Still 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.
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.
That’s what I’m talking about.
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!