29 August 2016 (Pasadena, CA) As noted in earlier posts, I am not a country club guy so my exposure to caddies has been somewhat limited. Nevertheless, I have had some interesting experiences with them. The first time I ever had to hire a caddy was on a vacation in Mazatlan, MX. It was not a golf vacation by any stretch of the imagination, we did not take our own clubs and I was surely not playing with any regularity at the time. So I was a little bit nervous and drank more than my share of Coronas. What I learned that day is that caddies are in the service industry and they are there to make your round more enjoyable. We shared friendly banter and when requested he would offer a swing tip or two. He mentioned he played and was a fairly low handicapper so I invited him to tee off on a rather long par 3 at about 200 yards. He hit a four iron like a scud missile to the middle of the green. Lesson 1 learned…these guys/gals can play (for the most part). Since that time, over the past couple of years, I have benefited from their companionship on the local Southern California country club circuit when I am invited to hike these hallowed fairways (mostly San Gabriel Country Club and Riviera Country Club). My experience has been positive. I am a chatty kind of guy and they are happy to lend an ear as well as offering accurate yardages and green reads. Most of theseclub’s caddies are Latino so it gives me +/- 4 hours to practice my Spanish and talk about Mexican futbol. I have come to embrace the employment of caddies and no longer find myself intimidated by their presence. They have seen it all, from scratch golfers to weekend hacks. They are looping for a buck and your enjoyable golf experience is their primary goal. I did have one odd experience at Pebble Beach with the interaction between a fore-caddy and his two golfers. It was my 50th birthday gift from my wife so I teed off with one of my best golf chums and we were paired with a father and son combo who did not greet us at the first tee with the exception of their pronouncement that they were playing from the tips. On the very first hole I could see the father planned to badger his son the whole round about shot selection, execution and course management. It was hard to watch. There was no joy in their game. Evidently they played Pebble all the time so it was not a big deal for them. Matters continued to degrade. On the fourth hole their caddy offered a club recommendation to which the father retorted, “When I want your f*&%$* opinion, I’ll ask,” in front of his son no less. I was fuming and so was my partner. When we reached the green I told the father that I would no longer play in his group and that he and his son could play in front of or behind us but NOT with us. I despised his sense of entitlement and condescending manner towards his caddy (who was a really nice chap). When I spoke my words I delivered them with that “don’t give me no shit” look so make a decision. He chose to play behind us, good riddance but poor caddy. Our caddy thanked me for speaking up because they could lose their job for doing so. Lesson 2: caddies are golf companions and assistants, not slaves to be degraded. Now my favorite caddies in the world are Scottish links caddies. They are like bloodhounds when the inevitable ball lands in the shite (aka fescue or gorse), they are excellent readers of greens, and will club you from the third hole on. And they are great conversation partners because many of them are club members who loop at their home courses. They are proud of their courses and are a wealth of historical and course information. They are also an eclectic group of lads and lassies. Take the gent on the left pictured above (blue knit Kingsbarn cap). His name escapes me but early in the round he learned I was a theologian and informed me he was a graduate student in philosophy (as well as his girlfriend). We went on for hours, both on the course and in the pub, about Kant, Aquinas and Spinoza. The conversation was intellectually invigorating and executed in a manner that was not distracting to my golf experience. Then there was Graeme at the Old Course. He was on my bag and we were the first group out. He hustled me around the course, chatted me up about the Scottish Referendum and the Old Firm (Celtic vs. Rangers. he was a Ranger fan and I a Celtic man). I never trusted his yardages after that revelation! At the end of the round he gathered his 60 pounds and headed for the pub. It was 10 am! Later that evening, we saw Graeme walking the street behind the R and A and called him by name, I reminded him I was his loop of the day. Now Graeme was well into the juice at that point and stopped dead in his tracks–in the middle of the street–and sang us a naughty Scottish jig as loud as could and concluded with, “Good night ye bastards!” Finally, there is my Carnoustie buddy, Jimmy Jack. A gentlemen’s gentleman and former Scottish national football (soccer) player. Jimmy is also a member at Carnoustie where his son was 2014 club champion. The first time Jimmy looped for me we hit it off smashingly. We shared family stories and he shared photos of his grand kids. After the round, he invited me into the member pub and walked me through the momentos of his club’s proud history. The next year I went back to Carnoustie and was assigned a new caddy. I rolled the dice and asked if Jimmy still looped there. I was told he did and he had just showed up for work and was thereby assigned to my bag. We laughed and embraced when reunited. He asked if I had fixed my swing since I had last seen him. We laughed again. I noticed he was walking with a very noticeable limp. It was not the limp of a feeble older man but the limp of a warrior who had seen one too many football battles in his youth. I asked if he was able to walk 18 to which he retorted, “I’ll give you 3 a side and still kick your arse lad.” He did exactly that the very next day. Here’s to you Jimmy Jack and all the loopers, male and female, who serve as warm companions and course lighthouses to all weary golfers. Cheers.
Erratum: My last blog twice referred to Hoover Dam as Hoover Damn! I laughed when I reread it. This error says two things about me…I have a potty mouth and I write this blog when I am way too tired.