Almost every golfer has expressed an interest in carrying the bag of a Tour professional. Be it a one off bucket list item, or serious job aspiration, the lure of looping excites many.
But there is far more to the gig than the oft quoted adage “Show up, keep up and shut up”, as your correspondent has found on numerous occasions. Most recently at the 2019 Australian PGA Championship held at Royal Pines. (Spoiler alert … I misread my fair share of putts and only had to report on the golf over the weekend).
Caddying, like many others, was my first introduction to the game of golf.
Following along with Dad to the course, it was more a case of hugging the large staff bag on a pull cart and going for a ride, rather than stepping out yardages and pulling clubs.
In more recent times, bag carrying jobs have taken place in Pro-ams, on the Australian Legends (over 50s) Tour and in PGA Tour of Australasia/European Tour events.
Each player’s requirements of their caddie vastly different.
RIGHT: The author shares a joke before before the second round of the Australian PGA Championship last year. PHOTO: David Mullins.
Some are used to doing it all themselves and keeping the clubs clean, not losing headcovers and making sure there was cool drinks stocked from each esky were the primary areas of concern.
However, as an occasionally decent player, with a strong knowledge of the game and above average green reading skills, others have asked much more.
One player, who will remain nameless, offered little information as to what was needed prior to the opening round of a big tournament on their respective schedule. Only to throw a yardage book measured in metres my way on the first tee and ask that everything be converted to yards, followed by a “what’s this putt do?” on the first and all 53 greens of the tournament thereafter. A decent finish followed, but alas “a little something for the effort” in the words of Carl Spackler did not.
The most recent venture into the world of the great caddies like Billy Foster and Mike ‘Fluff’ Cowan was similarly labour intensive, but better paying, and a job thoroughly enjoyed. Albeit waking on the couch most nights with dinner half eaten on the table from exhaustion.
"A decent finish followed, but alas “a little something for the effort” in the words of Carl Spackler did not."
RACV Royal Pines is a familiar layout from numerous journeys around the 18 holes as a player and multiple tournaments covered. However, the position as New South Welshman Tim Stewart’s (a former star amateur) bagman was only confirmed on Wednesday morning and meant a slight lack in preparation.
Off early on Thursday, it was again a case of working in yards from a shared yardage book due to the late call up meaning no chance to secure a second. Putts were read together, so too club choices and strategy decisions made. Having had a conversation over breakfast, all parties were prepared upon stepping on the first tee.
Although it is seen as a glamorous job by many who have never had the chance, and it is great fun and a position I would consider full-time, as one of the PGA Tour’s highest profile caddies (thanks to his at times controversial Twitter account) Kip Henley is prone to say “Caddying ain’t easy baby”.
Walking a Gold Coast golf course in the Summer with a well-stocked golf bag on the back is taxing, but not a major issue for most. Add in the following extras and the stress and workload of the job become more intensive of a pursuit.
There is calculations and maths being done in the head relating to yardages, cut lines and more, the role as part time psychologist, nutrition carrier and supplier, drink collector and purveyor (additionally mixing hydrolyte or potion of choice), joke teller, ball watcher, flag holder, crowd control and many more, particularly if rain arrives when you may as well be an octopus for all the items that need to be held.
Despite the workload, as mentioned earlier the job is fun. But pressure is a factor, particularly in this instance when doing the job for a long-time friend grinding for his career as a player, sitting around the cut line all week.
The job became available after a series of other options fell over, but Tim’s trust meant a lot. Even when misreads on behalf of the caddie meant missed putts, and not talking him out of a club choice or two late on Friday meant dropped shots and a weekend off for him and back to the day job of writing about golf for the caddie.
These decisions and involvements are what makes a good caddie. The ability to know when to let the player make their own call, or when to be more assertive and push your own.
There was more than one occasion of the latter during the short stint in the job as well.
Most notably the decision to play a shot from a hazard on the 9th hole laying on a concrete edging that turned out even better than planned and involved calling for a rules official and all the sort of stuff you see on TV each week that made me feel like a bona-fide Steve Williams without the scowl and limp from carrying too many Tour bags for too many years.
At the conclusion of the week, there was no doubt the fill-in caddie had improved in the role despite Stewart missing the cut by two shots.
And if the opportunity arises, I will be there again to take the bag straps and do it all again, with hopefully improved capabilities and confidence, armed with the knowledge that I can always go back to writing about the game if it doesn’t work out.
So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.