed to wait patiently for the players to order and then hope that they offer to buy something for you. But Scott just bypassed all of that. I don’t blame him. He was working his ass off, and if he didn’t speak up now, there was a good chance he wouldn’t eat. One of the players just laughed at Scott’s audacity.
“Really Scott? Three hotdogs?”
Scott wasn’t laughing. Man was it getting hot. I just got out here and I needed a Gatorade. Because this was only my second hole with the group, I asked Scott if he would get one for me. I didn’t want to just order something yet. I didn’t feel like I had earned it. He just nodded and I ran back out into the fairway to get ready for the next hole.
Again, the only drive I paid attention to was Peyton’s. He demolished it. I was standing around 280 yards from the tees they were playing (the tips) and his ball landed at least 20 yards past me. I calculated the yardages and waited for their arrival. I started getting excited, because I was somewhat of an expert on this hole. I knew exactly how far a player would need to hit the ball to carry the traps, to stay short, how much room they had left of the fairway at 80 yards, etc etc. So I couldn’t wait to help the man out.
Scott ran by me to get the yardages for his players. He had half a hotdog hanging out of his mouth and he reached into his bib to grab a purple Gatorade. He threw it underhanded much like a college softball pitcher would, and it was flying like a fastball right at Mr. Manning. I ran a few steps and reached out to prevent the bottle from coming any closer to my player. The bottle slapped against my hands and I cradled it into my chest.
“Thanks Mr. Manning.”
I laughed. I mean, it’s not like Scott and I had that planned. The post-pattern I just ran for a Gatorade was completely unintentional, but I mean, come on. What a perfect time to do it. I’m just glad I didn’t drop the Gatorade. But I guess either way that would’ve been a great story.
Peyton didn’t ask for any of my advice. He just wanted to rip an iron as far as he could. Man he was hitting the ball high. The member in the group was starting to give him crap about it.
“Holy cow P. Manning. Can’t you hit those irons any higher?”
“Well, you know how it goes. When you’re a freakin’ beast like I am, it’s hard NOT to hit it high.”
After the first four holes, Peyton and I hadn’t clicked yet on the greens. It’s not like I was misreading them per se, it was just that I was giving him the wrong line for his speed of choice—which was incredibly firm. Then, on the 11th, it finally happened.
“What do you see here Tom?”
“Oh boy. Do I have a money read for you.”
“Give it to me.”
“Two balls outside the right.”
“You sure? This is a big putt in the match.”
“Just trust it. I have a good feeling.”
And sure enough, it went in. As he walked over to take his ball out of the hole, he pointed at his two friends like “Shooter” McGavin.
“Oh, look at this. P. Manning is back.”
“What are you boys talking about? I never left.”
Fortunately, we kept this streak going for 4-5 more holes. He never congratulated me on my reads, but the fact that I was successfully reading his putts was good enough for me.
On the 15th hole Scott grabbed our attention by yelling and pointing to the sky.
“Hey guys! Look! Look at the bald eagle! MAN that bird is rare!”
Everyone in the group took a moment to look. A minute or so later, the bird came close enough to us so we could all tell that it WASN’T a bald eagle. Scott was the first to comment.
“Oh, sorry. It’s just an osprey.”
A few members of the group started to chuckle. Peyton was still staring at the sky.
“Well that held my attention for about 45 seconds.”
After we finished the hole, we all started making our way towards the 16th tee. But Peyton hung back for a minute and started yelling.
“Hey guys! Look! Look guys! It’s a Dinosaur!”
“Oh wait. It’s just a dog.”
I’ll say it again. Great sense of humor.
By the time we reached the 18th hole (hole 5 the way they were playing), Scott and I were done. Just done. I was completely worn out and I’m sure Scott was much, much worse. At this point, neither of us cared if it was Peyton Manning or Keith Richards. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’m sure Keith would have some good drugs he could spare to help us get through it. But we just wanted to go home. After everyone finished putting, the member turned to the rest of the group.
“Man this is great. So much daylight. I’m so glad we’re playing until dark.”
What? Scott and I just glared at them. Were they kidding? This is going to sound blasphemous, but I had been planning this date for a week and I really didn’t want to miss it, even if it was for Peyton Manning. Fine, call me an idiot. But honestly, I was famished and completely exhausted. Scott came over to me.
“You going to try to leave?”
“I don’t want to. But I sorta have plans I can’t break.”
“Well please ask. Because I want to leave too. I figure if you ask, they’ll let both of us go.”
I was pretty nervous to talk to the head pro. But at this point, I figured I had done my required loop and the rest of it was just a bonus if I was up for it. The head pro pulled up next to me and we just stared at each other for a moment. Finally I opened my mouth.
“Pro, I’m terrified to ask you this.”
“You have to leave?”
“Yeah. I’ve had these plans for a week now.”
“You sure you want to put the rest of the group on Scott? I mean hell, the guy’s been fired at least 3 times already.”
Crap. I didn’t want to put all the pressure on Scott. I didn’t know how much longer he could stand upright. But I just had to leave.
“Yeah. Scott’s one of our best.”
“How are you going to present it to Peyton? You just going to disappear?”
“I don’t know. I’ll just tell him it’s been an honor to caddie for him and peace out.”
“I don’t know.”
I just shrugged. Again, at this point, I really didn’t care. And I hate to say that. I was so tired it felt like survival more than anything else. When we finished the hole I walked over to Peyton.
“Mr. Manning? I feel like I’m going to regret this for a long time, but I’m afraid I have to go. Plans I can’t get out of.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it. Really nice to meet you. Tell her I said hello.”
Well that was easy. What a down to earth kinda guy. It’s nice when a big celebrity like that can be as personable off camera as they are on-camera. It certainly made my job a hell of a lot easier.
And Scott is fine. I talked to him the next day to make sure he was okay. He ended up caddying over 50 holes that day, but he still managed to finish and come into work the next day to caddie another 27 with Peyton’s group. Talk about a hard working caddie.
Well thanks for reading this far. I just wanted to make sure I wrote out as much as I could remember from the loop. And as I said, I’m still working on another long post which describes most of my schedule from last week. But I hope everyone is doing well. Take care all.
Posted by Tom Collins at 8:22 PM
Thursday, May 03, 2007
After the whole “Velvet Cuddles” incident, I realized a few things. Like how some people can be perfectly happy being smelly turds. Or how under the right (or wrong) circumstances, a golfer CAN indeed get under my skin. Sad, but true. But the one thing I didn’t expect was to have the Caddie Master rub it in my face.
He’s a drinking buddy and somebody that I respect. I was exhausted and showed a moment of weakness. And then I let something slip about the whole situation in the caddie room. Okay, I’m human. But to make me wait for 5 hours in the caddie room AND make fun of me for it makes me a little frustrated.
He told me to come in at 9, so I did. I knew I would need to work hard to regain some of the respect that I had lost, so I was prepared to wait for a while. One of the caddies’ near me leaned over.
“So. Tom. I had your boy this past weekend. The one with the Red Sox cap on.”
“Yeah. He was a douche-bag.”
That made me laugh. I hadn’t thought of using that angle to describe him. I liked it. Then the Caddie Master jumped in.
“Yeah, but Tom came to me so freakin’ upset. He looked like he was going to cry. I was like, dude? What the hell?”
You know, a simple “Tom looked pissed” might’ve sufficed. I don’t remember almost crying. Now you’re making me sound like a pussy. I was seconds away from hitting Mr. Cuddles in the face or walking off of the loop (or, as English Dave puts it, I should’ve just “kicked him in the nuts”). Wasn’t switching me to another loop a better option?
Okay, so now the Caddie Master has just embarrassed me in front of 5-10 caddies. Maybe he felt he had to in order to re-assert his position as manager for doing me a favor, but I still don’t think that was cool. I mean—normally—he’s the one sticking up for me.
Oh, and the 401k I spent the last 9 months writing for this company? Well you’re welcome.
Caddie after caddie went out in front of me. I drifted in and out of sleep, sure, but that’s only because I didn’t want to stare at the floor or watch Sports Center for 5 straight hours. And honestly, if it was any other day, I wouldn’t have cared. But today I had plans at 7 to meet up with some friends for dinner. I figured coming in at 9 am would give me plenty of time to loop and get around for dinner. Apparently not.
So at 2:45 I walked out to meet my group. I was tired, hungry and in no mood to caddie. To top it all off, one of the bag guys walked by me and said, “Hey, you better grab a change-out bag. Well, actually, you might need two. The other bag is suspect.”
Awesome. Bring on the pain.
But, regardless of how crappy I felt, when I met my first player I cheered up almost immediately. He was 28 or 29 and just excited as hell to be golfing at this course.
“Hey, I’m Tom.”
“Tom? Hey man. I’m Surge. Really great to meet you.”
“Yeah. Could you help me real quick and change out your bag?”
“Oh yeah! Sure!”
I never knew admitting your bag was heavier than a dump-truck could be so much fun. Then I met my other “suspect” bag, which belonged to Mr. Giggles.
“Hey, I’m Tom.”
“I’m Mr. Giggles! Tee-hee!”
It’s unbelievable how funny that is to me. I want to call him that because, unlike any of the other CEO-types I’ve caddied for, you could say just about anything to him and he’d pee his pants.
“You just toed the hell out of your 8-iron.”
“Tee-hee! I know! Well what do you expect with a swing speed of 42 miles-per-hour? Ha!”
Surge said that to him on 16 and that was his exact response. The guy just could not stop laughing. It reminded me of me.
Even Mr. Giggles’ bag made me laugh. And that’s weird, because I’m sure there are neutron STARS out there that are lighter and less awkward to carry around than this thing. But the thing about this bag that really killed me was the ball-holder on the side. And come on, I’ve seen a lot of bags by now, and I know what a ball-holder looks like. I’ve seen the variations, and I know the purpose. I guess. But the ball-holder on this bag literally looked like two vagina’s on top of each other. It looked like the bag designer had taken his favorite blow-up doll and bent it around a cylinder of fabric.
You know, I’m so tempted to take this further, but I think you guys get the point.
Wow. I’m so proud of myself for stopping that rant before it got really bad. Moving on.
Despite the weight of Mr. Giggles’ “bag” I was really starting to enjoy myself. Surge was talking about the NFL draft and asking about how well caddies are treated at the club. Mr. Giggles would hit his ball in the bunker and laugh hysterically. It was all gravy.
But one thing that kept popping up was how badly Surge was putting. He used to be a big baseball player, and has now taken up the game of golf simply because he “has to.” Apparently the business world has gotten to the point where you HAVE to play golf if you want to get anywhere. So Surge was just trying his best. But because he used to be a baseball player, he had a little extra “pop” to deliver into the ball. He was a little wristy. Anything outside of 120 yards was fine. But once he got within 100 yards of the flag, he started hitting some road blocks (I know, I know. Welcome to the game of golf, Surge).
His putting is what REALLY hurt him, because our greens have been “stimping” around an 11 and if you don’t have a smooth putting stroke, it can be hard to get a handle on the speed. And he was popping the ball right across the green. Every time. He started getting really upset. And he seemed like a cool enough guy, so I decided to take a risk.
“Hey, Surge? I don’t normally do this, but I can tell you’re getting really frustrated on the greens and I don’t want that to taint your whole experience here…so if you’ll let me, can I give you a pointer?”
He just stared at me.
“Is it really that bad?”
Well: yes, yes. But he just needed to stop being so powerful and he’d be fine.
“You see, these greens are pretty fast, and the trick with fast greens is to make sure that you’re taking the club back more with—“
“Exactly. That’s all I wanted to tell you. You’re an athlete. It’s going to feel really weird at first, but it’ll pay off.”
I was really nervous to tell him that. That’s a big caddying no-no. Not because it might screw up your golfer (which of course could be a valid concern—because there really aren’t any caddies out there with instructor certifications), but because it could slow down play. Because if you happen to throw out a really GOOD tip, then the player will badger you for the rest of the round and try to get more and more tips from you. Now I’m not speaking from experience, but I do know caddies that have gone down that road before and are now having a hard time breaking the member of that habit. But I mean come on. If you were playing with somebody and they were rocketing the ball over the green on every putt and getting very frustrated about it, unless you’re playing against them for money you’re GOING to offer them help.
Surge stood on the side of the green and took a few practice putting strokes. Within 20 seconds it looked like he had figured it out.
“Looks really good. Now you just have to try and get a feel for the speed out here and you’re all set.”
And it took another 5-7 holes before he figured it out, but by the time we reached 15 he drained a tricky putt for par and then drained another great putt for par on 16 to win the hole. And that felt really good. I was happy for him.
As for this weekend, I’m going to try my best to post, because I’m sure there will be a lot going on, but there’s a good possibility I’ll be working 4 doubles in a row. So you guys may not hear from me until Monday. But I’ll try my best. I’ll take plenty of Tylenol and smoke as much crack as I possibly can. We’ll see what happens. Take care all.
Posted by Tom Collins at 10:51 PM