A Caddie’s Lament

Every caddy, excluding those top few, has one wish. They are looking for that one big tournament each year. It doesn’t have to be a win; a top five will help the bank account and keep you going a few more years. Without that one good tournament each year you lose a bit of motivation and your positive attitude dwindles. When a caddy languishes below the top twenty every week, spends a lot of time in the parking lot job hunting, and checks out of motel rooms on Fridays more often than Sundays; the job gets old.

Tom Janis, TJ, was working for Alex Cejka at the Players Championship this week. I didn’t watch much of the tournament, busy moving from Florida to Milwaukee and then off to Storrs, CT to witness my daughter, Cassie, graduate from UCONN, but I was keeping a close eye on TJ and Alex. TJ is a lifer out here. He took a few years off for a short marriage, raising a kid, and a Florida manufacturer representative job, but he’s been a caddy since the early 80’s.

A few years ago we were both looking for a job on the Nationwide Tour and we spent a long day in the parking lot. I asked TJ what kept him out here. His answer, “I just want that one big one each year, the one that gets the blood flowing and gives you some leeway in the bank.” We both agreed, along with the others gathered around, that is what kept the vagabonds beating the parking lots.

TJ had his chance this week and a 79 doused his hope. I only saw Alex finish on eighteen and Cassie checked her I-Phone for his front nine score, 42. We had no idea what happened but we felt for both of them. Cassie met Alex with TJ a few years back, and he’s been a favorite of hers ever since. He spent a couple of pro-am holes flirting with her, and always asks how my swimmer is doing. I don’t want to know any details about the round; they finished T9, that’s all I need to know.

The lament goes on, TJ will get another shot with Alex as long as Cejka’s fragile body holds out and they stick together. This was TJ’s third go around with Alex; they usually last about a year together, split up then kiss and make up. Hopefully there won’t be a split up tonight, they work well together and TJ deserves that one big one. He’s one of the good guys.

Another one of the good guys told me the same thing years ago. Scotty Gilmore, the original professional caddy, started caddying on the European Tour in the late 50’s or 60’s. He was the first to travel with the tour and work for one specific player. He has two sons, Gary (Gazzie) and Wayne (Wiz), still looping on various professional tours. Scotty was a treat. If you met him you remembered him and couldn’t get enough of his personality, wit, and so-called wisdom.

Scotty passed away this week. Nobody knows how old he was, but he used to tell everyone, “I caddied for Barabbas in the Nazareth Open years ago.” He had a story from every country and knew all the greats personally. Everyone knew “Scotty” (always pronounced with an English twang). He couldn’t walk across a putting green or practice tee without shaking hands with 90% of the pros and caddies.

 

My first meeting with Scotty was dinner at an old steakhouse outside of Sacramento. It was laced with a lot of red wine, outrageous stories, and loads of laughs. I sat and listened most of the evening, but asked one question as we walked, stumbled, back to the motel. What keeps you doing this at your age? His answer was similar to TJ’s.

“I don’t like the travel much anymore, but I’m waiting for that one big one every year. It could happen anytime with anyone, you never know,” he contemplated. That’s what keeps every fringe caddy going from week to week. It’s our lament. Scotty had a lot of big ones with great players, but in his later years he was just hoping for that one big one.

Craig Perks came to Ponte Vedra a nobody in 2002 and claimed his first PGA Tour victory with “Travis” on the bag. On Sunday he chipped in for eagle on 16, sank a long birdie putt on 17, and chipped in on 18 for par to win by two over Stephen Ames. “Travis” has been out there forever, claimed a couple of wins, got his big one, and is now working on the Champions Tour. That million dollar win kept them both alive for a few years, but I think Craig is out of golf these days. He was eligible for The Players but didn’t bother to show up. You never know when that one big one is going to show up.

You can go down the list of champions at this prestigious event and pick out a few who had that one big one when it counted, and then quietly faded away. Mark Hayes, Jodie Mudd, Mark McCumber, and maybe a couple of others were not favorites coming in but pocketed a nice pay check. You just never know when it’s coming and from whom so you just keep plugging. Three years ago Boo Weekley was on the Nationwide Tour and J.B. Holmes didn’t own a tour card; they are doing okay now.

A caddy would have done well picking them up in a parking lot a few years back. You just never know; we wait and hope for that one big one. The 79 on Sunday cost TJ about $150,000 but he had his chance at the big one. My buddy Todd called yesterday; Tom Watson wants me to work for him at the Senior PGA next week. I’ll have my chance for the big one, that is exciting.

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