TCO: the epilogue

4 06 2010

Well, it was a tough couple of days at the office for Team Benedictson and, to keep it short, Brian didn’t make the cut at the Times Colonist Open. Yesterday his putter was not so much cold as deep frozen and if you throw in some horrible lies and some downright evil luck (hitting the flag stick with his approach shot on the penultimate hole of the day and the ball ricocheting forty feet away would be a good example), his score of 76 was about as good as he could have got. Pretty much the only bright light was finishing with a birdie 2 on the 203 yard 9th hole, his 18th.

My own performance couldn’t have done much to help Brian either. This was definitely more nerve wracking than anything I’d experienced on the Golden State Tour or in the practice round on Wednesday. Players’ names being announced on the first tee and a gallery following our group was just the start. I had to learn the etiquette of caddying through on the job training. I’m sure it looks easy on TV, but those caddies on the PGA Tour are really working hard. Divots to replace, bunkers to rake, balls to clean, bags to move out of player’s line of sight, yardages to work out and confirm, wind direction to verify – phew, I feel tired just thinking about it. Thank goodness Brian (wisely) left me out of green reading operations. I felt as if I was running around like a one-armed paper hanger and would be surprised if my anxiety didn’t transmit itself to Brian. He never once complained, though – even when I discovered half way down the 12th fairway that I’d lost the club quietener (towel). Luckily, one of the other caddies had a spare which he lent me for the remainder of the round. (Even more luckily, last night I found a replacement white towel – they have to be white, apparently – on the back of the bathroom door at my son’s apartment. Sorry, Joe – I’ll get you a new one for your birthday). What with dropping Brian’s favourite Chico State headcover about four times as well, I’m surprised I wasn’t given the pink slip at the end of the round – if not before.

Anyway, today went much better. I still had trouble with the Chico head cover (I finished up stuffing the bloody thing in the bottom of Brian’s bag) but otherwise I was much more employable. Brian obviously knew that his chances of making the cut were remote and perhaps as a result he was able to relax and play some decent golf. The putter still didn’t co-operate fully, but he hit some delightful chips and monster drives (including just about driving the par 4 10th). A one over par 71 left him T109 (out of a full field of 156) but he’d certainly salvaged some pride as well as confidence. We went to the clubhouse for lunch and a drink with his family after the round, and it was obvious his mum and dad were proud of him. To show composure and generosity to other players when you’ve had a tough two days shows real class, in my opinion, so hats off to Mr and Mrs B – you’ve raised a fine son!

It only remained for Brian to tell me that I’d (somehow) passed the audition and that my services would indeed be required in Edmonton at the end of this month and Saskatoon the following week (yippee!). In the meantime he’s heading down to the States to try to prequalify for a Nationwide event in Fort Smith, Arkansas. He’s also signed a contract to sell his Swinkey training aid through a large chain of golf stores in Canada and the U.S. and, judging by the number of players using it on the range at Uplands this week, it’s a pretty handy device.

I did have one more embarrassing caddie mishap to recount but I realise that I can’t, just can’t, commit it to paper just yet. It was that bad…

Maybe all will be revealed in a future post but, until then, this is Bagger Dave saying “keep it out of the love grass!”

Dave B.


The Links at Summerly

5 03 2010

On Wednesday morning I met Stan at the driving range at 9:30, thirty minutes before his tee time, as arranged. Like everyone else on the range, he was booming a succession of impressive drives towards the dusty hills overlooking The Links at Summerly, as the two year old course at Lake Elsinore (southern California) is called. I wasn’t quite sure what my job was (saying ‘shot’ every time he hit the ball didn’t seem too helpful), so I busied myself wetting his towel and cleaning the grooves of his irons. Every now and then he’d stop and chat to a passing player – everyone seemed to know everyone else and I definitely felt like the new kid in class. Ten minutes before tee off time we went over to the putting green, where Stan showed a nice relaxed stroke. Then it was on to the first tee, for introductions to our playing partners – Brett, a red headed veteran of the Nationwide tour, originally from Red Deer, Alberta, and Ajay, a delightful Kenyan Asian, who had once gone to school near my home in England.

Stan and I had briefly discussed my role: carry the bag, keep up and stay out of the way as much as possible. He’d ask if he needed help, which was fine by me, as I was surprisingly nervous and scared stiff that he would ask me the line of his first putt.

Stan was first on the tee, hit a great drive, a second to within 25 feet – and three putted. The rest of the round was equally tough: a birdie would immediately be followed by bogey or worse. To Stan’s credit, he remained positive throughout, never blamed outside factors, such as unlucky bounces – of which there were a few – and took my rookie mistakes (leaving his rangefinder in the middle of the fourth fairway was the classic) in his stride. Net result, a 76 which left him way down the field and the cut (top 30% of the field and ties) looking next to impossible.

On Thursday, things went better. This time round, Stan birdied the first hole and got it to three under after ten holes. Down the stretch, though, the putts just wouldn’t drop and his 69 left him two strokes above the cut line. Once again, Stan showed himself to be a class act – in fact I was very impressed by the way all three players went out of their way to encourage eachother, particularly if they’d made a good par save from a tough lie. Although our agreement had been that I would only be paid if he made the cut, Stan put some money in my hand as we walked off the 18th green and said ‘Good job, Dave – and I’m not discussing it.’ I shoved the money into my pocket, and when I looked later I realised he’d given me $100. That may not seem much for three days caddying, but Stan must have been $1500 or more out of pocket for his week’s work, and was facing an eight hour drive back home to Stockton where he planned to practise while saving up to play in his next event. There’s not an easy living to be made on the mini tours, so if you see the name Stan Mathews on a leaderboard sometime soon please wish him luck – the guy deserves it.

I caddied for Brett today. He was disappointed with his T12 finish and couldn’t wait to get on a plane back to Alberta and his wife and baby daughter. I talked to Mike, the tour director, after today’s round and he said that the next two events were carts only, and that the chance of any caddying was very remote. So what I’d been told turned out to be true: there’s no chance of caddying regularly on a mini tour – these guys are struggling just to keep their heads above water. They’re either going to make it to the next level, or sink without trace: There’s no treading water here.

As it happens, Brett is a friend and neighbour of Tom Pernice Jr, who plays on the PGA Champions Tour, and said he could get Tom to leave me a ticket for Sunday’s round at Newport Beach, an hour or so up the road, so that’s where I’m headed tomorrow – as soon as I’ve had one more chance to play The Links at Summerly, and see if I’ve learnt anything over the past three days. I know one thing: I won’t be playing the tips like these guys. 7100 yards seems a bit excessive, so it’s off the white tees for me – I know my place!

Right now, after three nights in a row in the camper van, my place is a little more upmarket: the Rodeway Inn in Temecula with free wifi access, a comfy kingsize bed, unlimited hot water and a continental breakfast. Sheer luxury!

After this weekend I shall wend my way slowly north. I plan to take the Interstate 101 all the way up through California, Oregon and Washington until I reach Port Angeles and the ferry to Victoria. Caddying will resume when I hitch up with Brian Benedictson at the Times Colonist Open at Uplands, Victoria, in June, but before then Glennie, Robin and myself have our golf trip to Ireland and Scotland to look forward to. You’ll be hearing then of how Bagger Dave hits the links (and no doubt the Guinness) at the home of golf, but until then…

All da best.

Dave B.