At The End Of My Days, I Want To Come Back A Caddie
By Joe Stansberry
Many of us started playing this game caddying either for a parent, family member, friend, or a complete stranger who hopefully tipped you well! Or at minimum gave you a few life long stories! My first golf days were spent “looping” for my father, paired with my uncles and cousins dragging a Bag Boy cart around. I can still envision my cousin Bobby having to climb a tree to remove a stuck club from an errant throw.
You think jockeys are a unique breed, try professional caddies! Kentucky Derby jockeys have to meet weight requirements that are shorter than me… I am 5’ 7”. OK I’m stretching it. Fact: one the oldest jockeys to win the Kentucky Derby is 58. The oldest caddie to win on TOUR is Mike “Fluff” Cowan born in 1948! Yes, this is 2019. You do the math!! I know a few, including Ben Crenshaw’s famous friend and caddie, Carl Jackson, are pushing 70. I once introduced Carl to a friend of mine caddying in the Tour school finals. “Carl, meet Donna. This is Donna’s third time caddying, Donna meet Carl, Carl has caddied for three Masters winners!” He wrapped his big arms around her, with a huge smile and says, “Honey you stay with me, I’ll take GOOD care of you!” Such a huge heart. Looking for a great read? Try “Ben Crenshaw & Carl Jackson; Two Roads To Augusta” It’s in my Top 3 golf reads ever!
No, caddying is not a glorious life and they’re more like “Doc” Severinsen than Ed McMahon. (Kids are Googling them now. But consider this caddie, Steve Williams (whom I met briefly on the Asian Golf Tour in early 80s as Greg Norman’s caddie). His famous run was with Tiger Woods, and for that he was the highest paid athlete in New Zealand – his home country. Think about that a CADDIE being the highest paid athlete!!! He was also “Inside The Ropes” for a good 12 years watching arguably the greatest golfer in my lifetime. Tough gig if you can get it. Well… the best thing about golf is he was more than a bat boy for Harmon Killebrew (my childhood hero) or a ball boy on the bench for Michael Jordan “the greatest of all time.” NO he was an active participant, a hand-holder, psychologist, rules aficionado, mathematician and most importantly the reason all shots failed. Yes it’s always the caddie’s fault.
These are 12 to 18 hour days. While the player might be in enjoying a pre-event massage and/or an early breakfast, caddies… good caddies would be out on the course getting yardages, scoping hole locations, reading and rolling balls to greens. Then when the player is ready to practice, his bag better be there. All clubs must be cleaned, range balls wiped. On the first tee you’re the ultimate psychologist. Your player hits it in the right trees amongst the crowd. Now you’re a traffic cop!
Sure you’re traveling with the greatest circus ever, The PGA TOUR… Pebble, Riviera, Hazeltine, St. Andrews and, of course, Augusta. But while some players are living on $20 million, renting 8,000 – 20,000 square-foot homes for the week, your accommodations might be significantly lower. Can you say Super 8!
Best caddie related story ever. My friend Mark Kelly was caddying at Oak Ridge before he became a criminal defense attorney and the caddie master was Jimmy Wahl. After Labor Day caddies were in short supply (most were back in high school). Jimmy wanted to reward the “adults” left. One of the perks Jimmy had was he owned the pop machine. So he loaded one of the pop machine slots full of beer for a quarter. Then he would go out and buy a 12 pack of Heineken, a case of Blatz and a case of Hamms. He would randomly load them in the machine. Prominently display an out of order sign so the Oak Ridge members would never push that button!! The caddies would line up after trying to guess when the Heineken would come out. After four or five Blatz’s, they would all rush to try and get that one Heineken!
Many times I have heard the conversation about it being “the caddies fault.” Take Jean-Claude Vandervelde at Carnoustie losing after a terrible 18th hole, Dustin Johnson’s caddie at Whistling Straits who didn’t inform him that he might be in a hazard, or arguably the greatest faux pas in the history of caddies – Ian Woosnam’s two drivers in his bag. Oops that’s too many clubs while leading an Open Championship. When I had the chance to play with him during my European Senior Tour days we became fast friends and he confided in me that he “HATED” talking about that event. Yes, the caddie gets very little credit and the player gets all of the glory. Come on “Lama” how about a little something for the effort?
On a final note did you know that the Evans Scholar Foundation was started here at the Minikahda Club when “Chick “ Evans won the 1916 U.S. Open as an amateur? He was given several thousand dollars for his broadcasting right. If he would’ve taken it, he would’ve lost his amateur status. He instead, along with the Western Golf Association, donated his money and established the Evans Scholar Foundation, which has now donated over 11,000 full scholarships!
Yes, caddies will go down in history. Heck there’s even a famous “top 5” movie named for them. I’d like to follow up next month with some of your best caddie stories feel free to email them to me firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy Father’s Day everyone!