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.


Golf 101

18 02 2010

Our Saturday morning men’s foursome had an unusually successful outing a couple of weeks ago. Or, to be more precise, three of us did…

Robin (nicknamed ‘Robin Hood’  because of the large amount of time he usually spends  in the woods over the course of a round) broke 80 for the first time ever on a Saturday morning and duly won low net in the B flight; el Bandito Juan would have shot even par but for bogeying the last two holes; I myself managed a very respectable 76, including the unheard of (for me) tally of three birdies, all of which I had high hopes for in the snips competition.

‘And what of  the fourth member of your group?’ I hear you ask. Well, Glenny didn’t exactly have the best of days. I put down 101 on the score card, but to be honest it could have been a couple more. I know, I know – on Saturday mornings you have to play every shot and every shot counts; but the better John, Robin and I played the worse things got for Glenny and after a while I couldn’t face asking him if he’d scored a double or a triple on the same hole that John had just chipped in on for a birdie. Sometimes there’s a glimmer of hope in a round like that: a monstrous drive, perhaps, or an amazing par saving putt, maybe even a birdie on the pot of gold hole. But not for Glenny, not this week. Bad was followed inevitably by worse until his four hours and ten minutes of suffering were done.

On the patio afterwards, Robin was his usual modest self – the difference being that after most Saturday morning rounds he has lots to be modest about; John was describing his misfortune on the last two holes to anyone at the table who cared (i.e. nobody) and I was loudly cursing people who were crossing my name off the snips board because of their own (obviously fluky) birdies.

And Glenny? He slowly sipped his pint and said philosophically, as he’s been known to say on occasion before, ‘She’s a harsh mistress, golf is, a harsh mistress…’

By the way, John’s 73 left him precisely nowhere in the top flight’s low gross scores and I missed third place for low net on the dreaded countback system that only Len the tournament director truly understands. I told him that I’d be away for a few weeks, so maybe it wasn’t worth cutting my handicap. ‘We’ll be waiting, Davey,’ said Len with what I thought was a particularly evil grin. Anyway, the failure of John and myself once again to get in the money on a Saturday morning just goes to show what a bunch of sandbaggers, er deep pool of talent we have at Glacier Greens…

All da best.

Dave B.

P.S. Robin, Glen and I are heading off to Las Vegas early Saturday morning for a quick exploratory trip to find out what desert golf is all about. May your rounds at Glacier be filled with birdies and the ground be firm beneath your feet!