Thursday, October 13, 2011

Setting the Stage

I didn’t know what to expect.  For days now, I’ve been mentally preparing for the worst.  Could I possibly work a double if the Caddie Manager needed me to? I mean of course I’d say yes, but I was pretty terrified of dying.  The last time I had been to this course was 4-5 years ago, and even when I was in peak caddie form, walking the back 9 with my own bag wore me the hell out.

The parking lot for caddies / kitchen staff / any non-members works like this: you pull in, walk over to a line of golf carts, unplug the front cart and take her on up to the clubhouse.  I met the Caddie Master in the parking lot at 11 am, and after a heart-felt bro-hug that was 5 years overdue, he saw that one of the kitchen staff members had decided to walk up to the clubhouse.

“What the hell is she thinking?”

I guess just getting UP to the clubhouse is a hike.  Can’t wait to lug two bags again and let this golf course make me its BITCH.

It was grey and misty outside with endless cloud-cover, which immediately made my hair stand on end: I won’t be able to follow balls in the air.  On top of that, the rough and tall grasses that engulf this golf course are bound to screw me.  What are those three golden rules of caddying again? Keep up, shut up, and NEVER LOSE THE PLAYER’S BALL.  But 2/3 ain’t bad.

After parking at the clubhouse, “Big Bear” (as he’s known throughout the yard) walked me through the bowels of the lighthouse-style clubhouse to the caddie room.  The basement hallways eliminate any sense of navigation, so the next time I try to find my way I know for a fact I’m going to go through a wrong door and get blasted by a boiler-room furnace or experience an Ernest Goes to Jail electrical shock from 30 feet.  Sensing my lost-lamb-look, Big Bear tried to simplify my thought process.

“Just don’t open any of these doors.”

The caddie room is another story.  It is dangerous.  Not “physical harm” kind of dangerous—just “I’m going to lose a crap load of money playing cards and gambling” kind of dangerous.  I suppose this is appropriate with the club’s proximity to Atlantic City, but let me paint the freaking picture for you: one room has an official poker table in it.  Part of me wondered if the caddies ganked it from one of the pits at the Taj Mahal.  Aside from piles of chips, a stack of football betting slips lay dormant, wrapped in a rubber band.  Again, Big Bear clarified.

“There’s always gambling going on here.  I’ve seen $1,000 on that table in one hand.  You can bet on anything here.”

The poker room also houses the bathroom, a refrigerator, and a long table with pots and pots of coffee.  On the wall facing the poker room is a dry-erase board with two distinct areas: notes from caddies to the superintendent about busted sprinkler heads, wrong yardages, or anything else that needs to be checked out; the other side was a list of reminders to the caddies: 1. Replace all divots and use sand, 2. Rake bunkers, and 3. Stay ahead of your players (Do you want to be replaced by golf carts?).  Call me crazy, but I heard managers yelling at caddies for these things 5 years ago.  I’m shocked and appalled that collectively, caddies haven’t figured this crap out.  Or maybe I haven’t smoked enough crack yet, and I’m just being too hard on my fellow bag-toting brothers.

The lounge area sports a 45’’+ flat-screen and three comfortable leather couches.  Lockers flank the entire front of the room, and a huge cardboard flat sat on top of one of the lockers, adorned with some strange arrangement of colors and names which I couldn’t hope to figure out on the first day.  Across from the lounge area is the bag room, which Big Bear pointed out makes no numerical sense: “It goes from 20 to 40, then 100 to 200, and 340 is over on the other side somewhere.  Just be patient and figure it out.”

Behind the stacks of golf bags sat another secret set of wooden lockers.  “Take locker 6 in the back there.  These lockers are for my varsity squad.”

Big Bear then took his leave, and I put some of my things in the locker before reclining on one of the couches and introducing myself to a few of the caddies watching SportsCenter (Again, I’m shocked).  At that moment, I remembered something my former caddie-boss told me: “When you first come onto a new yard, you can’t come in like a hurricane.  You need to come in quietly and work hard.  Eventually, you’ll fall in with the rest.  But if you come in too strong, you’re never going to fit in.”  So I just relaxed and tried to keep to myself.

Soon enough, TP, another old friend of mine from my Virginia days, walked in the room with two new shirts, a new hat, and a new bib just for me.  Turns out he’s Big Bear’s assistant manager.

“Tommy! The original! What the hell’s going on with you?”

I really missed this.  I had forgotten how small the golf industry is, and how I’d probably be running into people I knew, even though I haven’t worked at this club before.  We talked for a bit, and TP has really carved out a nice life for himself.  In his words: “I take 4 rights and I’m here.”

So I guess he lives close-by.

After TP left, I put on the bib, hat, stocked up on tees, scorecards, pencils, and a grabbed a bottle of water.  I paced back and forth, convinced that I had forgotten something.  Towel! That’s right! I’m naked without it out there.  But is there anything else? Man, I’m such a freaking rookie.

Then the phone in the lounge rang, and some caddie I’ve never met shouted out: “Is there a Tom here?”

“Yeah, that’s me.”

“Head up top.  They’re ready for you.”

Alright then.

When I got up top—taking the proper exit door that Big Bear told me to use—I found myself looking at Big Bear, a member, and a caddie all getting ready to tee off on the first hole.  Turns out today would be a “shadow loop” experience.  I would be carrying Big Bear’s bag, and the other caddie would be tending to his regular member.

Big Bear spoiled me—I think he’s a 1 or 2 handicap, so I really didn’t have to venture very far off course most of the day.  Then again, that was a good thing, because then I could focus more on the course, figuring out where to place the bag, and where the hell the next hole is.  Unlike most golf courses, the majority of the holes here block your vision from seeing ANY of the other holes.  Just about the only thing that remains visible at all times is the American flag by the clubhouse, which I’ve been told is so large that it actually weighs 100 pounds on its own. 

Overall, I think I did a good job for a first day back.  I found that although this is a links-style course with minimal “cut-thru’s,” I could still stay ahead of the players fairly easily.  Granted, I was only carrying one bag and I was always in the fairway.  And we only ended up playing 13 holes.  And Big Bear’s bag weighed next to nothing. 

I mean who am I kidding? That first day double-bagging it is going to hurt.  There’s no way around it.

But I’m back, baby.


Kiwi said...


good to hear your still alive. That 1st double your going to strain/pull muscles you've never noticed before.

Bahaha who am I kidding, I've never set foot in a gym or voluntarily exercised, I get enough at work.

Good hear you're still on the right side of the soil. Hopefully English D sneaks in for a yarn, anyway to contact your old commment makers?

Tom Collins said...

Glad to see you again. I'm about to head in to see if I can get a loop, and when I get back I'll try to contact a few more people.