First Hole: Learning the Ropes and Having all Sorts of Fun

Posted by Mark on January 29th, 2009


A quick look at my first couple weeks on tour

1988 was a blur, both physically and emotionally. I was escaping from a bit of misery, learning a new occupation, and trying to establish relationships with folks who didn’t want to be bothered with a new kid on the block. The grizzled veterans scoffed at my exuberance and didn’t want some veteran caddy’s brother tugging at their pant legs talking about golf. They had seen it all, done it all, when caddies had it tough. A naive newcomer wasn’t welcomed in the ranks. These guys remembered days “professional caddies” weren’t allowed to work certain tournaments, when there were signs announcing, “public welcome, no caddies allowed.

Pro Am Experiences - You Gotta Love’em (I’ll update them frequently

Posted by Mark on January 28th, 2009


During last week’s Bob Hope Chrysler Classic I was thinking about some memorable pro am experiences. Every week we have a scheduled pro am on Wednesday (Wednesday and Thursday Champions Tour), and there are three or four week long celebrity pro ams each year. I’ve been on the tee box with Presidents, movie stars, Hall of Fame sports legends, corporate CEO’s from every industry, and “Joe Hacker”. To be honest, I’m not sure where the best stories come from. I’m going to tell a few, you let me know your favorites.

First Tee with President Ford

A Golf Poem

Posted by Mark on January 17th, 2009


In My Hand I Hold A Ball,
White And Dimpled, Rather Small.
Oh, How Bland It Does Appear,
This Harmless Looking Little Sphere..

By It’s Size I Could Not Guess,
The Awesome Strength It Does Possess.
But Since I Fell Beneath Its Spell,
I’ve Wandered Through The Fires Of Hell.

My Life Has Not Been Quite The Same,
Since I Chose To Play This Stupid Game.
It Rules My Mind For Hours On End,
A Fortune It Has Made Me Spend.

It Has Made Me Yell, Curse And Cry,
I Hate Myself And Want To Die.
It Promises A Thing Called Par,
If I Can Hit It Straight And Far.

The Yardage Book

Posted by Mark on January 8th, 2009

This is just a little something I’m working on for the book. There will be a variety of chapters about caddy basics, and I’ll try to tell a few topical stories. This is a very rough draft, so bear with it, I hope you get the gist of what I’m trying to accomplish. There’s a lot of stories like this about towels, bags, umbrellas, etc.

The Yardage Book

Mackinac Island in the Winter

Posted by Mark on January 2nd, 2009

Mackinac Island in the Winter

Posted by Mark on January 2nd, 2009

Mackinac Island in the Winter

Since I’m going to be up here all winter I thought I might write about the experience. I’ll try to update it every few days or so. Let me know what you think.

The First Few Days - arrived 12/22/08

Wendy and I had talked about it for awhile, and it seemed like the thing to do for both of us. She’s got a beautiful place on the island www.mackplacecondo.com, but a winter there, that may be quite the undertaking. I’ve spent 4-6 straight weeks at my place in northern Wisconsin, but never a whole winter without a car, transportation, just our two little feet to get around an island inhabited by about 500 people.

D.J. Gregory - 2008 PGA Man of the Year

Posted by Mark on January 2nd, 2009

If you missed my article about D.J back in November, go to this link. He was quite the inspiration to all of us

http://www.pgatour.com/2008/r/11/24/2008.huber.essay/index.html?eref=sitesearch

Hopefully this works, if not let me know. I really want all to read about my buddy D.J.

ESPN.com articles - Kaddy Korner

Posted by Mark on January 2nd, 2009

For those of you who missed the early articles on ESPN.com you can go to the following links:

http://sports.espn.go.com/golf/news/story?page=kaddykorner/081216

http://sports.espn.go.com/golf/news/story?page=kaddykorner/081217

http://sports.espn.go.com/golf/news/story?page=kaddykorner/081209

http://sports.espn.go.com/golf/news/story?page=kaddykorner/081202

Hartford Traveler’s Championship - 2008

Posted by Mark on January 2nd, 2009

 

Hey all,
 
Another all night drive, three hours sleep in a Dennys parking lot because Motel 6 wouldn’t let me check in till 7:00, and a Monday Pro-am at 10:10 was about all I could handle. Zack, my Terrier/Beagle mix puppy added a little twist, but we survived and made four new friends.
 
The Travelers is a tournament on the upswing. Years ago it was one of the best stops on tour with all the top players and celebrities making an appearance. Sammy Davis Jr. was the host and all his cronies would stop by for a few days. Arnold and Greg won here, Peter Jacobsen won his last event, and 80,000 fans would line the amphitheater setting around the finishing holes every weekend. The tournament was almost lost, Travelers Insurance took over sponsorship, and now I wouldn’t want to miss the event.
 
They take such good care of everyone, including us (they do our laundry, no charge!), and the VFW outside the main entrance has an afternoon crowd that bends over backwards for you. I hadn’t been here in 15 years, walked in there Wednesday afternoon and it was like I’d never left. Pickles, Smitty, and the boys put me under their wing and now I’ve got free home-cooking next year, a baby-sitter for Zach, and new UCONN swim team cheerleaders for my daughter, Cassie. 
 
You all know we’re struggling but we’re not giving up. The TPC at River Highlands is a great par 70 golf course but this year’s soft conditions didn’t suit our game. When a course plays hard and fast that’s to our advantage, but the rain soaked fairways and greens took accuracy out of the equation, and brought every one into the game. The cut ended up -3 with the leaders at -9, and usually the cut here is +2 or so. No wind, pristine conditions, soft fairways and greens, allow those missed shots some leeway.
 
We were first off Thursday at 6:50, bogied the first hole birdied the third, and then flared our drive into the water on the par 5 thirteenth. Not the start we wanted but he hung in there and finished at 72. We hit the practice tee and discussed a few things, Joe Pesci of all people, told us the day before. He said, “you’ve got to have fun in this game or it’s not worth it.” I think that’s going to be our new mantra. Joe’s a golf fanatic, not very good, but he knows and appreciates the game.
 
We had it going early in Friday’s round but made stupid bogies on five and six. There was little banter coming of the seventh tee, but before our second shot I said a few things to make sure our head was still in the game. Robert was still focused and we brought it back to -1 going into the reachable par 4 fifteenth hole. There was a long wait on the tee, Robert enjoyed a cigar, and I talked with Dudley Hart about the Tim Russert’s death. Don’t know about you guys, but for some reason his death had a huge effect on me.
 
Anyway, when the green cleared about 290 yards away, Robert approached the ball with 3 wood in hand. We had discussed the shot thoroughly, decided 3 wood was best, but just before he was ready, Robert asked, “you still like this club?” Sometimes a caddy should just agree with the player even when they don’t, and sometimes a bad shot should just end up kind of bad, but I said, “I like driver”, we flared it to the right, hit a cart path, and the ball bounced up the hill, unplayable in the brambles and briars, dashing our hopes.
 
Walking out of the bushes, a spectator got in my face and said, “Dr. Livingston, I presume?” I quietly looked him the eye and said, “Smar*%ss, I presume.” Sorry, I couldn’t help myself, and some fans just don’t get what we’re going through out here. We did birdie the last hole but it wasn’t enough. Oh well, there’s next week.
 
Some of my so-called Champions Tour buddies called to give me a hard time Friday night, and since they were just up the road at Nashawtuc CC, I visited them Saturday before heading to Flint, MI. It sure was nice seeing some old faces, relaxing in a cart, and feeling like you’ve got some friends. On the PGA Tour the other caddies are only concerned about your health when they don’t have a job and looking for a bag. There were hugs and handshakes all around from players and their wives, caddies, tournament officials, and volunteers. I did a little networking and may work the August West Coast swing, if I’ve got some time off.
 
Take care.
 
Mark
 

Memphis and U.S. Open Qualifier - 2008

Posted by Mark on January 2nd, 2009

 

Hey all,    
 
You won’t see any of the current “Big Boys”, and I don’t think Steve Williams has ever caddied in a U.S. Open qualifier, but there’s definitely an interesting collection of great golfers chasing a dream. In our group we had a “young gun”, Jonathan Moore, and an unknown from Settlers Bay, Alaska, Ryan Sparks (Sparky). Jonathan’s going to be great, but an obnoxious cell phone triggered a snap hook during the six man playoff and kept him out of Torrey Pines. Sparky was just happy to be there, didn’t break 80 either round, and showed up with beer in hand on the nineteenth tee. In front of us, we watched Bob Tway caddy for his son Kevin, and they made it with room to spare.
 
Thirty six holes in one day is never fun, especially when you start great, fade a bit, make a rousing comeback, and then give it all away on the last two holes of the first round. Brookside, designed by a Donald Ross disciple, and the OSU Scarlet course, an Alister MacKenzie track unnecessarily tweaked by Jack, were a pure joy. Without that tournament adrenaline flowing, it was a long walk, about ten miles, but the weather cooperated and despite the outcome it was enjoyable.
 
Anyway, we missed and I was on the road for Memphis by 6:30. The plan was driving part way, getting a room, but the Cubs were on the West Coast so I listened and drove the distance, arriving about 2:15. I thought we’d take a break Tuesday but Robert wanted to meet around noon, and I was hurting. The 36 holes and drive took its toll, but we only played nine and worked with another putting guru, Kevin Weeks from Cog Hill. He showed us a drill using three stacked coins and reinforced a lot of the simple theories Murphy and Robert’s other instructors have been preaching.
 
We’re working hard on technique, maybe to hard, so Wednesday was a day off for me and Robert played in an off site Pro-am. Playing in these Pro-am’s over the years has endeared Robert with the tournaments, and made it possible for all our sponsor’s exemptions this year. I caught up on the every day chores I’ve been neglecting, and then walked the back nine after the Pro-am. We’ve been playing the Stanford St. Jude’s Classic at TPC South wind since the early ‘ 90’s, I know the course, but still need to take that stroll to feel comfortable every year.
 
In 2004 they changed the grass on the course, tweaked the greens a bit, and improved the playing conditions tremendously. Instead of bent grass, the TPC has zoysia fairways and Champion Bermuda greens, and it’s so pristine the guys aren’t bitching about the playing conditions any more. When I arrived on the tenth green Wednesday evening, the assistant superintendent was there with his grounds crew. We chatted awhile and I admired the work that goes into preparing a course for tournament play. There were at least 25 workers/volunteers, 6-8 tractors, and 4-5 mowers working diligently filling divots, raking traps, and mowing the fairway, rough, and green.
 
We bogied three of the first four Thursday, but hung in there and finished with a 73 on the par 70 track. Not bad considering the wind, hard and fast conditions, and our putting woes. Friday afternoon we bogied the first three holes on the back side, battled a bit, but the wind went out of our sails when we made the turn. Our threesome really struggled, Jay Delsing was ten over after the first six holes, but maintained his infectious smile. Our other playing partner, Tim Petrovic, missed the + 5 cut even though he had a lawyer on the bag. We come in all shapes and sizes.
 
Our gallery included Robert’s #1 & #2 fans, D. J. Gregory and Terri Campbell. D.J. has Cerebral Palsy and Terri has been confined to a wheel chair since a teenage car accident. They’re both writing books, Terri about the 1964 Cobton Appleknockers, and D.J. is relating his experiences on the Tour this year. I hope their smiling faces and positive attitudes rub off on us, because we sure need it right now. And, maybe our little chat in the parking lot after the round Friday cleared the air a bit.
 
A week off and we’ll be ready to go this next stretch. There’s quite a few tournaments coming up that Robert has had some success in past years. We’ll regroup, kick ourselves in the butt, and make a little money by the end of July, I promise you.
 
Take care.
 
Mark

Kaddy Korner Articles - Pebble Beach 2008

Posted by Mark on January 2nd, 2009

Pebble Beach - 2008

Hey all,
 
Over 70 years ago they called it the Crosby Clambake in Rancho Santa Fe, CA. Bing and his cronies moved it to the Monterey Peninsula during the mid 40’s, and it has survived the notorious weather here ever since. This week we got lucky and enjoyed 60 degrees with a bunch of sun. You simply can’t find a better place for golf, fun, entertaining stories, and high priced relaxation than the Carmel/Monterey Peninsula region. A night at “The Lodge” or the Inn at Spanish Bay will be about $650, naturally I stayed elsewhere (Watsonvile Motel 6) and commuted.
 
The AT&T Pro-am is still a big event for the celebs and amateur corporate big-wigs, but the top tour pros avoid this week. You’ll see names playing this week you won’t see all year, and the leader board is dotted with unknowns the first few days. Pebble and Spyglass are probably two of the toughest tour courses, and Poppy Hills is just funky enough to cause problems. It’s to bad political correctness forced Cypress Point out of the rotation 17 years ago, and a lot of pros still sneak over there for a round instead of playing the tournament courses. In fact, Robert played there his first time Wednesday while I spent the day at Duarte’s in Pescadero. He said he could play there every day the rest of his life, it’s that spectacular.
 
If you’re ever cruising Highway 1, just south of Half Moon Bay, stop by and see my friends Tim and Dee at Duarte’s Tavern (established 1894) for some wonderful food, and then head up the hill to Harley Farms. Sample Dee’s goat cheese, take the tour of their farm, and enjoy their wonderful hospitality. The world famous restaurant is fourth generation, Dee runs the 10 acre goat farm, and both have done time on the Food Channel Network.
 
Sorry back to golf. We’d had a couple of weeks off so I met Robert Monday at Poppy Hills for a practice round. He was stiff and sore, his wife was sick, so we just hit a few balls and I walked the course. Robert Trent Jones Jr. really screwed up a great piece of property. Poppy has the worst set of 5 pars, and the course drainage is terrible creating what we affectionately call “Sloppy Poppy”. When we first moved to Poppy from Cypress Point in 1991 I was working for Greg Twiggs and we had the honor of Mr. Jones in our foursome. Junior wore the same sweater every day (he was bit eccentric), and after about the fifth or sixth hole at Poppy he asked Greg what he thought about the course. Sorry, I can’t repeat his comments here.
 
A Tuesday practice round at Pebble with Joey Sindelar, Jeff Couch (the local Budweiser distributor and philanthropist) was quite enjoyable. You lose your concentration taking in the sights and sounds, and you don’t actually mind the six hour round. Robert even let me take the fore caddy shortcut off of five green so I could enjoy my favorite outdoor urinal. Usually I have to go back to every tee box, it was a special treat, and those simple pleasures mean a lot.
 
Jeff Couch put the “whammy” on us Thursday morning. He played with Robert Wednesday at Cypress and said, “your boy is hitting it so good I’ll see you late Sunday afternoon.” Of course we bogied three of the first four at Spyglass, got it back to even, before doubling the eighth hole (our 17th). Actually it was a good six. We hit a tree off the tee, our playing partner Jeff Maggert found the ball in the woods with little time to spare, and then hit another tree on our second shot. Our third shot was longer than our second, a caddy guesstimate of 240 yards to the front, and we strolled to our last tee two over. Their was a gentle bag tackle, nothing serious, and we parred the last.
 
If you can have a bad day at Pebble, we did Friday. With four holes to play we were seven over for the tournament, mired in 160th, so it was time to light a cigar. Robert seemed to relax and we birdied the last four, making Saturday’s round at Poppy a little more meaningful. We were three or four shots off the cut and Poppy can be had on a calm day.
 
Like I said this is a celebrity pro-am. Our partner was Tom Dreesen, Clay Walker was in our foursome, and despite our poor play we had quite a few laughs. Dreesen was always cracking one-liners, telling jokes, mixing it up with crowd, and talking about our beloved Cubs. Clay was a true country gentleman, and despite his Muscular Dystrophy, hits the ball well, plus, he had quite the following of pretty ladies. I told you the scenery was nice on the Monterey Peninsula.
 
Anyway, Poppy wasn’t good to us, even with good luck charms Schmitty and Nancy in the crowd. We missed a short birdie putt on our first hole, and couldn’t buy a putt all day. The poa annua greens are quite bumpy this time of year, and with all the traffic, you get little moguls around each cup. It’s frustrating, a good putt can bounce off line at any time. We still had a chance with five holes to play, but doubled our fifteenth, airmailing the green. It was part caddy error, part wind switching at the wrong time, and that we had to force our shot to a sucker back pin.  I hate it when you take to much club and the wind sneaks in behind you. Robert chose to blame the wind switch and not the caddy, thank God.
 
We played behind Chris Dimarco and he had an amazing gentleman following him. D.J. Gregory, 37, afflicted with Cerebral Palsy from birth, plans to follow a different golfer each week during the entire PGA Tour schedule. You can follow his journey on PGATour.com. After a bogey, you didn’t feel so bad watching his smiling face enjoying a struggled walk chasing a bit of dream. I didn’t get the chance to meet him, but I will, he’s one of the heroes out here.
 
Take care, I’m off to Naples, FL working for Mike Reid on the Champions Tour this week.
 
Mark
 

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