Champions Tour Caddy Travels and Travails

The 2011 Champions Tour is getting ready to start next week for me. A few teed it up in Hawaii two weeks ago and the top players entertained us with a Champions Skin game at Kaanapali last weekend. In the 90s we would embark on a forty plus tournament schedule each year, we’ve been whittled down to 27-28 events these days. Tiger and Finchem have stolen the glitter and a few tournaments from us and the big names have retired to corporate golf making a lot more money with less effort.

This year I’m going to put together a daily blog for the golf fan who has nothing else to do. Follow my travels, exploits, inside-the-ropes travails, dive bar musings, midnight ramblings and mishaps, golf thoughts and ideas with a different perspective on professional tournament golf. I’m not going to throw anyone under the bus but we’re going to have some fun out on the road, in pro-ams, playing the tournaments, waiting in the caddy shack or parking lot. A look at golf you’ve never been provided and maybe a few pictures thrown in, you never know what might pop up.

Hopefully the daily musings will entertain you, provoke some thought, provide unique insight, and introduce you to another side of the tour but most of all pique your interest in golf, the greatest game in the world.

Sunday 2/6/11

Football is officially over let the golf begin and may the Green Bay Packer celebration continue till St. Patty’s Day. I’ve been waiting to hear from the boss, Bob Gilder, about next week schedule and he decides to call during the game. Of course I didn’t answer the phone, waited for his message and we’re hooking up Tuesday morning for a practice round. I thought we’d meet up Wednesday but sounds like he’s rarin’ and ready to go . . . . . . music to my ears.

I’ve spent the last three days, actually the last two months, working my ass getting this new hip (inserted 12/7/100 in shape. The last week in Florida has been nice because all the therapy has been in the pool in stead if the snow drifts back home. It’s ready to go but the rest of the body is lagging a bit. We’ll probably ease into walking using the cart for nine and walking nine during the practice rounds and pro-am.

I spent the day in bed Friday after doing a Stryker joint replacement seminar with Dr. Bertram, my orthopaedic surgeon, Peter Jacobsen, and Johnny Bench Thursday evening. Really not sure if the severe acid reflux nausea and stomach issues were from Shula’s 24 oz. Kansas City strip, the anchovies or listening to Bench all night. He was the greatest catcher of all time, now he thinks he’s a professional comedian, doctor, and pro golfer all in one. The seminar was well received but I think even Johnny got tired of Johnny toward the end of the evening.

Waiting for the  start of the season has been difficult. Finances have been stretched thin, idle time hasn’t been good for me but there’s a good season waiting for us. Bob’s message fired me up, can’t wait for the early morning drive across Alligator Alley and hooking up with boys in the caddy tent. Hope the coffee’s hot and the donuts are fresh, I’m looking forward to catching up with the off season antics.

Stumbled across Ken Green’s web site Ken Green’s Comebackafter Facebooking with him a bit. Everyone needs to take a peak and see what the cantankerous old pro is going through. He had a unigue way of pissing people off years ago but you have to admire his grit and determination. It’s amazing how he’s survived but a lot of that has to do with the unique relationships established on the PGA Tour. Take a look . . . . . please.

 

 

2/8/11 Heading across Alligator Alley

Last night I stopped to fill-up the Rendevous and the credit card didn’t work, I could have sworn there was enough money for a tank of gas and meals for the week. My banker politely explained the misunderstanding and said there would be no money leaving until some started coming in. I had $40 in my pocket, $20 went for gas early this morning when I left Bonita Springs which left me just enough for a new yardage book when I got to Broken Sound. Oops, I forgot they’d raised the prices to $25 so I had to survive on my old book. The numbers are good but the graphics, well let’s say Coach, the caddy who does the books, didn’t major in art.

If you’re expecting glamorous stories here hopefully you’ll get a few but it’s going to be rough sledding for awhile. The nice thing about the tour is you have a bunch of friends to lean on and most of us have been in the same boat a time or two. Someone needs help there’s always someone to call on. Stevie, Bones and the top caddies on the PGA lead auspicious lives while a lot of us out here are in the trenches are barely making ends meet.

The first week back there’s a lot of catching up to do and the loopers all gathered outside the clubhouse, swapped off season stories, discussed the Super Bowl and dispersed sports trivia questions, a favorite pass time while waiting for your pro. Bob’s fairly prompt and showed up right around nine, we exchanged pleasantries in the parking lot, organized the gear and headed for the range. It was a quick warm-up then a practice round with Mike Goodes and Lonnie Nielson. With a new boss you get new practice partners and it took awhile before I was comfortable ribbing the other pros and caddies.

Bob said he was a bit rusty and I definitely wasn’t in caddy shape, thank god for the carts. My ball tosses weren’t accurate, I missed a couple of wedge flips, my numbers were so-so but I was able to chart all the greens and get my JIC (Just In Case) information ready for Friday. The Broken Sound greens are grainy, you have to pay attention at all times so my grain directional arrows on every green are extremely important. Bob specified he wanted the grain charted on every section of the green . . . . I obliged.

We finished up around 5:00 p.m. The last thing I wanted to do was ask a new boss for a salary check in advance but it was necessary. He was more than happy to help out and said he’d have the next two weeks salary for me tomorrow. There was still only a twenty in my pocket and on the way to the car Kansas City Steve loaned me a twenty, Stalker slipped me a another, and Coach threw in one more for safety. I hated to ask but they all understood.

The sun rose brightly this morning when I was crossing Alligator Alley, it was beautiful. There seemed to be a new beginning in its glow drawing new life out of this old caddy. The bank account is low, the Rendevous is regurgitating strange noises and smells at every stop but I’m looking forward to work every day. Thank God I booked my room a month ago, I have a nice place to sleep and the folks at the LaQuinta on Cypress Creek are taking good care of me.

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2/9/11 Alliance Pro-am Day

If you must play two pro-ams the Wednesday afternoon Thursday morning rotation is the best. You can misbehave a bit Tuesday evening or not show up until Wednesday morning if you like. The guys that play one pro-am each week on Thursday have it the best, some caddies and players no-show it until just before tee time. A 3 1/2 day workweek is great, lets you get home for awhile or do a little fishing.

We passed our pro waiting time before the pro-am telling Rocky Thompson stories, probably the most unique human being you’ll ever meet entertaining, engaging, weird and a caddy nightmare. I worked for him once and have a least an hour’s worth of stories, Rocky Hobday worked for him for over a year and I think he’s still standing behind the clubhouse telling his tales. When you mention the Thompson name players and caddies start shaking their heads and the story-telling begins.

We warmed up quickly, chatted with some players and caddies we hadn’t seen since last year then hustled off to the first tee for the 12:45 shotgun start. My first caddy faux paus of the year, we were scheduled for the tenth tee and made it just under the gun. A caddy gets blamed for everything that goes wrong even if he isn’t but I was definitely the culprit here and everyone got a laugh starting the round on a good note.

Golfers come in all shapes and sizes, from all parts of the country and display many personalities. Our group covered the gamut. There was 14 handicapper from southern Mississippi who talked incessantly and calimed he used to be an eight breaking 80 regularly. He was cart mates with a hefty loveable giant from the northwest now living in the Twin Cities via Des Moines. His swing was good, you could tell he played a lot of golf in his younger days but the weight issue was definitely his handicap.

The other cart contained a diligent Alliance big-wig who never liked to pick up, played out every hole while his partner from “Philly” quickly took his shots then crawled quietly back into the cart. I’m not sure if he finished a hole until the eighteenth when he deftly drained a 40-50 foot slick downhill putt. That’ll be the only thing he talks about at the nineteenth hole.

Bob and I entertained, cajoled, told a few stories, gave a couple of quick lessons and a good time was had by all but it didn’t make me any extra money. Cash at the moment is low and a tip would have been nice. Bob forwarded me a check for the next two weeks salary but tournament finance was closed, the gas tank is close to empty but will survive till tomorrow and a nice dinner was out of the question. Publix grocery store provided a self service room service seafood dinner for less the $15. It was quite tasty washed down with a Fosters oil can.

The hip survived the first two active days and the energy level is definitely high, I only needed a little ice to relieve the minimal swelling. The 7:15 tee time tomorrow is the earliest I can ever remember, I need my beauty sleep and hope there’s lights on the range.

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2/10/11 Pro-am at Broken Sound

 

My three new friends for the day and Bob. From left to right George, Jim, me, Bob and John (I think) it’s hard to keep them all straight. We teed it up at 7:15, awful early for a pro-am and Glen, Our fourth didn’t show up until the fourth hole. He received plenty of “caca” but carried the team once he got warmed up. There were two legit hackers, one who thought he could play and claimed he could years ago and actually wasn’t bad, then Glen who was a true single digit, a blessing in many pro-ams.

Shits and giggles didn’t start till the back nine after we woke up, George threw his back out and was in misery all day and I reminisced with Jim about the Red Sox, Cubs and my first trip to Fenway. Once you find a common thread your amateurs it makes for a fun day and hopefully profitable. Let’s just say it was fun.

Bob struggled a bit complaining he was tired and suffering from the time zone change from his month in
Hawaii and travel from Oregon. I tried to empathize but it was tough, hopefully I sounded sincere. By the end of the round he was striking the ball well and our two hour practice session, after lunch and his nap, tuned things up for tomorrow. Were both excited and ready to go, bring it on Freddie, Bernhard, Cookie and the rest of the them.

It’s a traveling community out here. I did my banking in the clubhouse parking lot, paid off my debts and got life organized for tomorrow. It’s nice to have all that off your mind. A few of my comrades aren’t so lucky. There were quite a few veterans roaming the parking lot, only two picked up jobs for the week, the rest were hustling amateur groups for a hundred a day maybe two if there lucky. I was in the same position last year, feel their pain and definitely understand their plight.

Years ago when I was caddying for the top dogs I may have belittled the parking lot troops, these days, after experiencing it for awhile I’m much more accomadating to those scraping it around from tournament to tournament.

2/11/11 First Round of the Year

It didn’t start out well, actually it started out downright awful. No one likes to bogie four out of the first five holes to start the day, hopefully the Bogey Pro hat wasn’t radiating sublimal messages. The ball striking was above par but our putting was just downright awful, 34-35 putts in a round doesn’t lead to good scoring. I tried to take the blame, analyze Bob’s stroke a bit but it was one of those days, four three putts in one round frustrates any pro golfer but he kept plodding and never gave up, that’s a good sign.

There were no club tosses only a few head cover slams into the cart and we had three birdies on the back nine. Tomorrow there is a 66 or 67 waiting for us. The spirits were good and Bob took a lot of positives from the round. He claimed he’s always had trouble putting grainy greens and if you don’t grow up on these suckers it’s really tough to learn the subtle tricks. I saw Crenshaw shaking his head on the first green so you know they are difficult.

I planned to walk at least nine holes today but Peter Jacobsen walked out of the clubhouse and deadheaded for me. He grabbed my shoulder, looked straight in my eye and said “Mort, our surgeon, called me, and I just had a talk with Bob. You need to stay in that cart for awhile and take baby steps with the new hip.”

I protested, the discussion got a bit heated but Peter was adamant and so was Bob. After the round I left Jake a message thanking him for his concern. They were both right, I got enough walking in, the hip was a bit stiff but all was well after a little ice, a couple of cold ones and nice meal.

If you’re ever in Florida look up a local chain of restaraunts, Flanigans, for a good time, great meal (burgers, ribs and fish are their specialty), friendly bartenders, half-price Happy Hour from 4-7 at the bar and 9 to close any seat in the place. We stumbled in Tuesday night, again Thursday and once more last night . . . can’t beat the place, we’ll probably be back again.

Caddies were talking politics this morning and it looks like Trump may have the caddy vote. His courses shun carts as much as possible and have a great caddy program. Morgan Pressel’s caddy works at Trump International in Palm Beach and totes his bag whenever he can.

Only two jobs were picked up out of the lot this week, Stalker waylaided John Harris on Monday and Syd was in the right place at the right time when Don Pooley asked a small crowd of caddies, “Anybody need a job?” They shot 3 or 4 under and are four shots out of the lead.

The boys went low today despite the cold blustery weather and we’ve got our work cut out for us. Winning is probably out of the question but you never know. There are definitely a couple of 67s waiting for us. We’re paired with my old boss Bob Murphy Saturday, he’s a wizard on Bermuda greens, maybe we’ll get a putting lesson. It’ll be great to see Murph’s family and friends. Our third is Tom Wargo, a cantankerous sort on the course but a long time drinking buddy who chased off two of his pro-am playing partners Wednesday with his cigar smoke. It’s getting tough when folks are demanding you quit smoking on golf courses.

2/16/11 Snuggled in on the Beach

Sorry folks, I’ve been beat up, tired and too stiff and sore to write the last few days. Saturday and Sunday in Boca Raton just wore me out and my computer has been commandeered the last couple of days so writing was impossible. It’s going to be like that occasionally out here, scheduling something is almost impossible, I’m at the mercy of my boss and travel schedule.

We didn’t play well over the weekend and I didn’t bother checking the paper Monday morning to see how we finished. Bob said he’d meet me Monday morning at nine but didn’t show up till about 10:30, very unlike him and he didn’t even call. When he showed up with a crushed Droid in hand I knew the situation. The Droid was crushed in the car door Sunday night after the trip from hell to Naples. The caddy got the blame for piss poor directions and I heard about it from a few pros during the week. I shouldered the responsibility but it really wasn’t my fault. Every effort was made to guide Bob safely and directly to Miamit but he detoured at least 2 1/2 hours out of his way, it’s the thing we all hate the most on Sunday night, travel snafus.

I got the afternoon off Monday but spent the day creating a Valentine’s dinner for six women, including my Mom. Shrimp kabobs and grilled vegetables on a cast iron picnic area grill with some red wine and desert satisfied my girls and I snuck out with rave reviews from the critics. It took awhile but it was well worth it and beats the hell out of restaraunt on Valentine’s Day.

Bob usually doesn’t practice on Tuesdays but remember his wife isn’t in town so there was nothing else to do. We played 21 holes, 3 by ourselves and 18 with Willie Wood, a rookie with a lot of game, he’ll do some damage out here if he gets established. The Champions Tour is the toughest tour to crack if you don’t sit high on the career money list. Willie got lucky last week and teed it up after three players withdrew Friday and he was the only alternate on site, then he qualified Monday against over a hundred pros. If he gets his starts out here he’ll be a top 30 player.

It was interesting listening to Bob and Willie reminisce about the old days, Ping golf, tour rabbits in the early 80’s and different courses they had played. Willie is vertically challenged and he hired “Rabbit” last week and this one, who only stands about 5′ 5″, they have to be the shortest tandem on tour. We all had some good stories stretching back to the early 70s, “Rabbit” has been out here longer than all of us.

Bob has few aches, pains, and kinks he needs to work out but you can tell he’s close. We spent a long day Tuesday practicing and it showed during the early pro-am Wednesday. The swing was a bit erratic so he concentrated on our amateur partners and I charted  the greens with a digital slope indicator. I don’t like to do my work during a pro-am but if it’s going to make us more money I’m all for it. Those short pockets are showing up way to often in pro-ams. It seems like Sandy, Kite’s caddy, is the only one getting tipped on a regular basis.

There were signs of life in the swing before the end of the round and after a 2 1/2 hour lunch we chipped and putted for awhile before he dropped me off at Rocky’s Auto Repair to pick up the ailing Rendevous. Play hard Bob the bill was quite a bit more than I expected and it’s definitely time for a new ride. Anybody out there have a decent experienced vehicle for sale? I’m looking for a small truck, about 2 years old with less than 30K miles.

There’s a late pro-am tomorrow and I have to be there about noon but first I’m dropping off a few bets at the race track for a few boys in the morning pro-am. There’s a hot tip floating around, I may have to take advantage of it.

2/20/11

The hot tip came out of the one hole and was stuck there the entire race. Mutiny had the legs coming down the stretch but was blocked in by the other horses and couldn’t run. At least, that’s what “Rocky” told me, the caddy who gave the hot tip. Just like the horses, our golfers might have the talent and the legs but they need a few breaks plus they have to run a smart race when they’re on the course.

We’re just not scoring and that comes down to course management, missing shots in the proper places, making those 4-5 footers on a regular basis and playing the par fives strategically. We wound up two over for the tournament and I can think of a least 3-4 shots a round we simply tossed away because of balky putter, poor club selection, or a bad bounce or two. The swing, driver and attitude are there we just need to get the putter reacting properly and focusing on the par fives.

I’m really trying to write every day but the 5:30 wake-up calls, early tee times, long pro lunches before a longer practice session take up most of the day and after a couple of beers I’m ready for bed about nine o’clock. Playing better will resolve many of the time management issues. We spend those long pro lunches sitting in our carts bitching about our pros inside the clubhouse taking up our time, we need to get that union started one of these days, maybe it could resolve the issues.

Friday we teed off next to last, caught the brunt of the wind and doubled our first hole with wedge in our hand from the middle of the fairway. All these years I still haven’t figured out what to say after a double, sometimes silence is the best policy while the steam settles and then a casual conversation walking down the next fairway. That’s the trouble with the carts, there is no time for chatting between shots and settling your pro down if necessary.

My old boss Bob Murphy started a tournament with a nine in Kansas City years ago. In our group was George Brett caddying for Larry Zeigler and he scurried over to me as we were walking to the next tee, “What’s he going to do? When’s the blow-up coming? Why didn’t he toss any clubs? George was wide-eyed and I told him we’d probably finish one or two under. He called bull shit but was bowing to Murph when we walked off the eighteenth with a 70 on our card. George called it one of the greatest moments he ever witnessed in professional sports.

Bob battled, shooting even par the next 17 holes with another double on the eighth hole and a bogey on five. There was minimal club slamming, we were able to focus after the disaster and I think I’ve found a few triggers to calm him a bit. Now I need to start pulling clubs a bit better. I’ve been conceding a bit, agreeing to a smooth six when I’m actually thinking about big 7, there needs to be more conversation prior to the shot discussing every alternative and make sure he’s committed to the shot. We’ve tried to reach a few par fives when a lay-up would have been prudent leaving us a full wedge instead of short-sided third shot attempted by a heated pro.

During the year there’s often a few pairings you’d rather not have during a tournament. We had one of those early Saturday morning. Tom Wargo and Andy Bean seperately are a handful for anyone to deal with, we drew them both and whispers were floating on the practice tee. Over the years Andy and Tom have exchanged some heated words, almost come to blows a couple times, most caddies and pros were wondering if we had our referree shirts in the bag. I was going to enjoy the fireworks, if they decided to go at it and would have bet on Wargo in his younger years but these days I may have to bet on Andy even though Wargo’s my drinking buddy.

On the third hole Wargo had his chance to stir the pot after Andy’s drive entered the hazard. I sidled up to Wargo and said, “You want to make sure he makes the correct drop? Protect the field, you know.” He decided to stay in the middle of the fairway; he’s definitely mellowed in his later years. Turns out, Andy played from the hazard, advanced the ball about 100 yards then knocked it just short of the green with a long iron. The 80-100 foot chip shot rolled delicately into the hole for one of best fours I’ve ever seen. It was tough to congratulate him but we all managed the only problem is now we had to listen to his caddy Tony “Mouth of the South” Sheppard chirp for awhile. Occupational disruptions are found in any job, Tony is one of those.

We struggled to a 75, nothing really went right but Bob never quit. Quitting is the only thing I won’t tolerate in a pro. You can play bad but you better try on every shot. In this game four beats five, five beats six, and so on. Coming down eighteen my boss better be trying to shoot 79 instead of 80, it sure sounds better even though it’s a long day.

Sunday we went from a rose between two thorns pairing to a thorn between two roses. We had Andy again but were also paired with Larry Nelson, one of the finest gentleman on tour and probably the most underated player in golf history. His easy-going demeanor may have kept him from a deserved Ryder Cup captaincy but that competiviness is very evident inside the ropes. Look up his Ryder Cup record sometime and realize he didn’t start playing golf until his mid-twenties after a tour of Vietnam. When I visited the Phillippines a few years ago there was a gymnasium erected in his name through his donations. His charitable contributions go unnoticed and he treats everyone of his caddies with the utmost respect.

I said there was a lot of whispering on the practice tee. Many were talking about Freddie not being here, not defending his title, and not supporting the Champions Tour. The voices weren’t the pros and the caddies, they were the volunteers, the press, and a few others trying to create a story. Bottom line Fred was playing a tournament he loves, on a legendary course, he cherishes for 4-5 times the money and he didn’t have to make a five hour flight. Pro golfers understand the logic but it would have been nice to receive the notice a little bit earlier. He’s trying to get tuned up for the Masters, his career is time restricted out there and you want to play at the highest level you can for as long as you can.

Sunday we finished off the week at the Quarry with a 70, or first sub-par round this year. It’s a step in the right direction and hopefully the next tournament in Newport Beach I’ll be able to take a few more steps. The ACE Group Classic is a wonderful event, Naples supports the tournament very well and the Octagon tournament group does the best they can with the course provided. The Champions Tour, instead of Charles Schwab, Century 21 should be the sponser because we often end up playing courses for the sole purpose of selling real estate instead of a challenging fan-friendly layout.

The Quarry is a collection of pretty good golf holes, the course, especially the greens were in superb condition but the spectators can’t enjoy following their favorites the entire round. There are a 2-3 walks between greens and the next tee that are more than a 1/4 mile, almost a 1/2 mile, that deter fans from attending the event. We’ve changed venues a number of times in Naples because of player complaints hopefully the spectators voices will be heard and they’ll be able to follow their favorite group all 18 holes.

We’re off the next few weeks before we head west to Newport Beach, CA and a venue the polar opposite of this week. Newport Beach CC is a beautiful old course just off the Pacific Ocean with rolling fairways, statuesque trees, subtley undulating trecherous greens and a layout anyone could walk. The next tee box is usually no more than 20 yards from the green. You have to golf your ball, pick your way around the tight tree-lined fairways before you attempt to place your ball in the correct location on the sloping greens. Get above these pins or on the wrong side and you’re headed for a least a three putt.

2/25/11

Like I said, I’m off for a two weeks so it’s been a bit relaxing, some work with Metalation, Wendy’s company and BogeyPro, a new golf apparel company from Eden Prairie, MN. We hung out in Bonita Springs for a few days, finalized travel plans to California and worked out in the pool loosening up the hip.

Luckily I had two free Air Tran vouchers because the bank account is dangerously low but I’ll survive. Years ago early in my career I borrowed $50 from Mom, hitched a ride with Moosehead Ed to California starting the year without a job. Right now it’s a cash flow issue back then I was dead broke. I’ve got a job, plenty of contacts, some money in retirement (a little sum), a new hip and a new attitude. It’s going to be a good year.

Usually I don’t follow golf much when I’m away and I haven’t played regularly for over 7-8 years but I’m jonesing to play. The golf news also caught my attention the last few days. Tiger’s reeling after the first round loss and the press is speculating his next move.

Do you fire the new coach? Not likely but a definite possibility.

How about switching clubs? Nike pays him way too much and there’s a contract involved.

Stevie safe next to Tiger? They’re best friends, work well together but sometimes caddy/player relationships become stale and both get frustrated. There’s only so much a caddy can do on the course, during practice sessions and whatever else our job responsibility entails. Caddies have an axiom, “If a player is struggling, and he’s tried everything possible to repair the funk, the caddy is the next to go.” Most professionals have to have someone or something to blame, so far, Tiger has only blamed himself but there comes a time when change is made for change sake. Something to stir the pot and add a different perspective on and off the course.

Years ago when Tom Kite and his long time caddy, Mike Karrick, split I tossed my name in the hat for the job. Working for Raymond Floyd at the twilight of his career a new superstar was just what I needed. After a couple weeks, Tom pulled me aside and we chatted a bit. He told me he’d checked out my credentials, felt I could do a great job for him but he was tired of looking at dead-panned face on the other side of the bag. He was ready for someone refreshing, smiling, with a great attitude and bubbly personality. He chose Sandy Jones, one of my best friends, and they’ve had a great career.

I’m not saying Steve is on the way out but sometimes a respite is what’s needed to fire things up. There are a number of players and their caddies who have off again on again relationships over the years and there are a few players who have a stable of caddies who work a rotation so stale doesn’t exist. You never know how things are going to work out after a change but sometimes a new joke, different pep talks, new information or just some different cologne under the umbrella on a rainy day perks a guy up.

Steve is the best out there but he understands the professional pitfalls of the job. He’s been fired or fired the best, Greg Norman, I can’t remember how that shake-up occurred but soon after he was on Raymond Floyd’s bag. Tiger’s phone may be full of texts with caddy resumes at the moment but Steve isn’t worried, he’s set in his position and if there’s a respite he’ll enjoy his racing, wife and young son, while mowing his New Zealand yard.

On more caddy rant instead of Kaddy Kant this week. Last week Dustin Johnston’s caddy supposedly gave him the wrong first round tee time causing D.J. a quick sprint up the Riviera hill to the first tee from the practice tee so he could recieve a two shot penalty. I wonder if Bobby Brown forecaddied from the practice tee to the first fairway like we used to do? Anyway, the old pros were pondering the issue last week while waiting for the fairway to clear. There conclusion is these young pros are spoon fed everything and need to take a bit of responsibility, it’s the pro’s job to know his tee time.

My thoughts are compound. A caddy has three or four jobs immediately before the round begins. First he needs to get there on time. Second, he needs to make sure all the equipment is in order, right number of clubs, towels, snacks, balls, tees, special numbers in the yardage book and pin sheet tucked into the proper page. Third, and this may be discretionary among pros, is checking the swing, putting stroke, and mechanics before teeing it up.

Finally, make sure your man gets to the tee on time. If you haven’t seen him an hour before tee time, start worrying, maybe give him a call or check and see if anyone has spotted him in the clubhouse. Once you’re on the practice range there needs to be an agreement on the tee time and most caddies start giving their pro 10 minute warnings about a half before tee time. You keep an eye on the group in front of you, which is difficult at Riviera because the tee box sits about 200 feet above the practice tee.

Being late for your tee time is inexcusable but it’s not all the caddies fault, he’ll be blamed though, and after the PGA Championship sand trap fiasco Bobby Brown may hear egg shells for awhile and he’ll be on his best behavior. The vulture caddies may be circling and Dustin has probably received a few phantom texts.

It was quite the coincidence the two caddies, Bobby Brown and “Crispy”, Mark Wilson’s caddy, who have sustained the most publicized “two-shotters” the last couple years were matched against one another the first round at the Match Play. There may have been some gentle razzing before they teed it up, caddies, and players, can be brutal before things get serious.

Luckily, I’ve never accrued the dreaded “two-shotter” but there have been a couple of occasions a lack of knowledge of the local rule sheet has caused great consternation. Details are much to much for brevity here but if I’d have been privvy to the local rule sheet at Boone Valley one year I’d have saved Murph at least two shot. Neither one of us perused the local rule sheet on the first tee and I caught the wrath after the round. My bad but not completely.

Over my career, roughly a thousand tee times, I’ve never whiffed a time, although I showed up on the practice for Barry Cheeseman with about ten minutes to spare in the same clothes from the day before (another good story for another day) and my pro has never been late.

Prior to cell phones Bob Murphy came chugging down the hill from the Tanglewood CC with putter in hand and state trooper in tow. Seems Murph got all the way to course, realized he forgot the putter and set a few land speed records to and from his hotel. The cops caught up with him as he came through the park heading for the course. He told the local “Mountie”, “If you’re going to write me a ticket do it quick or leave it in my locker, I’ve got an important tee time.” If I remember correctly he fired a 67 that day without hitting a practice shot.

We’re all a couple of bad tournaments, questionable yardages, misread putts or wife’s suggestion we should be dismissed before we receive our walking papers. There are so many experienced caddies, friends and family waiting for us to falter so they can claim the job, it’s very cutthroat and we walk a dangling precipice most days. Long ago caddies had nine or ten lives, or in the late Steve Duplantis’ a.k.a “Teflon case nothing could stick, he didn’t get fired until after the 23rd or fourth time he airmailed his tee time. These days there’s a yard full waiting to take our place and they aren’t discreet about chasing someone else’s job.

Many emails float my way about starting a caddy career. It’s next to impossible unless you come out with someone who already has a card. Picking up a job as a rookie caddy standing in the parking lot requires a lot of luck and possibly months of persistence while sleeping in fleabag motels traveling the far reachs of the Nationwide Tour. Come out with a bank roll and plan on being lonely for quite awhile, only the con artists and caddies looking for a free ride or loan will befriend a new body standing in the parking early Monday and Tuesday mornings.

Sorry, those were Caddy Rants instead of Kaddy Kants but I needed to geth them off my chest.

2/28/11

Golf is not a game of perfect neither is life. Tiger is going through struggles on the course like he has in his life; the two are significantly intertwined. Anytime you see a golfer searching on the course you may also find him dealing with personal issues away from the game. A professionally athlete has the ability to compartmentalize his life, block out interferences once on the playing field and compete at the highest level. Tiger’s personal issues were of such magnitude, now he’s making drastic changes in his golf game, he’s forgotten about the little things, or doesn’t have time for them. His short game and putting are suffering; he was the best at both for a long while.

Any golfer no matter what aptitude needs to work on the little things in golf. Like in life, if you handle the little issues as they come, the big picture, your score improves immensely. Working from the target, the hole, back to the tee is best way for an amateur golfer to improve their score. We often don’t have the time or take the time for the little things; we’d rather bang the driver, pound balls on the range instead of working around the green on our chipping and putting.

Forty percent of a golfer’s shots occur within about thirty yards of the hole and if you would spend a little more time getting comfortable on the green, learning how to chip, pitch and putt from just off the green the 100 shooter would drop to 90 in a few months. A lot of your improvement may come from a better mental approach, try reading a few books, a suggestion, Putting Out of Your Mind by Bob Rotella and Golf is not a Game of Perfect. Like in life, a better mental attitude helps you deal with the challenges you face daily.

So much for my golf tips for the week, there’s not a lot to talk about because it’s a week off; actually two before we tee it up again in Newport Beach, CA. Since the Champions Tour schedule has been cut back we really don’t get going till the middle of April and getting into a rhythm will be difficult. From what I hear Bob is a streaky player, most players are, and professional golfers earn about 75% of their money in two or three four week periods during the year.

We started a little shaky but Bob has a pretty good record in the next four tournaments and he’s playing with Eduardo Romero, “El Gatto”, in the Legends. We’re both looking forward to this stretch; remember what I said about the positive mental attitude. Even my boss might benefit from Rotella’s thoughts just don’t know how I’m going to sneak a book into his locker. Ahh, the subtleties of caddying, here they come; I’m looking forward to it.

Brother Dan has been traveling the Far East, Thailand, Singapore, China and a few other Asian countries the last few months working 4-5 tournaments and enjoying the cultures. The LPGA is heading back for the States March 13th and there may be an open bag for Phoenix and Palm Springs right after Newport Beach. It’ll take some last minute finagling but I’d love to do it. I want to show off my new hip, attitude and caddy for those girls like I know I can. My brief stints over there the last few years haven’t been very impressive and I’m looking for a bit of redemption.

We snuck up to the cabin last week in Tampa for some BogeyPro and Metalation work; it’s nice to have something to do during the off weeks. The Accenture Match Play was interesting and my picks did fairly well but it’s nice to get away from the course for awhile. One more week off, then watch out Champions Tour for Bob Gilder and his sidekick.