This is just a little something I’m working on for the book. There will be a variety of chapters about caddy basics, and I’ll try to tell a few topical stories. This is a very rough draft, so bear with it, I hope you get the gist of what I’m trying to accomplish. There’s a lot of stories like this about towels, bags, umbrellas, etc.

The Yardage Book

Before Angelo and Jack started using a yardage book in the mid-60’s, everyone was eyeballing the shot relying on local knowledge and feel. They started gathering specific information about each course, copying the notes into a small book, and using this prior to each shot. Angelo takes the credit, but most everyone agrees that Jack came up with the idea because Angelo refused to walk the courses. Most of the veteran pros scorned the idea for whatever reason, because many felt it took Jack and Angelo as much time to decipher the notes prior to the shot as it did to gather the yardages earlier in the week. Gradually the idea caught on and “Gorgeous George” made it a business in the early 70’s.

George “Gorgeous George” Lucas, a self proclaimed nickname some say, made a small fortune from selling yardage books on every tour. He caddied for about ten years then traveled the world with his sidekick golden retriever, Corky, laying the groundwork for the high tech computer generated books we use today. He’d load up his van, truck, RV, travel trailer or whatever his current mode of transportation was and take off cross country trying to keep ahead of the tour. He’d map the fairways and greens just in time for the tournament, and then sell the books to the players and caddies. There were no lasers, GPS systems, printers, or Kinko’s back then. “Gorgeous” did it uniquely and had a bunch of fun along the way.
George claims he first used a surveyor’s wheel but quickly graduated to a saltwater bait-casting rod. He’d set up office on the front edge of a green, sit in his lawn chair with adult beverage close by, and cast the line down the fairway. Corky would retrieve the tennis ball attached to the line, and George would direct him from sprinkler to sprinkler, tree to tree, or any other significant marking. The fishing line was colored in 10 yard increments so George would get a pretty good “guestimate” and we all relied on his calculations after 1976. I’ve never seen George in action but relied on his measurements tremendously. His JIC and JICYRFU numbers have bailed many a caddy and pro from jail in a crucial tournament moment. JIC stands for “Just In Case” and JICYRFU denotes “Just In Case You Really Fuck Up”. (See attached pages for different yardage book denotations)

When the yardage book first became predominant, the pros led a small revolt, and demanded some sort of safeguard to assure them their caddies were still walking the course, not just relying on “The Book”. They called him on the carpet at a player’s meeting and a deal was struck. George decided he would include a few bad numbers in each book, and would then reward the first caddy who found the false yardage. I think the early books cost about eight dollars, George was offering twenty for the first find, and the caddies were swarming the fairways seeking their fortunes. Twenty bucks was a week’s rent, or at least a night’s bar tab back then.

Today, when you’re watching a professional golf tournament that book the player and caddy are referring to costs $20 and most of us would be willing to pay $40-$50. Mark Long, Fred Funk’s caddy has taken the art form to a new level. With his GPS, laser, computer programs, and Kinko’s he has created a masterpiece. Any player or caddy could take his book, play any course blind and be very comfortable. His graphics are very precise, numbers exact, and he’s even developed a graph system for the greens which denotes carrys and slopes. If it was in braille, Ray Charles could get around the course.

“The Book” has come along way since we used to just need a hangover and a pin sheet to caddy. We guard our books, and the notes in our books with our lives, only sharing the information with our close friends prior to the tournament, and never offering advice during the round. Ralph “Muledick” Coffee, one of the old caddie legends, used to have as many as 4-5 yardage books for each course. If you tried to peek over his shoulder, he’d give you an elbow and walk away. During the week you’d often see him roaming the woods gathering information, which he’d always try to divulge through a heavy stutter during the tournament. When he’d get excited his information would be choppy and it might take awhile. Out of respect for our elders, we never laughed and gave Ralph all the time he needed. The pros weren’t as lenient, and were often overheard saying, “God damn it, Ralph, spit it out.” And one time I listened to George Burns, a cantankerous sort, yell at Ralph, “I don’t care what it is from that tree, or that trap, or that sprinkler. I want the yardage from right fucking here!”

Years ago in Scottsdale, I was working for Doug Tewell at the Phoenix Open. It was a sweltering Sunday afternoon and we were playing well, making a significant move up the leaderboard. We weren’t going to win but we had a good chance to make a large chunk of change, barring any major screw-ups. Walking from the fourteenth green to the fifteenth tee I noticed a line of port-o-johnz. Knowing there would be a two to three group back up on the par 5, I decided to take a comfort station break. Relieving one’s self in a port-o-john that has been fermenting under a hot desert sun for a week is not exactly a comfort, and especially after a long Saturday night keeping a bar stool company. You always like to get your major business done before the round, but at this moment you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

The holding tank was piled high and the stench was horrofic so it was quick on and quick off, no reading the sports page, just a quick squirt from both ends and back to the tee box. I call it the “afraid to fart syndrome”, you guys know what I mean. Things had to get done quickly, or the sphincter muscle might explode, and that wouldn’t be a pretty sight walking up the 18th fairway, not to mention the resulting “caddy ass”.

Business done, back on the tee box chatting with everyone, I checked my caddy bib pocket for my yardage book, not there. I reached into my back pocket, no book. I’m sure the panic was evident on my face but I tried to maintain my composure and casually searched the area, no book.

We had time, but not a lot, so I retraced my steps back to the 14th green hoping to find my “bible”. I couldn’t finish the round without my book and now my eyes began to well up because there was no yardage book in sight. As I passed the port-o-lets I decided to take a look. Nothing on the floor of my stall; opened the lid, and there perched on a pile of shit was George’s masterpiece. Luckily, only one end of the book was stuck, and it wasn’t completely soaked, so I was able to shake it loose, clean it up a bit and put it back into action, carefully.

I kept my distance from Doug because the odor was evident, but as I was reciting the numbers for our second shot he turned and said, “what’s that smell?” I pleaded ignorance and we finished the round without any further discussion and I confessed after the round. We had a good laugh, he semi-praised me for perserverance and dedication, but he actually couldn’t believe I reached into the well and pulled out that stinking book. Like I said you got to do what you got to do.

Quite a few years later I was working for Brandi Burton on the LPGA in Youngstown, Ohio. There was a wait on the tee box and she handed me her yardage book. I looked quizzickly, said, “I’ve got a book.” She nodded toward the player’s restroom and said, “hold it till I get back.” We shared yardage book and port-o-john stories for the next few holes and had some belly laughs. I thought my experience was unique but I guess it happens often on the LPGA Tour.

Gazzy and Wiz are from the hangover and pin sheet era. They’re half brothers who got their start on the European Tour when they were teenagers. Their dad, Scotty Gilmore, is the original professional caddy. Prior to Scotty travelling the European Tour and making a living, the pros used local kids at each stop, and relied on their knowledge. In Europe you don’t have sprinkler heads and designated yardage markers, you rely on caddy scratches in the dirt, and lining up a church steeple with a barn door on the opposite side of the fairway for your “accurate” numbers.

Anyway, Gazzy is a great artist and would often times do his own book. Wiz talked him into doing a book for him one evening in a local pub because he hadn’t seen the course and had an early tee time the next morning. Gazzy probably charged him quite a few pints, but I guess Wiz didn’t buy enough. You see, the next day on about the 14th hole Wiz turned the page and stared at nothing. Gazzy had gotten tired of doing the book, or something, and Wizhad forgot to check the merchandise prior to the round. You need to have both of them together, oiled with a few pints, telling the story to get the true effect. They’ve entertained us many nights with their exploits and bar tricks.

Finally, Trevino was playing Colonial in Memphis during his prime. To hear him tell the story he could drop a five iron on a dime back then, and never missed a yardage by more than a couple feet. He and Leroy, and old black Augusta caddy, started off the first tee and by about the fourth hole Lee was a couple over par and hitting every shot perfect. However, he kept coming up ten yards short, twenty yards long, and so forth on each shot. Finally, in the fifth fairway after airmailing the green, he grabbed the book from Leroy and examined it. Back then we played Colonial in Ft. Worth also, and Leroy had the wrong book. When Lee questioned him Leroy replied, “you sure we ain’t in Ft. Worth?” When they got to the ball buried in the thick rough behind the green Leroy turned to Lee, “come on boss you can it up and down for me.” I don’t think they worked to many tournaments together after that.

There could be yardage book stories ad nauseum. We guard them with our life. These days a caddy without a yardage book is like a general contractor without a blueprint. It not only leads us around the golf course but provides us information about the town and the week we spent there. If you look into any caddy’s yardage book you’ll find an array of numbers,notes, arrows, reminders that only he can decipher. You’ll also find some valuable phone numbers, restaraunts, radio stations, hotel evaluations, and significant people you may want to keep in touch with over the years.

Going through my shoe boxes full of books on a winter afternoon conjures up a lot of memories. Some I can tell, some I can’t.

 

 

 

 

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