The last hurrah

9 07 2010
Brian makes his par putt at #18 in Round 2.

Knock it in, B!

It’s Friday, so that means it’s crunch time at the Dakota Dunes Casino Open here in sunny Saskatchewan. Brian had a decent round yesterday – a two under par 70 – but the scoring was so good that he’s only just inside the cut line. That means that by the time we tee off today, at 1:30, the cut is likely to have moved to 3 or 4 under and the pressure will be on to produce another sub par round. Pressure is obviously something you have to live with if you you want to play professional golf and having missed two cuts in a row Brian is clearly feeling it more than most, but his laid back personality certainly gives the impression that he’ll just take whatever life gives him and come up smiling. Of course not all pros are quite so phlegmatic: yesterday evening a fellow competitor – euphoric a couple of days ago because he had played his way into the event via the dreaded Monday qualifier – stormed into the parking lot after his round to announce “That’s it. Tomorrow’s my last round of professional golf. I’m not putting up with this bull$hit anymore”.
Brian’s buddy Clay was in better humour, having shot a 5 under par 67, and offered to make me a trailer park special for supper instead of heading up to the casino for yet another something and fries. While we ate Clay talked about his family in Minnesota, with whom he’s obviously very close, and how tough it is to be away from home and trying to make ends meet. He’d won $375 for a KP in the pro am on Tuesday and was feeling guilty about not giving some of it back to the charity that the event is sponsoring. On the other hand, as he said, he probably needed it more than they did. “Like just about every pro out here”, agreed Brian.
As planned all along, this will be my last event for Brian this season. My daughter is having a baby in about three weeks time – our first grandchild – and there is no way that I’m going to risk not being around for the great event. Brian will be heading on to Winnipeg for the next Canadian Tour event and then has to grapple with the logistics of getting to Ontario in time to play in the qualifier for the Canadian PGA Open. I’ll be heading in the opposite direction, back to the Comox Valley. The only question is, will I be leaving on Sunday evening or will I be on my way tonight? I’m surprisingly nervous about the possibility of my caddying adventure coming to a sudden end…

I haven’t written anything about boo boos that I’ve made in the last few rounds, because there haven’t been any. Not that I’ve become the world’s greatest caddie – Steve Williams’ job with Tiger is safe for the moment – but Brian and I have settled into a routine where we follow the same procedure prior to each shot and it seems to work. Brian has an interesting view of caddies, one shared by Clay as we ate his trailer park special last night – delicious, by the way, and consisting of a mish mash of whatever we could find in our collective fridges, plus beer – and it is this: “If a caddie is not actually annoying you during the round then he’s doing an OK job”. By these low standards I would claim that I’ve reached the dizzy heights of doing an OK job. It was interesting yesterday, first caddying for Brian and then walking with Clay on his back nine, to watch the other caddies – none of whom had ever caddied before. (It’s not easy to get 156 qualified caddies to come to a course that is 30 minutes away from the nearest town). In the morning I had somehow risen to the rank of lead caddie, picking up dropped towels, reminding the others not to stand directly behind their player when he’s making a shot and, most important of all, choreographing the flag dance. Next time you watch a PGA Tour event on TV keep an eye on the caddies as they pass the flagstick around while the players are putting out – it’s quite a subtle procedure, but always follows the same pattern. See if you can unravel it!

Anyway, Brian’s warming up on the range and I have to make sure we have an adequate supply of tees, pin sheets, fruit and water before we head for the practice putting green and on to the first tee. As you can probably tell, I’ve been very impressed with the ability of all the players out here as well as their tenacity in trying to make their professional dreams come true. Let’s see if Brian can do the business this afternoon and keep my own caddying dream going for another couple of days before I change my persona of Bagger Dave into the somewhat different but, I guess, more socially responsible role of … Grandpa Dave.

Thanks to everyone who has been reading my posts over the last six months or so, and good luck to Big B for the rest of the season. He’s a class act and deserves success. No doubt I’ll be posting the occasional update on things golf from time to time, but until then…

All da best!

Dave B.

Update: Brian made two birdies in the space of three holes on the back nine to get to 4 under par, but then narrowly missed a fifteen foot birdie putt on #18. As we walked off the green the scoreboard changed: cut – 5 under. An hour later the bad news was confirmed – Brian had missed the cut by a single shot. True to form, Brian took it like the gentleman he is. We shook hands, he paid me (generously) for my services this week and I started out on the long road home while Brian set about getting himself ready for Winnipeg next week. As always, I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for him – and hoping a new caddie makes all the difference!


The art of caddying (theory and practice)

17 03 2010

I played 18 holes at Glacier this morning with Robin, el Bandito Juan and The Chief. My game was – to put it mildly – slightly off, but somehow I didn’t seem to mind as much as usual. I found myself thinking about what I would be doing if I was caddying this round instead of playing. As a matter of fact, Robin and John had pointed out early on in the round that I had been behaving rather oddly, when I had refused to give John a yardage on #3 or tend the flagstick for Robin on #4. My point was that, now that I’m a professional caddie (gross earnings to date in 2010, after four rounds: $100 US, 4 pints of Guinness and a ticket to the Champions Tour event in Newport Beach, California), they shouldn’t expect me to work for free. Their point was that if I’m as crappy a caddie as I am a golfer I shouldn’t be charging at all. The debate continues…

However, it does bring up an interesting point: just how good or bad a caddie am I? After my very first day as a looper I emailed my future employer, Brian Benedictson, to tell him that I’d found work and gave him a brief summary of how I thought it had gone. Ever the pro, Brian replied with a list of helpful caddie tips which I thought I would share with you, and attempt to analyse my strong and weak points:

1. Show up. Definite success, seeing as I’d travelled all the way from Comox to San Diego, walked the course the day before the tournament and waited five hours until I was finally taken on as a caddie.  Score: 10/10

2. Keep up. Not as easy as you might think. I’m pretty fit for my age (honest) but cleaning a club before putting it back in the bag, scurrying down the fairway after your player and having the next club to hand without making him wait is surprisingly tricky to do. Score: 6/10

3. Shut up. Anyone who knows me would have guessed that this would not be easy for me. Stan birdied the very first hole he played with me as his caddie, draining a 30 foot putt. I must have been nervous, because I found myself saying: “A birdie. Is that the best you can do?” The look on Stan’s face, not to mention his playing partners, was a strong reminder that it was best to keep my funny comments to myself if I wanted to keep my job. It definitely helped two holes later, when Stan hooked his tee shot out of bounds. I handed him a new ball, tried not to make eye contact, and walked up the other side of the fairway for a couple of hundred yards. Score (by my standards): 5/10. By anyone else’s standards: 2/10

4. Don’t let clubs rattle while walking: successful for the most part, except when I dropped my towel (aka club quietener) half way down the 5th fairway but didn’t notice until we’d arrived at the green and I was supposed to clean the ball. Oops. Score: 6/10

5. Be relaxed. I was amazed to see how nervous I was the first day, absolutely dreading that Stan might ask me what club to use for an approach shot, or how much break there was in a putt. I used the ploy of asking what he thought and then agreeing with whatever he said – maybe not that useful, but at least I avoided putting doubt in his mind. By the second round I felt a lot better. Score: 5/10

6. Build my player’s confidence up quietly. I think I was pretty good in this area, in that although I honestly thought just about every shot Stan played was well struck I kept my comments low key. The idea was to act as if I expected all his shots to be good. I think it worked, but you’d have to ask Stan what he thought. Score: 8/10

7. Stand in the same spot every time he’s hitting (i.e. 10 – 12 feet to one side). I did ok with this, mostly by standing wherever the other players stood. They were scrupulous about not standing in eachothers’ line of sight. Score: 8/10

8. Wear flat sole runners rather than golf shoes. Luckily I’d read about this in the Canadian Tour caddies’ manual, so it wasn’t an issue. Score: 10/10

9. Be helpful to all players, but remember my first loyalty is to my player. I tried to help out by raking bunkers for all the players and offering to attend the flag whenever anyone was about to putt. I think my gestures were appreciated, but I also think the players were used to having to do it for themselves usually, so we sometimes got our lines crossed. I might get bonus points here for bringing some fruit, granola bars and water for Stan and reminding him to rehydrate every few holes. Of course, I might have just sounded like his Mum nagging him, but my intentions were certainly good. Score: 9/10

10. Finally, concentrate for the entire duration of the round. I was determined to really concentrate hard for all 18 holes (just as I try to do when playing), but it’s easy to let your guard drop. My low point was walking off the 15th green, congratulating one of Stan’s partners, who’d just made a good par saving putt. We’d got half way to the next tee, when he looked at me kind of funnily and said ” How far are you gonna carry that thing?” I still had the flagstick in my hands! Score: 5/10  Must try harder…

So I make my total 72%, which is a C+/B grade. What do you guys think? Any comments, either on my self assessment or on what you think a good caddie would do?

BTW: many thanks to Brian Benedictson for taking the trouble to send me his caddie tips. With any luck it will make me slightly less of a liability at the Times Colonist Open in Victoria, the first week of June, when I get my first chance to caddie on the Canadian Tour. I can’t wait!

All da best!

Dave B.