It’s been a very enlightening three weeks out here on the LPGA. I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into, but now I know. Twenty years on the tour have created some ticklish situations, and there have been some delicate moments when a caddy-player relationship must be dissolved, but they have always been handled with class and respect for one another. Each time a separation was necessary it was always handled face to face and there was usually a handshake after the conversation. Every player I’ve worked for I would still consider a friend and wouldn’t hesitate to work for them again if they called.

This week started a bit edgy. M.J. told me to meet her Monday afternoon around 2:00 p.m. I showed up at 2:00 searched the practice areas for M.J. and when I didn’t find her I called. She told me she wouldn’t be out; she had already practiced with her father. A heads up call would have been nice, I would have made other arrangements and scheduled things differently. Anyway, I finally got situated in my room late Monday afternoon after some last minute Priceline manipulations in the Fairfield Inn lobby. They quoted me $89 per night; I got the room for $33 an hour later sitting in their lobby working on my computer.

Tuesday was an early call for practice and I hitched a ride with a couple of caddies. I could sense something wasn’t right when I first met M.J. and her parents. Her parents don’t know my name and have little time for me, but this meeting was exceptionally icy. We hit a few balls and headed for our eighteen hole practice round with dad close by our side. I sure wish I knew what they were talking about it would have made my job a lot easier. Mom was always out in front chasing errant drives and giving us the line on blind tee shots.

The Jamie Farr Classic in Toledo has been an LPGA mainstay for a long time and the community turns out in big numbers. The yards across the street from Highland Meadows GC were filled with cars and one old boy, Tracy, was parking cars for $5, grilling burgers and brats, serving cold beer for the caddies, and he even let us do our laundry. The Midwest is great, after every day’s work you could find a group of caddies and locals gathered in Tracy’s driveway trading stories. It was nice to have some refreshments after the long Korean work day.

We were on the tee box at 6:00 a.m. Wednesday to play nine before the pro-am. The sun wasn’t up yet, we had to wait for light and the maintenance crew to clear the first green. After a quick nine we took a long break and met again at 2:00 p.m. I’m still not used to these split shifts but I’m learning, and without my car I can’t get away. It makes for a long day. Tuesday afternoon we practiced without dad and probably had the most productive session since I’ve been with M.J. She had some fun on the putting green with Jill McGill and anther Korean player, and was very relaxed on the practice tee. I sure wish the message would get across to dad. Golf needs to be fun and not always work, work, work with everyone dwelling on the negative.

We had the last tee time on Thursday and started very poorly, three over thru the first six holes. She sucked it up and finished two under for the day. I could tell there was something bothering her but she didn’t want to talk about it. Her focus, composure, and putter kept us in the game and a lucky break on eighteen allowed us to escape with a par.

Friday was a 5:30 wake-up call for an 8:30 tee time. Again, she struggled and complained about back pain along with some nausea. I started to press the issue but decided this was an ailment men aren’t familiar with so I let it go. M.J. wasn’t her talkative self and I tried to caddy my best, but there wasn’t much communication during the round. Walking up the eighteenth fairway she turned to me, grabbed my shoulder and apologized for being angry. I asked why she was angry but she looked at me like, “I can’t tell you.”

After we missed the cut she gave me my check behind the clubhouse. Her father looked angry and her mother couldn’t look me in the eye, I knew something was amiss. I asked M.J. what time we should meet at the U.S. Open and after a long conversation with dad, she said she would text me. I never got the text but did get a call from her agent about ten minutes after they left. The message said something about wanting to discuss my status with M.J.

Before I called back I tried to gather myself because I knew I was about to be fired. Everything was starting to add up. Dad had made a decision for M.J. which I don’t think she agreed with but couldn’t speak her mind. The agent explained I was being released for financial reasons and I tried to plead my case. We had almost doubled her yearly money total the previous two weeks and I had helped her qualify for the U.S. Open two weeks ago. Nothing helped, father had spoken, and I was out. I appreciated the agent’s kind words and listening to me about M.J.’s dad. He had heard it before from many caddies, players, and instructors. Mr. Hur is not a nice person; hopefully he won’t keep M.J. from reaching her potential.

It’s nice to have friends. I was planning on working the largest women’s event of the year; now I was stuck in Toledo without my van and after a few calls it wasn’t feasible to rent a car or fly. My good buddy Tim Baumberger called and bailed me out. Long story short, Rubble took me to Ann Arbor in my brother’s van, met Tim along the highway and he drove north on I-75 to exit 202 where we met Wendy. We drove another two hours, caught the 10 o’clock ferry to Mackinac Island and I was able to forget about Mr. Hur for awhile. Without friends like that I would have been stuck, angry and frustrated, it’s hard telling what might have happened Friday night in Toledo.

Not sure what’s up for the future. I may head for the Quad Cities and Milwaukee the next two weeks or I may be at the cabin. Any jobs open around Mellen?

Take care.

Mark

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