The Quarry Ace Group Classic — Kaddy Korner

We were supposed to get started early Monday morning at the Quarry. When you only have to drive a couple hours between tournaments you don’t expect any delays or mishaps, Bob had both, a missed turn in Miami producing a 2½ hour travel nightmare then his phone was slammed in the car door when he arrived in Naples. I received partial blame for the travel mishap; usually we’re only blamed for everything that goes wrong on the course not off the course.

Oh well, once Bob arrived he decided to take the day off, play golf with friends and relax. Normally I would have walked the course, checking greens and yardages, but this layout stretches nine miles from the first tee to the eighteenth green. It’s a spectator nightmare and might be the worst tournament course we play.

The Quarry is in excellent condition, the holes are challenging and fun, the ACE Group and Octagon do all they can to accommodate spectators, players, caddies and volunteers but the layout doesn’t allow a true golf fan to follow their favorite golfer all eighteen holes. There are at least three walks from tee to green over a quarter mile long, it’s the only tournament spectators need to be bused to various points on the course.

Again, we were in both pro-ams and played a practice round with Willie Wood, a Champions Tour rookie who’ll do some damage if he ever gets status. If you’re not a superstar with high career earnings the Champions Tour is the toughest tour to qualify for, they protect the old timers and only create a few spots for the fringe career pro, club pro and lifelong amateur.

They try to maintain a competitive mix but a few guys hang on a bit long taking up space for the more competitive golfer, but the fans would rather watch Gary Player shoot high numbers than Willie Wood shoot 67. It’s a tough field to handle and please everyone, the veterans have earned their status but the newcomers deserve a chance, it’s always a practice tee argument among the troops.

The other practice tee whispers this week developed from Freddie’s absence. I heard a lot of volunteers, spectators and press wondering why he wasn’t there to defend his title. The local press created a bit of controversy but we understood. He played a tournament he cherished on a course he loves for about 4-5 times the money and didn’t have to fly five hours. The pros are independent contractors and don’t have any contractual obligation to a tournament he played where his heart is and played well.

We started the tournament with a double bogey from the middle of the fairway with wedge in our hand, it was pretty ugly and after all these years I still haven’t figured out what to say after a double so I kept quiet went about my caddy business and struck up a casual conversation in the next fairway. He had already forgotten the mishap and Bob’s focus was forward, he’s a true pro.

We played fairly well, didn’t make any putts and two bad swings cost us two doubles. It’s tough to score when the putts don’t drop on perfect greens in ideal conditions. Everyone else was going low and we were treading water with our head barely above the surface. We watched Jim Colbert, almost 70 years old, roll in putts from everywhere the first seven holes and get to four under.

I asked his caddy “Little Red”, “Did you turn the clock back on Jim this morning?”

He replied, “Aw, he’s just teasing me, wait and see.”

Sure enough, they played the next 7-8 holes in about six over par with a couple of shots extricated from hazards. Colbert never gave up, tried on every shot and managed a 73, I think. I felt a bit responsible; you never mention a player’s good fortune during a round, kind of like talking about a no-hitter in the dugout.

I like playing early in the morning but not in tournaments and not with pros who have a history of disliking each other, putting it mildly. Bob was the rose between two thorns, Andy Bean and Tom Wargo, early Saturday morning and everyone was wondering if we had our referee shirts ready for the fight.

Over the years Andy and Tom have had some fierce arguments coming close to fisticuffs and both can be very cantankerous on the course. Every official we passed asked how thing were going and it seemed like the whole tour was waiting for an eruption. The boys have mellowed in their old age, all was quiet and they were very cordial. Maybe, terrible golf has a way of taming their feistiness because it sure wasn’t pretty.

Sunday we squeezed a thorn between two roses paired with Andy Bean and Larry Nelson, the nicest man on tour and the most underrated player of all time. We managed our first subpar round of the year and felt pretty good packing up after the round. Mainly we have to work on our course management and I need to be a bit more vocal on the course. We need to talk out shots thoroughly, have a game plan for the par fives (laying up to a good number instead of trying to bully them) and knock our wedges a bit closer.

Two more weeks will do my hip good and I’ll be ready to walk Newport Beach CC, a short demanding track everyone loves to play.

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