Caddie For A Day

20160111_080428Still enjoying the thrill of having caddied for a pro in a PGA Tour qualifier… doesn’t get much better than that for a golf blogger, let me tell ya…

I have some advice for someone who’s thinking of caddying – it is not as easy as it seems, and you’d better be able to read some putts, and you’d better know your player’s swing.

Oh, and you’d better be in shape.  I was sucking wind at one point, lugging the bag on an uphill par 5 that just kept rising and rising as I walked.  I had serious visions of dropping from a heart attack somewhere around that hole, until I’d caught my breath while the pros putted out.

Carrying Jerry Crowell’s bag at Bear Creek G.C. was a highlight of my golf activities to date, but it was also terrifying – I’ll tell you right now, you’d better not open your mouth about anything unless you’re dead sure, or you’ll likely get a quick toss from the job.

For example, it is very intimidating giving a player any advice of any kind, and the worst for you that might happen is that he takes your advice and you’re wrong.

On the very first putt, for example, I remarked on the possible break and Jerry didn’t respond.

I soon found out – it wasn’t anything like what I thought I saw.  I read the break as being on the opposite side that it ended up, and even if it’s just a subtle break… dead wrong.

I didn’t open my mouth again on a putt unless he asked me, on the first 9, let me tell you. I stuck to club selection and line of flight.

Driving Range @ Bear Creek G.C.

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But on the front nine, Jerry turned to me on a 20 footer and said, “What do you think, Deej?”

I was staring hard at this one, and I said tentatively, “I’d say about two balls outside left…”

To my absolute shock, he immediately straightened up and said “O.K.,” and got over the ball.

He stroked it on the exact line I suggested, and made his first birdie on the back nine!

My knees buckled as we walked off the green.  I didn’t know he was going to take my read when I answered him, and that’s why you’d better be damned sure or zip it tight.

On the brutal par 3 that he birdied, it was club selection.  The breeze was very slight, and he was going back and forth between a PW and a 9i.

I know his swing, and I said, “You’re thinking P?”  He nodded, grimacing and looking for the breeze.

“I’m thinking a little 9,” I said.  I knew he was thinking of trying to stick it tight, but that green is also very narrow.  “You can’t go too far long into this breeze, lots of room behind the hole…”

And short was dead in the creek. 

“Nine,” I repeated, a little more firmly, and he handed me a club.

It was the PW.

Sure enough, the breeze picked up as made his last practice swing, and I said, “Look at that tree by the creek, it’s stronger breeze than we can feel. Definitely 9 now. Just stick that setup and put it close.”

He made a great pass, and the ball was in the air and I said, “Be the club, be the club,” while he was saying, “Be good…” which let me know he’d hit it solidly.

It landed hole-high and came back down to ten feet.  PW would have been in the creek, either on the fly, or backing up after landing, because of the drop-off to the creek on the green front.

I can’t even remember if I helped him read that putt, as I was still saying to myself, “I knew it was the 9,” but he nailed the bird.

On another hole, he had a long par putt when he asked me, “Where do you see the ball going in?”

I was staring hard and I couldn’t take my eyes off a dark green patch of grass on the green.

“I see it turning at the right edge of that dark patch,” said.

“Yeah,?” he said. I got nervous.  I was essentially telling him it was a two-foot break!

But this time, I held firm. “Yep.  It should go in off the edge of that splotch, bottom left quadrant (of the hole).”

He got over it and made the stroke.  Sure enough, he putted it over the edge of the splotch, and the ball turned to the hole, but ran out of legs.

It sputtered to the edge of the hole and Jerry was straightening up out of his putting crouch (in disgust, I’m sure), but the ball took one more revolution and swooned into the hole as if one extra millimeter would have left it hanging.

Hellooooooo!!

That’s what I’m talking about.

Last story.

After a great approach on a longish par 4 (Jerry will fill in the details, as I don’t have the scorecard from Bear Creek handy), Jerry turned to me on a putt read, and it was a ticklish downhiller that was going to break hard left at the hole.

“Whataya think, Deej?”

“If you’re going to pace it to finish a foot past, I’d go 6 inches outside.”

He stared for a long minute.

“I’m thinking more ten inches,” he said.

I instantly straightened up. “If you see it being ten, then it’s likely that,” and I walked to the side of the green, nodding my head at him.

Right or wrong, it was a fast putt, and I wasn’t going to argue with him or shake his own confidence in the read.

He stroked the putt, 10 inches outside, and it tracked, turned, and Jerry started walking after it.

The ball dropped halfway into the hole and then lipped out on the high side!  All you could hear was the groans from every pro who saw it happen.

Fortunately, it didn’t boomerang five feet down, stopping about 18 inches or 45 cm below the hole. It was so far into the hole, it was barely moving when it came back out.

And this is the funniest part – I was expecting Jerry to upbraid me for the read, and he said with a laugh as we walked to the next tee, “You saw six, I saw ten, turns out it was eight!”

I also remember that not once did Jerry ever tell me, “Great read,” or “good call on the club.”

When a pro asks you what you think and you have the temerity to tell him, he expects you to be correct.

And that is fair by me.  His nod walking off the green after a made putt was enough to say, “Yup…”

So, thanks to Jerry for giving me that opportunity, and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who gets the chance – just beware exactly what you’re getting yourself into!

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6 thoughts on “Caddie For A Day

  1. bigtoilet

    What a great article! Fun read! I knew with 4 holes to play we needed 4 birdies. We got the 1st one. That damn slow motion lower lip out on our 3rd to last hole was quite the bummer. I think DJ has the things that I don’t maybe have and we make a good team. Caddies are always 2nd fiddle to the player, and he was a great second!

    1. D Watts Post author

      One correction from BT that he sent me:

      “The birdie putt on the par 3 was more of 20ft below the hole, with a wicked right turn at the hole….,which you read expertly.

      That was a fist pump moment….or the “finger point” I do when I make a nice putt.”

      And the caddie should be 2nd fiddle for a reason – no caddie in the history of the game has ever made a putt or hit a shot for his player… so no matter how good a caddie you may fancy yourself – you ain’t the one hitting the shots.

      So be quiet and keep a clean towel handy.

  2. David

    Thanks DJ, just like we were there!! So much of what you said is so true.

    I remember my first foray into the caddie world. It was for an LPGA player. She had to play a qualifier at my home course and I saw this beautiful girl with a gorgeous swing. I had to say hello and next thing you know, I was going to caddie for her in the morning.

    She won easily since the greens were so difficult and she had the club champ on the bag 🙂 Two days later, I get a call at midnight and it was her saying Betsey King’s caddie was to be there and he didn’t show up and asked if I could make it. After some calls in the morning, I was there at 6:30 wondering what I got into.

    As you said, keep up and shut up which is NOT in my vocabulary, at least not the latter. She was -2 after 7 playing a par 5 and it had rained all week so the greens were very bumpy. Her lag putt was a foot away on 8, she walked up and lipped it out. She was not careless, it just happened.

    The 9th was a 160 yard par 3 that they called the TV hole, very tough and over a lake. She stiffed it to 3 feet and I thought all was good. I still had not offered any advice since she really didn’t need any. She is lining up the putt and I hear her say, “left edge, just hit it”

    WELL, I knew it actually went left, my first big dilemma. Tell her or keep quiet …. for once, I kept quiet and she missed it badly left. She shot 35, should have been 33 and proceeded to shoot 42 on the back. The next day she shot 81 and I kept watching her the rest of the season and she could not break 80. 2 putts ended her golf career.

    I saw her 2 years later in Florida, she was very pregnant and playing with her husband. I asked THE question, should I have said anything about the putt I knew she was reading incorrectly, she didn’t remember it but said I did the right thing not trying to change her mind …….

    I still am not so sure. I still think I should have experienced her wrath but got that putt in the hole. We will never know.

    1. D Watts Post author

      Awesome, DK – I either didn’t know or have forgotten if you told me that you’d caddied for LPGA players or those trying to qualify. Sweet!

      Oh, and I agree – I will never argue with a player on their choice, once they’ve made their mind up – it’s better to hit a bad shot with confidence than try the right thing with none. But while they’re making up their mind, I will be very strenuous on what I think – until they make a decision, then right or wrong in my mind, I will give them every confidence to make a solid swing or putt.

      And I haven’t forgotten about your tournament last week – not a word, please, until I can post about it! 😉

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