A Caddy’s Perspective  

Up the hill he ran, struggling with the heavy golf bag, determined to find the ball which his player had ducked-hooked into the thick woods. Ten feet from the trees he spotted it. Pleased with himself, he ran to the ball.  As he picked it up he felt the painful sting of five wasps attacking his legs. He howled in pain and shock but did not drop the ball. Turning, he ran back down the hill to the four players and three caddies approaching him. He stopped, tears in his eyes, holding out the ball.  

It was his first day caddying. He was ten years old: a chubby little boy. His thighs rubbed and chaffed in the summer heat. He knew nothing about golf other than what his father had told him that morning. “Keep up with your player. Keep your eye on the ball. Speak only when spoken to.” He had followed those instructions to the letter. His father had not told him “to leave the ball lie where she lies”. 

His player, surprised, looked at the ball in his hand. Before he could chastise the lad, he saw the tears. “What’s wrong Peter?” he asked. 

“I was stung by wasps.”  

Concern replaced impatience in the eyes of the player. He carried the bag for the next five holes until the novice caddy  recovered his composure. It was the last time Peter caddied that summer. “Why?” His father asked. “I don’t feel like it,” was the reply.  

I was that discouraged  caddy whose introduction to the art and science of caddying was not auspicious. More than fifty years passed before I returned to the trade.   

I stayed away from golf the following two decades, taking it up in my thirtieth year. I discovered that golf is not just a sport; not just a game. It is a way of life and can become an all consuming passion: lessons; practice; as many games a week as possible; abandoned children; turning my young wife into a golf widow; hours in front of the television marvelling at the skill of the period’s golf icons, Palmer, Nicklaus, Player, Trevino, Watson, Miller, Weiskoff.   

Twenty some odd years into my golfing career the intensity of my passion for that consuming pastime somewhat tempered. I had developed the beginning of an understanding of the complexities and psychology of golf and I was reconciled to the level of my play. After all, I was in my mid fifties, not possessed of natural athletic ability, and had achieved a standard of play that would spare me embarrassment in most circumstances. It was then that I began to pay attention to the men behind the bags of the world’s golfing elite. I say men because at that time there was, to my recollection, only one woman caddy on the PGA tour, Fannie, Nick Faldo’s . 

It was at this time that TV commentators began speaking of those, up until then, nameless and anonymous workers. Cadies were given identities: some for the good and others not so.  Jack’s was fired when he began to assume a profile that might have distracted from the eminence of his golden haired master. Tom Watson’s became a humane and tragic figure, forced to retire by the ravages of Lou Gherig’s disease. Tiger’s, a strapping New Zealander, has stayed with his player for almost a decade.  

There is more to caddying, I learned, than carrying heavy golf bags, raking traps, holding flags, standing silently to the side and, if one’s player is in the money, getting a cut of the purse. Look at the way the player and his mate confer over most shots, line up puts, and analyse and dissect on the practice range. The role of a caddy during a tournament with his player in the hunt seems to me to be not unlike that of the sage who would ride in the chariot behind a conquering Roman general being driven through the streets of Rome after having vanquished some alien foe. His role was to keep the returning hero in touch with reality. Not an always easy task. 

In my sixty-second year I decided to discover what caddying was really about. Offering my services to the son of one of my golfing companions, I caddied for the young man in two of my golf club’s championships. The first one my player lost; the second he won. Calming and steadying, but not second guessing, seemed to work. My ultimate, and I suspect last caddying experience –  as, at age sixty-seven, I no longer have the urge to carry a golf bag the five to six mile walk of most golf courses – was in a pro-am event last year. 

My player, a close friend and fellow member at my golf club, approached me one afternoon and told me that he was playing in a pro-am the following week as part of the Canadian LPGA Open events. “I’d like you to be with me to calm me down and guide me through the course,” he said. I eagerly agreed.  

On the day of the tournament my “pony” was fretful and unsure. All confidence had disappeared. The half hour on the practice range before his tee time seemed to calm some of his nerves. On the first tee, after having met our pro, a charming young woman whose husband was her caddy, my player asked for his driver. I handed him his three wood. “Might be a better club,” I said. It was.  The first fifteen holes were played by my friend in his usual twenty five handicap manner: some good shots and nothing to be overly ashamed of. We then approached the sixteenth hole, a long par five. I could see the stands around the green filling with spectators. 

“You’ve got an audience,” I said. He nodded. 

Not a bad drive, just at the edge of the right rough. A solidly hit five wood placed the ball well in the left rough, about a hundred and twenty yards from the green. As we stood over the ball, trying to visualize the shot, we could see that the stands behind the green were full.  My player managed to slug the ball out of the rough. It soared over the green and landed about ten feet to the rear. Polite applause acknowledged the good shot. My man stood a bit taller as he strode across the green, lob wedge in hand. His chip, perhaps the best shot of his golfing life, landed the ball five feet from the pin. More polite applause. Canned the put. Enthusiastic applause. We left the green for the next tee, my player smiling. “Almost like a real golfer,” he said to me. Which for that moment my player was.        

PCC – June 15, 2007 – yup,  that’s my dad!