Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pulling Something from Somewhere

When I pulled into the parking lot this morning, there was a familiar caddie waiting in a cart.  When I opened my door, he started laughing.

“Whoa now.  Don’t hurt yourself.  Slow down.  There’s nobody here right now.  When you sign your name you’ll be number 2, behind me.  I think there are 10-15 golfers on the sheet all day.”

Sure enough, when we rolled into the caddie room, I was in the 2nd spot.  I decided it would probably be a good time to get a little reading done, as well as figure out how I would layer up for caddying today—somebody had cranked up the air-conditioning in the basement from “normal” to “North Pole,” which made me forget in the span of a minute what the weather was like outside.  So I put on a couple extra layers.

I bundled up so much, in fact, that TP—an old friend and the Assistant Caddie Master—looked over at me when he walked in and said: “Hey, Tommy, what the hell do you have on there? You need a blanket and a pacifier too?”

So while I struggled to determine my proximity to the Equator, three more caddies came in and told the most unbelievable story.  Well, to be honest, it wasn’t the WHOLE story—I was only able to pick up fragments.  I didn’t want to pry and get every detail, because I’m still new to the yard and it’s the type of story where I felt it would be inappropriate for me to ask a lot of questions.

In essence, here’s what happened: four caddies went off to play golf on Monday.  While driving on one of the nearby highways, something came loose on an 18-wheeler carrying 10 cars.  A couple of the cars being transported fell off the back of the rig, and so now two stationary vehicles are in the middle of the road while on-coming traffic is traveling around 65-70 mph.  Unfortunately, the car carrying these caddies was only a few car-lengths behind the truck when this happened.  The driver swerved to miss the first stationary vehicle, clipping part of it, which sent the four caddies into a spin.  They were then T-boned by the second stationary vehicle and slammed again by a car that had been following behind them.  One of the caddies broke his arm and fractured his skull, another caddie punctured a lung when his ribs broke, and I think one of the other caddies broke a leg (again, I’m just piecing together fragments of the story).  All four caddies suffered memory loss in regards to the accident, and their golf clubs flew out of the trunk and were scattered all over the highway.

Only two “positive” things came of this.  First, when the ambulances arrived at the hospital and during their short wait to be seen by doctors, all of the caddies were yelling at each other.  Things like “I may have a broken arm, but I could still kick your ass!” Apparently they had the hospital staff laughing hysterically, and one of the doctors even said: “You guys are like…too much for the emergency room right now.”  I’m saying that was “positive,” because at least that meant that they were doing alright—well enough to be bitching at each other. 

The second positive thing—very positive—was that a couple of the caddies orchestrated a visit, and after everyone in the room knew the story (more caddies had shown up by then), 5-10 caddies planned a visit to their friends in the hospital after their loop was over with today.  That gives you some indication of how tight-nit these guys are, which I think is really special.  Out of the 5 or 6 clubs I’ve been a part of, I can think of only one other group of caddies where you could get a group of guys together to do that.

After that somber tale, I sat down in the bag room to get a little reading done and work on one of my books.  Then I thought: why does every bag room smell like grass and feet?

“Hey Tommy! You’re going out with Sanders at 10 with some ‘un-accomp’s.’” It was TP, giving me the lowdown. 

That was another new concept for me: unaccompanied guests.  This club allows a member to call the pro-shop and say, “Hey, my man, I got 4 friends that wanna play your course, but I can’t make it.  Let them play unsupervised the way God intended, alright?”

“No problem.  What time would they like to grace us with their freaking presence?”

I’m positive that’s how all of those conversations go.  At every other private club I’ve ever been to or worked, either the member has to be present or one of the professionals would need to join the group.  I suppose this particular club, with its close proximity to Manhattan, would rather show off the goods and attract new members than play the upturned-nose card.

The time was 8:45.  Plenty of time to read and relax.  So I poured myself a big cup of coffee (another perk I will never take for granted—I mean are you freaking kidding me?), and sat down in the smelly bag room to read over some of my notes.

Around 9:15, a caddie flew through the basement door and tracked me down.  “Hey! Get up there!”

Already? Damn.  So I dumped the rest of the coffee, grabbed a towel, and followed the caddie back up to the podium.  He pointed down to the first tee.

“They’re already down there.”

Wow.  I didn’t mean to be a freaking SLACKER.  In thinking back, however, this is pretty much par for the course when it comes to caddying.  Regardless of how “prepared” you want to be, there will always be times when the Caddie Master will throw you a curveball. 

Today, I would be carrying two bags.  I’m growing up.  Mother would be so proud.  My two “un-accomp’s” were Mr. Fallback and Mr. Highslice.  Both were tremendous people—don’t get me wrong.  It’s just that Mr. Fallback liked to fall back on this right foot on the follow through, which led to some wonderfully consistent golf shots.  Mr. Highslice, on the other hand, liked to swing on an aggressive outside-to-in path, which produced a surprisingly high slice.  I knew that with the stereotypically strong winds on this course, both players would really enjoy their day.

My first issue came on the 2nd green, where Mr. Fallback had a putt for par.  Although the greens here roll true and I don’t feel they’re overly difficult to read, my name is still Tom Collins, and at times the crack I’ve smoked will cloud my vision and make it more than a little difficult to give the correct reads.  The additional problem was that the wind actually affected the line of a putt.  In many cases today, the ball would be wobbling or move while the players addressed the ball.  Anyway, all crack smoking aside, Mr. Fallback had a legitimate chance at par.  It was about 20 feet and downhill.  He asked me for a read (first mistake) and trusted that I knew what I was doing out there (second mistake).  After reviewing the putt from behind the hole, I thought the ball would move about two cups right.  I gave him an aiming point, and stepped back.

The ball stayed completely straight, and with perfect speed, stopped EVEN with the hole, two cups out on the left.  You have got to be kidding me.  So, I searched out-loud for an answer.

“Well, I guess the…wind…must’ve held that out there.  From down here it looked like it was going right.”

Then things were cool for awhile.  Nobody asked for a read, which made me a little nervous, if only because once a player cuts you off from reading his putts (unless he simply prefers it that way), you can wave bye-bye to a decent tip.  But that wasn’t the case here—the players were relaxed, joking, and just wanted to pick-up play, so they just stepped up and hit the ball in most cases.

Then we got to the 5th hole.  The 5th hole—without wind—is sort of a joke.  I think from the tips it’s a 160-yard par 3, which means that from the blues it runs about 140.  The nicely folded pin-sheet in my hand said 30 paces back from the front, so after a quick calculation, I came up with 145 pin.  The pin-sheet said back right, and from where I stood, the pin looked back right.  The other caddie even chimed in: “Yeah, I like 145.”

When we got up to the green, the pin was FRONT right.  I’m not sure if I coughed, cleared my throat, farted, or wheezed, but I was taken aback.  I looked at the other caddie.

“Yeah, I wasn’t about to question your yardage on the tee in front of the players…but I could tell that flag wasn’t back right.  I could just see too much of it sticking up.”

Nobody really said anything, so I thought I was in the clear.  But then I had another hiccup: I handed my players their drivers for the 6th hole.

Without wind, the 6th hole is a really short par 4.  I think it’s under 300 yards.  There’s a waste area with bunkers that runs from the green about 50 yards back towards the fairway, and so from the elevated tee—without wind—you don’t want to hit anything longer than 200 from the blues.  The other caddie explained this to everyone in our group, and my players turned around, looked at their drivers and then at me.  Again, I think I might’ve wheezed, coughed, or farted—I can’t be sure.  Bottom line, I handed them their hybrids.

After watching Mr. Fallback and Mr. Highslice rip their tee-balls high into the wind and land short of the fairway, I did wonder why I hadn’t insisted on drivers for them anyway.  But I still felt as though my club selection was premature.

On the 8th hole, all four players crapped the bed.  One player lost a ball.  Then another.  Then someone hit it in the water.  Then Mr. Highslice gave up. Then someone skulled it over the green, then someone three putted, and when it was all over, I think a 7 won the hole.  I would have needed a graphing calculator to determine their aggregate score.  Laser my ass.  Get me something that can add exponents. 

One thing the 8th hole did, however, was jumpstart my confidence and get the whole group on a roll again.  With a bad 8th hole, now players are turning to me for more guidance, I’m feeling better about myself, and everyone is playing better.

When Mr. Fallback asked me about my tenure on that course—as in: “How long have you worked here?”—I had to lie.  Well, I tried to avoid a “number of years” per se, and just condensed it to “a while.”  During one of my initial loops here, a member asked me the same question.  When I responded with: “Oh, about a week,” he nearly choked on his Cohiba.  I little white lie never hurt anyone.  I’m still running my ass off trying to be a good caddie—no need to introduce any doubt in the fragile minds of my players.

After the round, the other caddie mentioned that “you can always tell when you’re caddying for a player who normally rides in a cart, because by the 14th or 15th hole, their legs get weak and they can’t seem to swing the club as well anymore.”  I noticed that this was true of Mr. Fallback on 17, because after his trek up to the green, he just stood over the ball and laughed as he took multiple swings in the deep rough just to move the ball a couple feet.

I’ll say it again: just tremendous guys.  I really enjoyed caddying for them.  I’m just glad things got turned around today after the 8th.  When I came back down to the caddie room after the loop, a hand-written sign was plastered on the entrance to the TV room.  To paraphrase, it said: “All hands on deck Friday morning.”  Apparently it’s going to be busy tomorrow.

Can’t wait.


Anonymous said...

Well fuck.

I wrote shitloads on my comment here and the stupid internet wouldn't take it and screwed it up and threw it away

I don't have any of these wanky accounts or ID things it asks for below so I can't do anything. Nob gobbling turd burglars.

Sorry, old pal.

English Dave

Anonymous said...

Oh cock, it works now.

Piss drinking fanny flaps. Arse burgers.

Tom Collins said...

Haha...if that isn't the best entrance back on the scene, I don't know what is.

You're a good man, Dave.

Kiwi said...

Well looks who back, can't believe I managed to use Google well enough to find somewhere that recognised your rambling.

Good to see the liver hasn't clapped out completely yet.