The Augustine blackjack dealers chased me from the tables about 4:00 a.m. and as I was driving back to my buddy Todd’s place the sky was gurgling above the mountains between Palm Springs and L. A. The clouds were swirling, lightning flashing and the L. A. area was experiencing the worst torrential downpour in a half century. Jimin hadn’t texted about Monday practice time, ahh, maybe a caddy holiday was on the horizon. I forgot, I’m working for a young Korean, there’s no such thing as a day off. She texted me at 7:30, wanting me there at 10 but I negotiated for 11, enough time for the two hour drive from the desert.
Arriving in the Pacific Palms parking lot a bit groggy, Jimin was just walking in the hotel and the officials had just suspended the Monday qualifier. Fifty-five girls still had to finish for 2 or 3 spots which gave me time for a lobby chair nap and a quick concession stand lunch, timing is everything sometimes. Caddies went from the penthouse to the outhouse this week. The Kia Classic at Industry Hills was long, wet, hilly, a bit tricky and the forecast was cold, dreary and moist, plus the yardage book was a piece of doo-doo, there was a lot of work in front of me.
Last week we were in a five star resort eating gourmet buffets for every meal and this week it was a mediocre, at best, Best Western motel and golf course concession stand sandwiches, some maybe a day or two old. A day old brat for breakfast is okay at deer camp but not right before a competitive round. Luckily, our Garmin GPS found a local watering hole, the Sunset Room, with $2 MGD’s, a great burger, some wonderful folks and a great respite from the long days. The only problem was adjusting your eyes when you first walked in; it was the prime dark and dingy dive bar.
Pacific Palms Resort at Industry Hills was built on a landfill site in the 70s and the two courses, Eisenhower and Zaharias, were cleaned up and reworked about eight years ago. We played a composite layout of the two tracks and practiced on a makeshift range constructed in the middle of a fairway. We practiced in casual water all week and struggled to find a flat lie. The crowds were wonderful, the layout was great, but the rain created soggy conditions and we played lift, clean and cheat the first two rounds with a three hour delay Friday which delayed the cut till almost noon Saturday. I was already on a flight to Milwaukee by then.
Jimin Jeong has a lot of potential, a wonderful work ethic and a great attitude but she has a rib injury hindering her game at the moment. We were the last off Thursday afternoon and the soggy, bumpy. Poaunna greens knocked our putts every which way. We waiting every shot, sometimes for over 10 minutes and never saw an LPGA official helping speed up play. A volunteer mentioned he saw the officials all day sitting in the trees chatting with each other. We finished the last three holes running and putted out on 18 in the dark. One of our playing partners, Nicole Hage, was livid and searched out an LPGA official immediately after the round and vigorously registered her complaint.
Three over on the par 73 track wasn’t bad for an opening afternoon round and we were looking forward to fresh greens and dry conditions Friday morning. Mother Nature had other plans.
It was raining late Thursday evening when I dropped Wendy at LAX and still pouring when the alarm went off early Friday. I was tempted to roll over and go back to sleep knowing there was going to be a delay but being the dedicated looper I am I showed up, weathered the delays in a comfortable chair and caught up on my sleep, travel plans and phone messages. The breakfast burrito in foil was the concession stand’s best offering and I devoured it before my second nap. When we arrived everyone knew there would be a delay but we always have to wait for the tour official’s call. First it was an hour delay and then it was extended to three hours, our tee time went from 8:15 to 11:15 and we didn’t finish till about 5 o’clock.
We birdied our first hole, the 10th, I got a bit cocky and started talking with a Twins fan sitting beside the 11th tee. We three putted the next two holes. When am I ever going to learn the “Golfing Gods” are always watching and keep you in your place when you don’t respect the game? We righted the ship with a tricky par saving putt on the 13th but couldn’t manage another birdie all day.
Seven over par sent us packing but while we were settling up in the hotel lobby Jimin wanted me to work a few more tournaments for her. “You’re good caddy,” she said in broken English, “I’m a bad player right now but I’ll get better.” We made tentative plans for Mobile, AL the end of April. She was a treat to work for but the money just isn’t quite enough to get excited about.
This was the first year KIA held the tournament at Industry Hills and it showed. Everyone tried hard but there are a lot of bugs to work out. The first year tournament had a first time winner, Sandra Gal. Last year in Portland she was looking for a caddy and Dave Stockton, her instructor, introduced us and we chatted for awhile. After a few minutes she said, “I’m trying out a younger caddy, we’ll see how it works out. Maybe I’ll get a hold of you.” He was still on the bag Sunday; I guess things are going well. I don’t think she wanted a caddy older than her father.