Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Fivesome

These last few weeks seem to be filled with firsts. I witnessed a player hit at least one bunker on every hole for the first 13 holes. I almost shit myself. I played a practical joke on somebody. I’ve even read a few putts correctly.

Well today was another first. A 6 hour round. Two husbands, two wives and an Assistant Pro. A fivesome that never should’ve been formed in the first place. Remember Mr. and Mrs. Habicamp from the movie Caddyshack? Well imagine two couples just like that, except they’re only in their 50s and 60s. Whether they tapped in for 5 or 15 on a hole, they played everything out. Balls went everywhere. Normally this isn’t a problem, but due to the fact that we are now nearing winter…well…leaves litter every inch of the golf course. It can be hard to find balls in the fairway let alone the deep rough.

“Hi, I’m Tom.”

“Hi Tom. I’m Susie Depalkasdfj.”


“Hi Tom. I’m Lynn Burtfls.”

“I’m Bob Burtfls.”

“I’m Donnie Depalkasdfj.”

Wait, I’m sorry. What?

Depalkasdfj. Burtfls. Each player spoke their first name rather well, but failed to do any better than a mumble for their last name. These players are certainly seniors and deserve to be called Mr. or Mrs. SOMETHING. And I can’t even give them that. Oh well. It’s their own damn fault. Let’s go Susie Q.

When caddying for senior citizens, there’s one big point of etiquette than cannot be overlooked: yardages. This goes for most women too. If the yardage is over 150 yards, 9 times out of 10 they can’t hit it that far, so do not tell them how far it is. It only hurts their feelings. And I’m being dead serious about this. When I was down in Florida I gave an older guy a yardage of about 180 and he snapped at me: “Have you even seen a DRIVE of mine go over 160? No? Then you DON’T need to tell me about it.”

So ever since then I’ve been very careful with yardages around women and senior citizens. So first of all, nothing over 150. Secondly, ALWAYS tell them at least 10-20 yards more than what anyone else would hit. If a shot is playing 130 to the flag and there’s a hint of wind in the face, I will usually tell these individuals to hit their 140-150 club. Because 9 times out of 10 these players are going by yardages of what they USED to be able to hit, and so they’re hitting 7 irons where they need a 5 or wedges when they need to hit an 8 or 9. You have to be very careful when you’re delivering these yardages, however. You must give them to the individual personally, because if you shout the yardage too loud and another player decides to question your judgment, it’s very easy for you to be found out. And when THAT happens, it’s all but guaranteed that they will be short the rest of the day. So while most women and senior citizens are hitting the same woods and rescue clubs for most of the holes and the loop may appear easy, if you say the wrong thing you can pretty much kiss a good tip goodbye.

The other thing I’ve learned about caddying in general is that you NEED to be able to assess a player’s ability almost immediately in order to tailor your comments for their needs. For instance: if a 25 handicap puts a shot from 100 yards away anywhere on the putting surface it’s okay for you to say “good shot” or offer some other words of encouragement. If you happen to be caddying for a 5 handicap, however, and they’re 100 yards out and can’t stick their approach closer than 15-20 feet, you really shouldn’t offer any words of encouragement. For a single digit handicap, only give positive feedback when a shot is REALLY great. That’s the easiest way for a single digit handicapper to discredit you as a caddie. If you congratulate them on a good shot when the shot they just hit was CLEARLY not that great, they will simply assume you’ve never played golf before.

So, taking all of these things into consideration, I tried to prepare myself for my upcoming loop. I was assigned to carry the Assistant Pro’s bag and forecaddie for the two ladies in the cart, because apparently I’m “good with the ladies.” Giggity giggity.

The time: 9 am. We were a five-some, yes, but there weren’t really any players on the tee sheet for at least another hour. We had a cushion. Perfect.

By the time we finished the first hole, it was 9:27. If the first hole was a section of ocean and you dragged a juicy piece of meat on a cable through the center of it from one end to the other, the feeding frenzy of sharks swarming around it and moving WITH it was probably the equivalent of what these players looked like on the first hole. The center of the fairway was the nucleus and each of the players were electrons, bobbing and weaving in all different directions yet remaining perfectly symmetrical to the meridian. Once on the green, all golf etiquette was forgotten as players moved furiously up and down their intended lines picking up leaves and twigs as other players were trying to putt.

When we finally finished the first hole, the Assistant Pro turned to me. “What is this? A fucking Chinese fire drill?”

A brief glimpse of hope came on the fourth, when I was helping the women pick a club to hit into the par 3. The actual yardage was 124 and they needed to carry it over water and a bunker. There was a little wind in our face, and I didn’t hesitate.

“Lynn, hit your driver.”

“My driver? Really?”

“You hit that about 150, right?”

“Well yes…is it really playing that long?”

“Yep. Put a good swing on it.”

Susie Q interjected.

“No way that’s playing 150. I’m playing it 145.”

Oh, well excuse me.

Susie shanked her 4-wood dead right into one of those sprinkler maintenance boxes near the 5th tee.

“Well, I think that was the club if I hit it straight.”

Lynn nutted her driver into the wind. The ball just cleared the bunker and rolled up to about 9 feet.

“Wow! That was some good advice!”

I figured with my luck she was going to pure it over the green and give me a weird look for the next hour. But at our pace that would’ve only been a couple of holes, so I could deal. Fortunately, she was close with an easy birdie putt. And she made it.

But victory didn’t last long. After a PBF (post-birdie-fuckup) 15 on the 5th she was humble once again.

As the round progressed each player became more and more patient. They were grinding over every 1, 2 or 3 footer they faced. By the 6th hole the pro was so frustrated by the pace of play that he couldn’t even answer me when I asked him if he wanted his driver.

”You want to hug the bunker with your driver or take a hybrid and blast it up the left side?”

He just stared blankly at me, mouth open.

“I’m…I’m thirsty. How far Tom?”

“You’re about to tee off.”

“Oh, right. 7-iron I guess.”

“What? Here. Just take the driver.”


He was a zombie already. Come on man. You can’t bail on me this early. I NEED YOU MAN.

By the time we finished the front nine we had let 3 groups play through us, two of which were walking foursomes. The husbands and wives were all getting very frustrated.

“Do we have to let ALL of these people play through us?”

The pro was watching a squirrel.

“What? Oh…don’t worry…they’ll be fast. Aren’t you thirsty? I’m thirsty again.”

By 14, the wheels were coming off for the women. One of them whiffed the ball so hard that it bounced dead left and smacked against her shin, and the other skulled her 12th shot out of the greenside bunker straight into the pin where it then ricocheted into the water hazard. The Assistant Pro turned to me.

“I have never been more disinterested in a round of golf in my life.”

When you’re about to tee off on the 15th and 4 ½ hours have already passed, you can’t help but feel like an eternity has already passed. The other caddie turned to me.

“I feel like this is all a nightmare and I’m going to wake up any second.”

Just then, Bob’s tee shot snapped dead left and we had to hit the dirt. The other caddie, who is normally one of the calmest and most reserved caddies in the yard, responded first.

“Man, fuck this shit. I’m going to go stand in the middle of the fairway where it’s safe.”

And sure enough, for the rest of the round, that’s exactly where he stood. Granted, that meant he did it only on 17 and 18, but it was still hilarious.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Big Ass Swiss Army Knives

One of the biggest problems with wet weather—as far as a caddie is concerned—is the variable weight of a players’ bag throughout the round. Most of the time, when the weatherman has a small seizure on camera and tells the local community that it’s going to be a little NASTY outside, the golfers at my club turn their golf bags into Swiss Army knives. They have everything in there. Extra socks, shoes, balls, towels, rain gear, you name it. Every button, zipper and strip of Velcro is holding on for dear life. And if for some strange reason the weatherman is WRONG (which of course never happens), by the 5th or 6th hole your players are shedding garments faster than a date on prom night and you’ve got to find room for even MORE clothing in their bags. So unless the weather is consistent, wet weather can really make those shoulders hurt by the end of the day.

Yesterday was one of those nasty days. It had rained almost the entire night before, and now there were water hazards WITHIN bunkers and mud bogs peppered throughout some of the fairways just WAITING for a victim. But you see…now it’s only DRIZZLING outside…and so although the course is WATERLOGGED, there’s some freakin’ GOLF to be played people. Not like I’m complaining, because winter is coming soon and I’m trying to hoard a few nuts before they’re all gone. But it always amazes me what weather some golfers will play in. Then again, if I had a chance to play this golf course with a few of my buddies and we had all flown in from other states, you better believe we’re playing no matter what.

So I get my assignment and I’m waiting outside in the rain for my players to come down off of the range. I hear a cart accelerator being popped into gear at the top of the hill and see my two players start to descend down towards the starters’ podium. Suddenly, a loud snap and crackle is heard as the weight of the two bags strapped to the cart rips the cart in half and slams the undercarriage against the sidewalk on its way down the hill. A spark is seen and the gas tanks under the seat cushions ignite and explode, engulfing my two players in a ball of fire. They quickly eject themselves from the cart screaming and thrashing violently trying to roll along the wet ground to extinguish themselves. The flames grow more and more intense as a second explosion accelerates the cart into a 15 mph fireball straight down the cart path toward one of the cart boys. He cries out in terror for Paula Abdul but she is nowhere to be seen. The cart spontaneously combusts, creating a powerful vacuum which sucks in the poor cart boy, ripping out his lower intestines.

And to think: this all started because the bags were too heavy.

A moment later, I was back in reality. I was now staring at two massive trunks. Both stuffed to the brim, both with too many head-covers and both with a right-handed strap. If humans had evolved with two right shoulders, I would’ve been in heaven. But as it turns out, I HAVE a left shoulder, and so adjusting one of the bags would be a bit of a challenge. One of the guests approached me.

“I tried to take as much as I could out of there.”

Oh really? Then why do you have two umbrellas?

“Hey, Tom? You want me to carry one of those? I think those are too much for you to handle by yourself.”

That was the other caddie in the group trying to talk some sense into me. But the problem was, he pushed the wrong button. He could’ve stopped at “you want me to carry one of those?” But instead he had to keep talking, insinuating that I couldn’t handle the sheer magnitude of the two bags that rested before me. I mean for cryin’ out loud—one of the bag stands wobbled every time there was a breeze.

But would I listen? No. I was now on a mission to prove to everyone how incredibly massive my testicles were. I was going to handle these bags on my own.

In retrospect, that was a dumb-ass thing to do. Ego has no place anywhere near a golf course. Without any exaggeration, each bag weighed more than 60 pounds a-piece. If there was a featherweight division for the world’s strongest man, I’m sure I would be eliminated in the first round. But this would certainly be a way to train for it. I spent the entire round focusing on posture. I wasn’t going to tear something just to get the job done. Not for these guys.

The worst part was, the group was playing slowly (about 2:40 for the front nine) and if they didn’t pick things up, there was no way we were going to finish in daylight. We were on the 16th hole, and the sun had already set.

“Should we skip to 18 so we can get in the whole round?”

“Nah. I can play in the dark if you can.”

Yeah, don’t worry about it sir. Caddies are a lot like bats. Except we’re human, drink beer instead of blood and sleep on our backs. Yeah. That’s about it. Hit it wherever you want. I got it.

Crap. My one chance to get out of this loop a little early and instead I have to hustle the last three holes because they don’t know how to keep up the pace of play.

“Yeah, guys? Let’s play ready golf, huh?”

Didn’t you say that on the first hole? You guys promise?

“Yes, I agree, we need to pick things up.”

So pick things up! Like your balls! See that white thing there? Yeah. You’re lying 7. You’re out of the hole. STOP THE MADNESS and pick that bitch UP.

“Tom, I’m going to pick up on this hole. Here, let me get my bag for you. No use in you carrying this up the hill when you don’t have to.”

Did I just inadvertently use a Jedi mind trick on this guy? What a nice gesture. I almost cried. So I left the bag with this great Samaritan while I helped the rest of the group finish up the 15th. But when I started walking up towards the next tee Mr. Samaritan had only just reached the halfway point of the hill.

“Oh hey. Hey Tom? Could you carry this the rest of the way? It’s a little heavy for me.”

Yeah, it’s a little heavy for me too sir. And about these two umbrellas? It’s been raining on and off all day and you haven’t even touched them. Please TOUCH THEM before the round is over with so you can justify—if only to me—bringing them out here in the first place. Please. Oh Jesus I’m going to die. Somebody please make it quick and painless.

And here I am, a day later, still sore as hell. MAN am I a dumb-ass. Remind me never to do that again.

The Photo Finish

It’s great when you can go out on a loop and feel perfectly at ease with your players. Where all of your sarcastic comments are understood as sarcastic and you can feel free to laugh with your players after a bad shot. I just wanted to interject that little tidbit of information before I talk about how crappy the beginning of my loop was.

Oh. We’re here already. Okay, now it’s time to talk about how crappy the beginning of my loop was.

The start to my loop was hectic, frustrating and crappy. The caddie master calls out four caddies. He does not tell any of us who we will be carrying for. The only thing the caddie master said to me was, “Make sure you take care of the new recruit today. Help him out on the greens.” What? Help somebody read greens? That’s like having Stevie Wonder walk you through a minefield. You know what? Fine. If that’s what the caddie master wants, that’s what the caddie master gets. So the four of us walk outside without any idea of where we are supposed to go. After standing around like an idiot for a few minutes with the other caddies I decided to grab a bag and start cleaning the clubs. I soon find out that this was the member’s bag. So when he comes over, I shake his hand and start arranging his clubs for easier access later. Wedges in the bottom, woods and putter at the top, irons in between. I was very proud of myself.

Then the new recruit walks over and picks up the bag I was just working on. “I’m carrying the single today.”

Okay, fine. I guess I’m caddying in a threesome today. So I move over to the other two guest-bags, clean all the clubs (instinctively) and arrange them all in order so I can be a good little caddie and make sure that everyone is happy. Again, I was very proud of myself. I carry these perfectly organized bags to the tee. A couple of players tee off, and through some deductive Sherlock Holmes type logic I figure out that the two bags I had snagged were a part of a FOURSOME, and that I was on deck. So, being the nice caddie that I am, I nudge the caddie next to me and deliver the same message I received from the caddie master. “Hey, dude? You’re going to be caddying with the new recruit today. So make sure you help him out on the greens.”

“I’m not caddying with him. I was told to caddie in the foursome. These are your bags.”

So he grabs the two bags I had just finished making PERFECT and sticks me with the two guys who just hit. Their clubs aren’t cleaned, they’re not in any order, the bags each weigh more than an obese donkey and I have no idea where their balls just went. I felt like this was all some cruel game of musical chairs and I had just lost. On top of all that buttery goodness, one of my players was using YELLOW balls. Bright. Neon. Yellow. Balls. Now I know it’s not nice to assume anything about anyone. But I think if you’re using yellow balls you’re a little new to the game of golf. So I was preparing myself for the worst.

That’s not too mean to say, is it? I mean come on: Neon yellow X-out Top Flights. If you can say those words without cracking a smile then you’re some kind of saint in my book. I didn’t even know they still made those.

Needless to say, I was a little upset. It took me the entire first hole and much of the second hole to clean and organize their clubs. And just as we were nearing the second green, something strange and wonderful happened. And by “strange and wonderful” I mean “the cherry to top off this pile of cow feces.” I had to take a shit. Badly.

Not sure what it was to be honest with you. I’m very strict and diligent with my diet each and every morning because I want to AVOID situations like these on the golf course. But I guess after being raped not once (the first switch), not twice (the second switch), but three times in 20 minutes (the disorganized trunks I was carrying), my rectal area was feeling a bit fatigued and probably a little under the weather. I mean, it was bad. I was contemplating shitting in the woods off to the left of two, but then I realized that if I made a break for it, I might just make the bathroom back near the caddie shack. So that’s what I did. I took a deep breath, calmly turned to my players and clenched my cheeks together.

“Um…I uhhh…I forgot a pin sheet. I’ll be back.” And before my players could answer, I was a ghost. I was Forrest Gump with those mean kids throwing rocks. Jenny was telling me to run, and I WAS RUNNING. One hand pumping back and forth against the air to try and propel myself forward, the other desperately trying to hold in any and all shit that might want to fly out of me before I made the toilet. There must’ve been a million things running through my head during that 300 yard dash. But when you boil it all down, there was really only one thing of any importance: if I lose it right here, right now, I will never hear the end of it. I have to make it. I will make it. You got this Tom, you got it. I was like the little engine that could. “I think I can I think I can I think I can.” And it was a photo finish. But I did it.

I was very proud of myself.

In many ways that little episode really loosened me up for the rest of the loop. Now I could relax a little bit and try to enjoy myself. And this brings me back to what I said at the beginning of this post. It feels great when you can truly click with your players. No fake interest, no misinterpretations, just real communication and fun.

The first thing that really got me laughing came on the fourth hole when one of my players was lining up a putt. He was using one of those “Tri-Ball” Odyssey putters. And yes, this was the same guy who was hitting the yellow balls. Now I don’t know about you guys, but I just don’t get those putters. I mean, I understand some of the science behind it. All that “moment of inertia” stuff that’s supposed to deliver just as much energy into the ball on your mishits as with your solid putts, but come on. How big do these putters have to get? Hey, if you’re a big fan and it works for you, fine. But I can’t stand them. I think it’s hilarious to watch somebody putt with it, especially when they can’t hit their putts on line in the first place.

So Mr. Tri-ball was lining up his putt when the member blurts out: “Hey, what is that thing you’re putting with Bob, a toaster?”

I couldn’t help but start laughing. And I only laughed harder when Mr. Tri-ball explained to his friend why he liked the putter so much.

“No, actually these are all grills. This one is for eggs, this is for bacon, and I use this one for sausage.”

That was it for me. I knew they all had a good sense of humor. So that’s when I started letting some jokes fly.

On the fifth my other player skull-chunked his rescue club (and no, I didn’t think that was possible either) but because of how WELL he bladed it before he struck sod the ball still rolled about 175 yards right down the middle of the fairway.

“Now THAT is a son-in-law shot.”

“A son-in-law shot?”

“Not really what you were expecting, but you’ll take it.”

And he lost it. And I’m really glad he did, because he was then able to open up a little more.

“So where’d you go to school Tom?”

“James Madison.”

“Really? I used to visit that place back in the day when it was an all-girls school. Man, THAT was the place to go for some tail.”

“Yeah. I loved it there.”

See, I love that. During their work-week, these lawyers, doctors, executives and what have you are in charge, uphold an image and don’t take shit from anyone. But out here on the golf course they talk about sex, curse and take all kinds of orders from ME. It is a very interesting profession indeed.

The bags had taken their toll on my energy level, but there were still laughs to be had even on the 18th. My lawyer friend was in the left rough about 50 yards from the flag.

“So what should I do here, Tom?”

“You should…umm…put it on the green.”

He got a big smile on his face and started laughing. “I shouldn’t have even opened my mouth.”

I probably should’ve learned this lesson a long time ago, but I certainly learned it today. I should never assume that I’m going to have a bad loop. I thought today was going to be horrendous but it ended up being one of the best loops I’ve had in a long time.