Wednesday, October 10

Caddie and Other Stories in Hickory

HANG AROUND A GOLF TOURNAMENT FOR a couple of days and you’re bound to hear jokes, stories, rumors and more. I was at the Greater Hickory Classic the last two days with no particular agenda other than to visit Jack Fleck and try to interview a couple of players for a new project.

I don’t spend a lot of time at tournaments—it doesn’t fit into my life—but when I do it’s fun to hear the chatter from writers, photographers, fans, tour officials, players, volunteers and the occasional celebrity. (Former NFL quarterback Joe Theismann was shoulder to shoulder with me in the buffet line at last night’s pairings party).

Today, among other conversations, I talked to a veteran caddie who drove up from Florida looking for a bag this week. He explained how tough it is getting work on the Champions Tour compared to the older days. (He got started in the 1970s and has worked on both the PGA and Champions tours for the last four decades.)

It’s hard, yes, but bag toting is good work if you can get it. My caddie acquaintance said he misses it now that he has been somewhat forced into retirement. There are fewer spots, he explained, since so many players bring out spouses, siblings, other family members and friends to carry their bags. That makes it harder on the guys with experience who could definitely use the work.

This caddie was out in the parking lot with four or five others at the beginning of the week hoping for a bag. He got promised one if the pro made it through the Tuesday qualifier. (Qualifying is another story.) He told me how players often don’t use caddies in the qualifiers. If they don’t make it through the qualifier, they don’t want to think the caddie had something to do with it. If they do qualify, they know they did it on their own—figuring their own yardages, reading their putts, making all the decisions.

So the caddie didn’t go out. He waited to see if his player got into the field. The player just missed, losing out on the last spot in a two-hole playoff.

I asked the caddie what was next—would he head back to Florida?

Not yet, he said. He would wait around one more day just in case a player might need an experienced caddie to step in at the last moment.

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